How are you feeling?
Maybe a little sick to your stomach? Maybe a little excited? Confident? Anxious? Nervous? Tense?
When it comes to being a sports fan, my default position is almost always to hope for the best and expect the worst.
Actually, let’s go on a brief tangent.
When it comes to being a sports fan, my mind naturally veers towards the strategy and nuance involved with the games. Most of my in-game experience, then, is seeking out those details and tying them to what helps win or lose that particular contest. Are you tagging the cutter? Are you holding that screen? Did you open up to the ball when you were supposed to? Why are your hands below your waist? Are you playing a beat ahead or a beat behind the action? And on and on it goes.
The lottery, though part of being a fan, is not a game. There is no nuance. Back in some secluded room a machine spits out numbered ping-pong balls into a sequence. Each sequence is assigned to a team, with the teams that have the worst records getting more sequences assigned to them. Based on the order those sequences are spit out, we have our lottery results. Then, representatives sit on stage sweating out the results they were not privy to back in that secluded room.
It can make for great theater. Especially this year when there are several teams who are dealing with pick protections and swap arrangements that can make a one spot difference in the results a total nightmare.
The Lakers, as you are well award of, are one of those teams. This, in and of itself, can be nerve wracking. For three straight years the Lakers have dealt with this. Which, in some ways, that makes it easier. The Julius Randle year*, I was so stressed out I could not sit still. I paced and paced and paced until the Lakers’ slot was revealed. The D’Angelo Russell year, I was a bit better. The Brandon Ingram year was better yet. This year, I honestly cannot say how I feel. It changes from moment to moment, from somewhat stressed to not stressed at all to pretty (expletive’ing) anxious.
Overall, though, I must say that I will be okay with whatever result occurs.
Before the season started I was convinced the Lakers would lose their pick. I thought they would win between 28 and 32 games (they won 26) and that it would take a win total closer to the teens (like 2016) to be near the top of the draft. That’s not how the season went, though. Save for the Nets, every team won into the 20’s. And that was with nearly every team at the bottom of the standings openly tanking down the stretch to bring down their total.
So, on the one hand, it would be severely disappointing for the Lakers to be in range to keep their pick and then have that not occur. You hope that you’re not in position to draft this high very often, but when you are you want that pick. When you add on how losing the 2017 1st rounder would also automatically convey the 2019 1st rounder to the Magic as part of the Dwight trade…yeah, that’s just a bad result to swallow.
On the other hand, though, there is no control at this point. There is no missed rebound or tough call from a ref or shot that goes halfway down only to rim out. Sure, you can point back to what the team could have done differently down the stretch of the season, but that’s a different can of worms I’m not going to open. Getting back to tonight, then, the results will be what they’ll be and will then offer clarity for the next three drafts:
1. Keep their top 3 pick, lose this year’s 2nd round pick (goes to the Magic), lose the 2018 pick, keep the 2019 1st round pick.
2. Lose their top 3 pick, keep this year’s 2nd round pick, keep the 2018 pick, lose the 2019 1st round pick (goes to the Magic).
Understand, there’s no bright side to scenario #2. No silver lining. You can spin it, somewhat, by saying that locking into the 2018 draft (which will be deep at the top) with their own pick and the potential for that to be in the lottery (where anything can happen) is nice or that by the time 2019 rolls around we hope the Lakers will be good enough for that pick to be in the teens. You can even say that if the Lakers lose this pick it’s because it fell to 4th – 6th, which means they lost a less valuable pick. And, believe, me, if that happens I’ll probably say all of those things later. Haha.
But, in the end, that’s just looking as positively as you can at a disadvantageous situation. The better scenario is #1. And I’ll be rooting for that. But, if it doesn’t happen, life will go on. And, if nothing else, we’ll no longer be worried about pick protections. Thank goodness.
*The year the Lakers drafted Julius Randle I was not nervous because of pick protections, but nervous because of where the Lakers would select relative to the number of players in the draft I liked. 7th (where Randle went) was the cutoff point for me. I was pretty much looking at 3 guys for that slot: Randle, Marcus Smart, and Aaron Gordon. I would have been happy with any of them, but by the end of my evaluation process was pretty much wanting Randle.