While 20 games remain on the schedule, the 2017-18 NBA season can be deemed a success for the Los Angeles Lakers. The team has already surpassed last season’s win total, but more importantly, the young core has made considerable strides with their improvement.
Other than a nine-game losing streak, which in some part was due to injuries piling up, the Lakers have avoided the same pitfalls that plagued them last season. They’ve transformed from the worst defensive team in the league to a top-15 unit this season.
While those are all positive developments for the direction and trajectory of the franchise, the Lakers’ success is also increasing the likelihood of the Boston Celtics failing to cash in on their longtime rival’s futility.
When the Celtics decided to hit the reset button several years ago, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge began to acquire and hoard draft picks.
When the Celtics traded the Brooklyn Nets’ 2017 first-round pick, which was the No. 1 overall selection, they received the No. 3 overall pick from the Philadelphia 76ers as well as a conditional pick that would be delivered by the Lakers.
But that’s only the case if the Lakers’ pick falls between Nos. 2-5 in the 2018 Draft. That appeared to be a mere lock last December, when the Lakers were dead last in Western Conference and had the second-worst record in the NBA.
Now, Los Angeles is on a season-best five-game winning streak, are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have the second-most wins in the league since Jan. 7. Per Tankathon’s calculations, the Lakers have just a 1.3 and 1.6 percent chance to wind up with the second or third pick, respectively.
They’re given 1.1 percent odds to wind up with the No. 1 overall pick, which would be delivered to the 76ers.
So while the improvement this season has been a welcomed development for a fan base that’s endured previously unforeseen lows, there’s the possibility of added satisfaction in denying the Celtics yet another top draft pick.