With the Los Angeles Lakers struggling so far this season with a 6-16, thoughts of many have gone towards the off-season and how the Lakers can quickly turn things around. Everyone wants the Lakers to turn things around as soon as possible.
One of those people is Lakers legend Magic Johnson who recently said that he hopes the Lakers lose every game this season, so they can improve their draft position. The Lakers will only keep their first-round pick if it lands in the top-5, otherwise it is sent to the Phoenix Suns.
Many have questioned whether Magic should have publicized these sentiments and just as many argue the strategy of ‘tanking’ as a whole. Obviously if the Lakers are bad now, it helps them improve through the draft, but being this bad could make the franchise look worse in the eyes of free agents.
So we asked our panel of experts whether they agree or disagree with Magic Johnson’s assertion that the Lakers should tank this season. This is what they had to say:
Nathan Kim (@Kimchiz): I’ve never been a proponent of tanking and so I would have to disagree with Magic Johnson’s advocation of tanking this season. To put it simply, the reward is not worth the humiliation that a team gets when trying to lose games.
Magic is, of course, alluding to the protected top-5 first round pick that will go to Phoenix should the Lakers fall out of the top-5. The Lakers are currently tied with Utah for the 5th worst record in the NBA. I can understand his point of view in that it would be a shame to lose such a high draft pick especially when the Lakers are already losing frequently this season.
I still believe that tanking is bad for the league and for the individual teams. The whole point of tanking is to increase the chance of getting a high draft pick during the lottery. In the best case
scenario the draft pick is high and a team acquires young talent. However, the kind of talent that can completely change a franchise is extremely rare.
Also, in most cases it takes years of investment and training for a young rookie to finally blossom into the kind of player that most people expected he would be coming into the league. Throwing away your entire season for the slim chance of acquiring a talented young player that will take years of investment just doesn’t seem worth it.
Some would argue that the Lakers need to think of their future and the answer is the draft. I think looking at the future is important, but I have a different solution. Instead of tanking, the team can invest in the kind of system that Byron Scott would have them run.
Of course, this would manifest in many losses this season, but by building upon a foundation year after year the team can get gradually better. There is no quick fix in the NBA and basketball is still a team sport. The draft cannot save the Lakers and so neither can tanking.
Russell Valenzuela (@RussVal4): Tanking will help the Lakers get another young talent, but the team isn’t in the best situation to utilize the strategy the proper way.
Assuming the Lakers keep this year’s pick, the Phoenix Suns will still get a draft pick from the Lakers. Instead, they will get the 2016 pick which will be top three protected. The lack of a third straight lottery pick would hamper the rebuilding plan.
It took the Oklahoma City Thunder three picks to put the pieces together (Kevin Durant in 2007, Russell Westbrook in 2008, and James Harden in 2009), and they are seen as the poster boys of rebuilding through the draft.
Even if the Lakers were to land a quality free agent in the upcoming offseason (LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, Greg Monroe etc.), there will still be work to be done. With the 2016 Draft out of the picture, all hopes will be on the 2016 free agent class.
The possibility of landing two key free agents in two consecutive years remains highly unlikely for a team in the middle of a rebuild. The cap space will help, but the Lakers are going to need more time for a proper rebuild regardless if they tank or not.
Kevin Chan (@Kevin_Cruiser): Given that the Lakers are nowhere near the level of a playoff team and that they’ll probably end up with one of the worst records in the league, they might as well tank.
In fact the Lakers actually have some incentive to be one of the worst five teams in the league. If the Lakers finish with one of the five worst records in the league, they’ll be able to retain their first round pick. Otherwise, that pick will be relegated to Phoenix as part of the Steve Nash trade.
The Lakers are in rebuilding mode and a top five pick in this years’ draft could greatly help. The front office strategy of signing stars in their prime has not panned out in recent years. Thus, it makes sense to build through the draft.
Imagine next year, the Lakers could have a healthy Julius Randle and a top five pick on the team. Their development would be instrumental to refurbishing the Lakers depleted roster. With the future in mind, I wouldn’t mind it one bit if the Lakers sacrificed this season. I believe that’s exactly what Magic Johnson had in mind when he made his statement.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): I have already written pretty extensively on the subject of tanking so I won’t go as deep here. But long story short, I am against tanking and don’t agree with Magic Johnson’s sentiments on this season.
My main issue is that teams in the Lakers situation can’t tank for one season and then get right back in contention, which seems to be what everyone is expecting. You either build through the draft or you build through free agency and trades, not both.
A top pick in this draft isn’t going to make the Lakers more intriguing to big-name free agents in winning situations. I have a hard time believing that a foundation of Kobe Bryant for a year, two unknowns (Julius Randle & ’15 rookie), and Nick Young, combined with a front-office that is willing to give up on a season will entice big-name free agents to come here.
Tanking away this season, in my opinion, could lead to a much longer rebuild which is not something I want to see. The Lakers need to show that they are committed to winning in order to bring in some of these free agents. Tanking this year won’t do that.
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