The worst season the Lakers franchise has had since moving to Los Angeles was last season's 27-55 mark. That record might look good in comparison to what this season's team finishes with. Let's examine two Bovada NBA props on the Lakers' season.
Will the Lakers finish with the NBA's worst record?
No is the heavy -1600 favorite and yes at +700. Entering Thursday's home game against Cleveland, the Lakers sit at 12-27, which is the fourth-worst record in the NBA. The New York Knicks currently have the worst mark at 5-35, so 7.5 games worse than Los Angeles. The Lakers probably would love to be the worst team and get the most ping-pong balls in the NBA Draft, with Duke freshman big man Jahlil Okafor the top target available. Alas, there's almost no way the Lakers will finish at the bottom with how bad the Knicks, Timberwolves and 76ers are. The Knicks may not win seven more games all season.
The website Predictionmachine.com runs 50,000 simulations of every remaining regular-season game with updated player and team statistics to project teams' final records. It has the Lakers with 26.8 wins. Philadelphia is at 14.5 victories, the Wolves at 15.7 and the Knicks at 17.6. I highly disagree with the Knicks projection in a story I wrote about that dysfunctional team here at SBR.
NBA Free Pick: Absolutely not.
Will the Lakers have one of the five worst regular-season records this season?
Yes is -140 on NBA odds and no at even money. With the worst record out of reach, this is the key for the Lakers: to make sure their draft pick is in the Top 5. Remember when the Lakers traded for Suns point guard Steve Nash in early July 2012? At first it looked like a good deal because Nash was still playing at a high level and adding Nash and Dwight Howard to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol appeared to make the Lakers title contenders for the 2012-13 season.
Obviously things didn't work out that way. Howard left after one year and the Nash trade was an awful deal because Nash couldn't stay healthy and frankly didn't play very well when he did. His career is over because of injury as Nash hasn't played at all this season.
The Lakers sent the Suns four draft picks for the former MVP — 2013 and 2015 first-round picks and 2013 and 2014 second-round picks. Oops! The Lakers missed out on a mid-first-round pick in 2013 and the '15 first-round could be the killer. Los Angeles will keep the pick only if it's in the Top 5, so it obviously behooves the Lakers to finish with one of the five-worst records. Actually, it would be best if it's one of the four worst because the Lakers could drop one spot in the draft if a team behind them wins the lottery. Thus the No. 5 overall spot could turn into No. 6 after the ping-pong balls are drawn.
The Lakers are well aware of this and it's not likely a coincidence that you are hearing rumors the team might shut Kobe down for the season once the Lakers are officially eliminated from the playoffs. So that would be late February or early March. L.A. doesn't want to alienate its home fans quite yet, who pay second-highest ticket prices in the league and have little reason to attend games other than to see Kobe. The Lakers say they want to preserve Bryant's health for next season, when the team might actually contend (cue laugh track). The irony of this decision is that the Lakers actually have been much better this season when Kobe has been on the bench than on the court. Kobe leads the league by far in shot attempts and is averaging 22.7 points but shooting a horrid 36.9 percent from the field. That's last among qualified players in the NBA.
NBA Free Pick: Yes.
Will Lakers make playoffs next season?
No odds on this, but I will give you my own thoughts. It's possible, but it obviously depends on what free agents the Lakers can acquire, any possible trades and how the draft goes. I do think there's a reasonable chance that Kevin Love, who starred at UCLA, could decide to walk away from Cleveland this summer and sign with Los Angeles. Love clearly is unhappy in Cleveland and often doesn't even play in the fourth quarter. If the Cavs turn things around, then Love probably stays by LeBron James' side. If not, Love could walk and he's a West Coast guy. LeBron himself could opt to become a free agent but no way he leaves Cleveland. One thing to consider: Love is a power forward and that's the position of the Lakers' No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 draft, Julius Randle. He was lost in the season opener to a broken leg and also recently had corrective foot surgery. Thus expecting much from him next season is a long shot.
The other top free agents are Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, Memphis' Marc Gasol, San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard, Chicago's Jimmy Butler, Phoenix's Goran Dragic and Dallas' Rajon Rondo.
Aldridge, Gasol, Leonard, Butler and Rondo are all likely to re-sign with their teams. Leonard and Butler are restricted free agents and thus their current teams can match any offer. The Suns might let Dragic go because they have Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas; or they could trade Dragic.
As for the 2015 draft, the Lakers have to pray they can get into the Top 3 because it appears there are three guys who are clearly the cream of the crop: Okafor, Kentucky freshman big man Karl-Anthony Towns and point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who originally committed to SMU but instead went off to China. An ankle injury has sidelined Mudiay since mid-November and he may not play in China again, instead opting to prepare for the draft.
NBA Free Pick: If Love and a point guard like Dragic or Oklahoma City's Reggie Jackson come to L.A., maybe. Otherwise definitely not in the ultra-deep West.