The Los Angeles Lakers may not be in the playoff race, but the race for ping pong balls in the NBA Draft Lottery is heating up as the Phoenix Suns have decided to shut down guard Eric Bledsoe for the remainder of the season. The move has already paid dividends, as the Suns lost a very winnable game against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.
In the upside-down world of draft odds, losing means winning and winning means losing. Bledsoe, the Suns’ best player, would only serve to help the team win a few extra games this season, and given their tenuous position with the third-worst record in the league, that probably isn’t in the best interest of the club long-term. John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 broke the story via his Twitter account:
Suns have shut Eric Bledsoe down for the year
— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) March 16, 2017
As of this writing, the Suns have a record of 22 wins and 46 losses, which puts them two games “behind” the Lakers for the second-worst record but also just two games “ahead” of the Orlando Magic, who the Suns face on Friday. While the claim is that Bledsoe has been battling “knee soreness”, based on a tweet that he published, it doesn’t appear that he is happy with the move:
— Eric Bledsoe (@EBled2) March 16, 2017
From the Lakers perspective, this is not good. They cannot afford to have the Suns catch them in the standings, as it would lower their chances of retaining their top-three protected draft pick.
Eight of the Suns remaining 14 games are against sub-.500 teams (the same as the Lakers), but that includes a lengthy road trip, and without Bledsoe, no game should be considered a likely win.
On the flip side, the Lakers play 10 of their remaining 14 at home (and one of the four “road” games is against the L.A. Clippers) and have no road trips left that keep them away from Los Angeles for more than one game. The Lakers have already made their “tank” moves, trading Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets and shutting down veterans while shifting lineups frequently.
In other words, the race to the bottom could become uncomfortably close.