The NBA Draft Lottery can be one of the most exciting – and stressful – days of the season. A random drawing of ping pong balls can have a massive impact on a team’s future, a fact that the Los Angeles Lakers are all too well aware of.
However, on May 17, 2016, the basketball gods smiled upon the Lakers and awarded them the second overall pick in the draft. It was a moment of relief for the Lakers, who had been in jeopardy of losing the pick altogether unless it landed in the top three.
As part of the ill-fated Steve Nash trade in 2012, the first-round pick that the Lakers owed the Phoenix Suns (which was later traded to the Philadelphia 76ers) would stay in the possession of the Lakers only if it fell in the top three.
Most saw this condition as an afterthought, as surely the Lakers would stay near the top of the league, but a difficult rebuilding period made the protection suddenly very relevant.
In 2015, the Lakers finished with the fourth-worst record, but their pick was only top-five protected that season, creating some drama over whether or not they would have anything to show for a difficult season. They ultimately jumped up two spots to the second pick and took D’Angelo Russell.
The next year, however, the odds were worse and so was the team’s record. The Lakers had fallen to the second-worst record in the league but had just a 55.8 percent chance of keeping their pick because the protection dropped to top-three.
To lose it after what had been the worst season in the team’s history would have been devastating for a franchise that badly needed young talent to rebuild around.
Fortunately for them, the draft order did not change, leaving them with the second pick for the second year in a row. They would go on to select Brandon Ingram out of Duke with the pick.
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