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With heavy losses, Lakers have improved their draft lottery position

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Heading into a two-game stretch on consecutive nights on the road against the defense-minded Indiana Pacers (42-13) and Memphis Grizzlies (31-24), the Lakers (19-37) are more likely to fall to 39 losses before they hit 20 wins.

The Lakers are now alone in last place in the Western Conference, one game behind  the Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings, both 20-36.

Though the season hasn't gone as planned for the Lakers, the franchise has significantly improved its chances in the May 20 NBA draft lottery.  The worse the Lakers do now, the better position (and player) they're likely to get in the draft on June 26.

The top two spots in the lottery appear to be taken.  The Milwaukee Bucks (11-45) and Philadelphia 76ers (15-42) are likely to stay in the bottom two.  Milwaukee isn't likely to win eight more games (and the Lakers won't go winless).

Meanwhile, the Sixers just got pummeled by the Bucks on Monday night.

The Lakers stand two ahead of the Orlando Magic (17-41) in the win column, but perhaps that will change if the Lakers go on a serious losing streak.

The longtime rival Boston Celtics (19-39) may push the Lakers to the fifth position in the lottery -- the Lakers' two-game sweep of Boston during the regular season could prove costly in May and June.

The Lakers also need to "hold off" the Jazz and Kings, or even the New York Knicks (21-36).  The Knicks owe their first-round pick to the Denver Nuggets, regardless of position.

If they're in the fifth position, the Lakers have just a 55.3% chance at a top-five pick.  If the Lakers fall to the six to nine range, the odds of climbing are very slim (1%-2.2% range).

The Lakers play Sacramento at Staples Center on Friday in what could be a pivotal game in the lottery chase.

If the Bucks, 76ers and the Magic are able to corner the top three lottery positions, it's in the Lakers' best interest to finish lower than the Celtics, Kings, Jazz and Knicks.

With the fourth-worst record in the NBA, the Lakers have an 82.8% chance at a top-five pick in the draft.

The projected draft pool could include Kansas players Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, Dante Exum (Australia), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), Jabari Parker (Duke), Julius Randle (Kentucky), Aaron Gordon (Arizona), Tyler Ennis (Syracuse) and Noah Vonleh (Indiana) -- to name a few.

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Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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