The Lakers got a tremendous performance from rookie guard Jordan Clarkson on Monday night in Philadelphia, but a relatively high volume of fans were left devastated by the Lakers' 113-111 win over the 76ers.
The cause of consternation? The Lakers traded their 2015 first round pick to land Steve Nash for 65 games over three years.
That pick will stick with the Lakers in June, if they can get through May's draft lottery with a top-five selection, otherwise it goes to the same Sixers (18-57) team they beat twice over the past six games. The Suns traded the pick to Philadelphia in a three-way deal with the Milwaukee Bucks for Brandon Knight.
The Lakers also took down the Minnesota Timberwolves (16-58) this past week, only infuriating fans who have embraced the notion that team should tank games now to better their lot for the future.
Had the Lakers lost all three, they'd nearly have a guarantee on that pick. Instead, the Lakers are likely to hit the draft lottery with about an 83% chance of staying in the top five. The odds aren't bad, but that's assuming the Lakers (20-53) don't catch the Orlando Magic (22-52) in the standings.
The fans committed to the tank may have overlooked a special performance from Clarkson, the rookie guard out of Missouri taken with the 46th pick in the 2014 NBA draft (purchased by the Lakers from the Washington Wizards for $1.8 million).
Clarkson, on the second night of a back-to-back, finished with 26 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and three steals. The only Lakers to put up those kind of numbers in the past 30 years include Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and Eddie Jones.
Clarkson also hit four straight clutch free throws at the end of regulation, and the game winner with less than a second left in overtime.
The Sixers actually sent traps and double-teams to force him to give up the ball, this for the 46th pick in the draft.
Moments like that are crucial in the development of a player. They can't be manufactured or bought.
The Lakers season has been a disaster, but Clarkson has gotten the rare chance to play big minutes, and he's run with the opportunity.
Through March, Clarkson averaged 15.8 points, 5.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds a game while shooting 45.2% from the field.
Perhaps the Lakers lose their pick, but 83 times out of 100 they don't.
In the meantime, for those finding these wins absolutely excruciating: Take a breath, see the progress in players like Clarkson for what it is, and relax -- the odds still favor the Lakers in the draft.