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If Lakers lose out, they're guaranteed a 2015 first-round pick

If the Lakers lose their final 28 games, they can lock in a top-five draft pick

With the Minnesota Timberwolves (12-42) defeating the Phoenix Suns (29-26) on Friday night, along with the Lakers (13-41) falling to the Brooklyn Nets (22-31), the Lakers gained an advantage in the race to the bottom of the standings.

The Lakers temporarily control their own destiny, in that they can lock in a top-five pick in the 2015 NBA draft if they lose all 28 of their remaining games.

Only the New York Knicks (10-44), Philadelphia 76ers (12-42) and Timberwolves are "ahead" of the Lakers in the draft lottery standings.

Because the Lakers traded their 2015 first-round pick to the Phoenix Suns (for Steve Nash), which has since been conveyed by the Suns to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Lakers only keep their selection if they get through the draft lottery with a top-five selection.

If the Lakers finish sixth or lower, the selection goes to Philadelphia and the Lakers have nothing to show for what has been their second straight disappointing season.  A top-five selection delays the obligation to the Sixers a year, but with top-three protection in 2016.

Since the Lakers play the Wolves and Sixers twice apiece, 35 straight losses (including the current seven-game losing streak) would guarantee that Minnesota and Philadelphia finish the season with at least one more win than the Lakers.

The Lakers may not catch the Knicks, who they only play one time before the end of the year, but the Lakers are guaranteed a top-five selection as long as they have a bottom-two record.

The odds (96.0%) are still high the Lakers keep their pick if they're third-worst, but where the team sits in 27th-place overall, they have a 17.2% chance of falling to six or seven and losing their pick outright.

While it's unlikely the Lakers lose 35 in a row, the Sixers, Wolves and Knicks are likely to win games here and there as well. The Knicks and Sixers play each other twice before the end of the season.

Both General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Coach Byron Scott maintain the team is trying to win games each and every time they step on the court.

Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic (18-39) have a five-win advantage in the standings over the Lakers.  If the Lakers catch Orlando in the win column, their lottery odds of staying in the top-five shrink to just 55.2%.

Losing out on the pick this summer would be devastating to the franchise.

Additionally, if the Lakers have the second-worst overall record in the NBA, they have a 19.9% chance at landing the first overall pick.

Some of the top names in the draft include Duke center Jahlil Okafor, Kentucky forward/center Karl-Anthony Towns and center Willie Cauley-Stein, Ohio State combo guard D'Angelo Russell and Arizona small forward Stanley Johnson.  Point guard prospect Emmanuel Mudiay is playing overseas in China.

The Lakers return to the court on Sunday night at Staples Center, hosting the Boston Celtics (20-32).

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

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