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Lakers’ lottery-draft position has some variables

Ben Simmons is a 6-foot-10 forward who averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and two steals a game at Louisiana State.
(Mic Smith / Associated Press)

This might be the strangest pause in the Lakers’ schedule, three full days on the road between games.

They’ll practice twice in Denver and finally play the Nuggets on Tuesday before heading home.

With so much time between box scores and so few accomplishments this season, it seemed reasonable to update the odds for their most popular event in May the last two years — the NBA draft lottery.

The Lakers’ 2016 first-round draft pick is top-three protected, so they keep it only if they finish among the top three after the lottery. If they don’t, they forfeit the selection because of the Steve Nash trade. (Phoenix originally acquired the pick in 2012 but traded it to Philadelphia earlier this year.)

If this seems familiar, it is. The same pick last season was top-five protected and the Lakers kept it after moving up to the No. 2 spot on lottery night.

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This can easily turn into another awkward season where Lakers fans cheer for their team to lose, if it hasn’t already happened.

What’s at stake?

The prize is Louisiana State freshman Ben Simmons, a 6-foot-10 forward who can pass like a point guard and rebound like a center. He averages 18.7 points, 13.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists. He also leads the team with 22 steals and 14 blocked shots.

In order, here are the three likeliest outcomes for the Lakers the rest of this season, with an eye toward the lottery.

1. Lakers finish with NBA’s second-worst record (19.9% chance at top pick).

It’s where the Lakers (4-23) sit and it’ll probably stay that way.

They’re not bad enough to finish below Philadelphia (1-28) and not good enough to pass New Orleans (8-19) or Brooklyn (7-20) in the standings.

Danger alert: If they finish second-worst, there’s a 44.31% chance of falling out of the top three when the pingpong balls are drawn.

2. Lakers finish with NBA’s worst record (25% chance at top pick).

It’s unlikely to happen simply because Philadelphia has been so poor. Then again, the 76ers’ only victory was against the Lakers. And the teams play again Jan. 1. Big night for lottery jockeying!

If the Lakers finish at the bottom, there’s an additional bonus waiting in May — a slightly more palatable 35.76% chance of falling out of the top three picks.

3. Lakers finish with NBA’s third-worst record (15.6% chance at top pick).

This is the risk zone for the Lakers. It would happen only with something stunning — a winning streak.

If they pass New Orleans or Brooklyn in the standings, there’s a two-headed hit in the percentages. Their chances drop at getting the top pick and increase to a somewhat unsettling 53.11% that they fall out of the top three on lottery night.

That would make this season utterly useless beyond some nice Kobe Bryant farewell moments and, sure, maybe some development among the young players.

But it’s almost January and the Lakers have not won two consecutive games. Never has picking up a few games in the standings seemed like such a longshot.

Bryant is improving

Bryant did not practice Sunday but was called probable by the team for Tuesday’s game against the Nuggets.

He sat out the Lakers’ 40-point loss to Oklahoma City on Saturday because of a sore shoulder. Bryant had been on a little roll his last three games, averaging 23 points and shooting 53%.


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