After all the losing, all the anguish of a season gone asunder long ago, what would the Lakers do if the unthinkable happened?
What if they lost their first-round draft pick?
It’s top-three protected, meaning it goes away because of the Steve Nash trade if they fall below third at the May 17 lottery.
They currently own the NBA’s second-worst record, giving them a 55.8% chance of staying in the top three at the lottery. If the less-desirable 44.2% popped up that night, Lakers Coach Byron Scott didn’t want to even think about his reaction.
Lakers forward Ryan Kelly is stripped of the ball by Kings forward Omri Casspi during a game on March 15 at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers forward Ryan Kelly tries to grab a rebound from Kings forward Omri Casspi during a game on March 15 at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Tarik Black dunks over Kings forward Willie Cauley-Stein during a game at the Staples Center on March 15.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson helps referee Mark Ayotte after falling into the crowd during a game at Staples Center on March 15.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
“I don’t know. You’ll have to ask me then,” he said Tuesday. “I don’t know right now.”
The Lakers (14-54) play a big game for lottery enthusiasts Friday against Phoenix (18-49). The Lakers’ chances of keeping their pick fall to 46.9% if Phoenix drops below them in the standings. The Lakers and Suns also play next Wednesday, with that one in Phoenix.
The NCAA tournament has 32 games over the next two days. The Lakers will be watching.
Louisiana State did not make it, which meant no Ben Simmons, not even in the NIT because LSU declined the invitation, but plenty of other top talent was playing this week, including Duke forward Brandon Ingram, Providence guard Kris Dunn and California forward Jaylen Brown.
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak was at Kentucky two weekends ago to watch Simmons in person. He is probably the top pick but he fizzled in a vital game for LSU last week, scoring only 10 points in a 71-38 loss to Texas A&M in the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Ingram might be the only player who could be taken ahead of Simmons. He isn’t as strong with the ball as Simmons but has a better outside shot.
The Lakers would forward their pick to Philadelphia if it fell below third at the lottery.
“If you lose it, you lose it, but you’ve got to be prepared to have the pick,” Scott said. “So our guys, they’ve been doing their work as far as looking at all the top guys in the nation. Right now we have the pick until the lottery.”
The Lakers were lucky last year, moving from fourth to second on lottery night and later drafting D’Angelo Russell from Ohio State.
Scott represented the team on the live lottery broadcast. It was unclear who would be the representative this year.
“My luck might have ran out,” Scott said. “We might have to bring James [Worthy] back.”
The Lakers dropped a spot, from sixth to seventh, when Worthy represented them at the 2014 lottery.
“His luck can turn around,” Scott said, smiling.
The Lakers also have their second-round pick, currently 32nd overall.
Reserve power forward Brandon Bass sat out Tuesday’s game against Sacramento because of a scratched right cornea.
He hadn’t been a factor this season until hitting double-figure scoring in nine of his last 12 games.
Bass, 30, has a player option for $3.1 million next season. If he declines the option, the Lakers will have about $60 million to spend on free agents this summer.