If ever there was a team should tank, it's the 2016-17 Los Angeles Lakers.
But don't tell that to head coach Luke Walton, who on Tuesday criticized the Sixers and the concept of tanking.
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"I don't believe in it," Walton told the L.A. Times. "I believe in trying to play the right way and have a culture that you're gonna try to win no matter what. You start losing on purpose, I think the basketball gods come back to get you in the long run. Good things aren't gonna work out for you. We try to do things the right way around here, which means we're going to play to win. That's just us.
"Philly's been there for a while. They look like they're doing pretty well right now but they're still a long way from being a true contender. I would prefer not to be stuck in the lottery for very long."
Oh, the irony.
Here's why the Lakers should tank:
If the Lakers don't land a top-3 pick in this year's draft, they'd forfeit the selection to the Sixers. But that's not all they'd lose.
If the Lakers lose that pick to the Sixers, they'd also lose their 2019 first-round pick to the Orlando Magic because of a prior trade.
The reason the Sixers impact that Magic pick is because a team cannot trade its first-round pick in two consecutive years. If the Sixers don't get the Lakers' pick in 2017, the pick becomes unprotected and would have to convey for the Sixers in 2018. Which would mean that first-round pick the Lakers owe the Magic would instead become a pair of future second-round picks, which are significantly less valuable.
So, in essence, if the rebuilding Lakers don't land a top-3 pick, they'll be left without a first-round choice in two of the next three years.
The Lakers, at 16-32, have the fourth-worst record in the NBA. They currently have a 47.1 percent chance of getting a top-3 pick. The Lakers have a 37.5 percent chance of getting the fourth pick, which would be the Sixers' best-case scenario.
"Tanking" has a negative connotation, but the Lakers absolutely need to finish with a bottom-three record to have any hope of turning things around over the next few years.
And yet, instead, Walton is giving about 25 minutes per game to veterans like Nick Young, Luol Deng and Lou Williams. With all due respect to Lou-Will, still a fan favorite around these parts, the Lakers should instead be giving as much tick as possible to the young guys - Brandon Ingram, D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson. It would be a way to lose games without the stench of blatant tanking. (Randle and Ingram do lead the Lakers in minutes per game but barely, and Russell is playing less than a pair of 31-year-olds.)
Walton believes in the basketball gods, basketball karma. His viewpoint has its merits, but that could benefit the Sixers much more than it would his own team.