December 24, 2013

More thoughts on the Lakers, tanking, and "Riggin for Wiggins"

Now that Kobe Bryant is out six weeks (optimistically) with a broken leg, is it time for the Lakers to start tanking, and get some more Ping-Pong balls in next year's talent-heavy NBA draft? I say yes!

Given that Pau Gasol and Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni recently had a spat, before a kiss and make up session, about how Gasol wanted to operate in the Lakers offense, that Jordan Farmar will probably still be out a bit and Steve Nash may be out for the rest of the year for all we know, and that at 13-16 as of Dec. 24, the Lakers are already probably out of the Western Conference playoff hunt, as Zach Lowe says in a Western Conference analysis ...

Why not tank?

Enter the Riggin' for Wiggins sweepstakes to nail down a shot at Kansas freshman star Andrew Wiggins?

Yes, it's hard to get veteran players to tank, as well as getting a coach worried about job security to do so.

But ... getting more of those Ping-Pong balls in front of the eyeballs of Adam Silver, replacing the lovely David Stern on lottery day, when you now know you're guaranteed to get a couple, is a no-brainer.

As for D'Antoni? Mitch Kupchak can offer him the appropriate guarantees of security.

What about the notoriously fickle fans, whom D'Antoni just told to take a hike if they can't back this year's team?

Well, first, that illustrates the stereotypical problem with many a Lakers fan — they're frontrunners. Second,  unlike Milwaukee Bucks fans actually encouraging their team to tank, and understanding why, it shows that many a Laker fan is kind of clueless about the fact their team should be playing this game, and why.

(So, in that sense, maybe the Lakers shouldn't tank. The rest of us can enjoy the schadenfreude of them getting the last playoff spot by some miracle, getting obliterated in the first round, then getting a crappy draft choice.)

Should D'Antoni and Kupchak sign off on the idea, though, it would be easy to do.

Keep Kobe on the injured list even after he says he's ready to come back.

Experiment with Gasol in new post positions. Get him to have some new back problems, while you're at it.

Keep looking for the ideal backcourt combo. (You were playing Kobe at point, so this is totally legit.)

Experiment with new zones on defense, even when they leak like a sieve.

See? This isn't hard to do.

It wouldn't be hard for the Lakers to fall behind everybody but Sacramento and Utah, at least, in the West, with the appropriate moves. With a bit of luck from the extra Ping-Pong balls, they could get one of the top 3 slots, even if not the top pick. And, in a draft as good as this one could be, even their expected No. 6 or so, in this case, would be a great pick.

Act now, D'Antoni! Per an interesting new Wheel of Drafting idea that's getting batted around the league, this could be your last year to benefit from tanking.

That said, players are slower to heal as they get older, even Kobe Bryant. That just signed two-year extension has to look like an albatross in Kupchak's mind now.

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