After once guiding the Showtime Lakers with five NBA championships through clutch shots and passes, Magic Johnson will try to help restore the franchise back to contention in another way.
Johnson will serve as the Lakers’ representative on stage for the NBA draft lottery on May 16 in New York City. Meanwhile, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka will be represent the Lakers in the drawing room. Then, the Lakers (26-56) will find out if their season that ended with a missed postseason appearance for the fourth consecutive year in a consolation prize. The Lakers must land a top-three pick, or else they will owe it to Philadelphia as part of the Steve Nash trade with Phoenix five years ago.
The Lakers finished with the NBA’s third-worst record, giving them an 46.9 percent chance of their draft pick to stay within the top three. They also have an 15.6 percent chance at landing the No. 1 selection. Had the Lakers had the second-worst record, they would have had a 55.8 percent chance of keeping the pick and 19.9 percent odds of getting the No. 1 pick.
Lakers coach Luke Walton had often downplayed the NBA lottery implications, noting his priority entailed winning games and developing the team’s young players. Still, the Lakers had taken higher priority with the latter goal toward the second half of the season. Johnson traded veteran guard Lou Williams to Houston for a first-round pick and Corey Brewer, a move that opened up more playing time for second-year guard D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. Walton also shut down veterans Timofey Mozgov, Luol Deng and Nick Young late in the season to grant more minutes to younger players.
Still, Johnson recently admitted on Jimmy Kimmel Live having conflicted sentiments about the Lakers winning five of their last six games.
“I was saying, ‘Oh it’s good, but damn we’re winning,’” Johnson said laughing on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live.’
Johnson then outlined the positive implications.
“I wanted us to taste winning,” Johnson said. “We’ve been losing for four years. I wanted the guys to experience what it felt like to win. We’re going to carry that into next season. We have a young team. They were feeling good about winning.”
The Lakers had also sent other former Showtime players in recent years to the draft lottery, including Spectrum analyst James Worthy (2014) and former Lakers coach Byron Scott (2015). Former Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak represented the team in 2016.
After the Lakers landed seventh in 2014 and drafted Julius Randle, they moved up two spots to No. 2 for 2015 and selected D’Angelo Russell. The Lakers also had the No. 2 pick last year, and used that on Brandon Ingram.