The Los Angeles Lakers are looking to climb up the Western Conference standings after reinventing the roster at the trade deadline in order to secure a spot in the NBA Playoffs. If the team can rise above the seventh seed then they will clinch a spot outright. If they land in the seventh through tenth seeds then they will participate in the play-in.
This is both good and bad for the Lakers. The play-in existing means that the team does not have to climb all the way to the eighth seed to make the playoffs. However, they could end up doing so only to lose in the play-in and not make the playoffs anyway.
The higher the team gets the better its chances of making anything happen in the playoffs. Unfortunately for LA, there is a contingent of teams that are all competing for these very limited playoff spots, making this trek more difficult than it would be otherwise.
But it at least appears that one team competing for a spot in the NBA play-in might be turning more emphasis on preparing for the 2023 NBA Draft. Like in years past, the Oklahoma City Thunder are planning to manage Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s minutes down the stretch, which might be a sign of them waving the white flag for a play-in spot.
Lakers may have one less team to worry about in the Thunder.
As it stands right now, the Thunder are half a game behind the Lakers in the Western Conference standings, very much making them a threat to leapfrog Los Angeles if they can go on a hot run and the Lakers start to falter.
While OKC is close to a play-in spot, the team is also close to improving its NBA lottery odds for the 2023 NBA Draft. The Thunder are currently tied for the eighth-worst record in the league. OKC is only 1.5 games back of having the sixth-worst record in the league and 3.5 games back of having the fifth-worst record.
The sixth-worst record would give the Thunder a 34.8% chance of getting a top-four pick and an 8.3% chance of getting the first overall pick. The fifth-worst record would give the Thunder a 42.1% chance of getting a top-four pick and a 10.5% chance of landing the first overall pick.
With a freak prospect like Victor Wembanyama available, it might benefit the Thunder more to shift the importance towards the 2023 NBA Draft instead of fighting for a 10th seed only to lose in the play-in.
Yes, SGA does have a very real injury that resulted in him missing games but the Thunder do not get the benefit of the doubt in this situation. This team has very actively kept SGA from playing in previous years to improve the team’s draft position. This could simply be another example of that this season.
But hey, all it does is help the Lakers as it gives the team one less team to potentially worry less about for the coveted play-in spots.