COMMENTARY | If someone told you that you could be insanely rich and famous for a year, but then had to spend the next two in poverty, would you do it? Maybe you would, or maybe you wouldn't. Everyone's a little different.
But you'd probably at least think about it.
The Los Angeles Lakers considered a real-life scenario like that one, and for all intents and purposes, went through with it. But they might have to skip the fun part and suffer slowly and painfully in the NBA's version of impoverishment.
Not much, if anything has gone well for the Lakers and their fans during the 2012-13 season. As the 17-25 squad faces the sad reality that it may miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 season, fans are turning anywhere they can for hope.
One place they need not look is the 2013 NBA draft.
Remember the acquisition of Dwight Howard that had Los Angelinos preparing to watch another banner go up in Staples Center? Remember the sign-and-trade to bring in Steve Nash that had everyone in Southern California making travel plans to the intersection of Pico and Figueroa this summer?
About those moves -- they cost the Lakers draft picks, and lots of them. The front office was willing to trade those picks away for what looked like more than just a shot at short-term success, but that bet is blowing up in everyone's faces in a big way.
No one could have envisioned the season going this badly, but the mistake of not having that foresight will cost the Lakers dearly.
Where the 2013 picks went
The Howard deal cost the Lakers conditional first-rounders in 2015 and 2017, but here's a quick rundown of how the Lakers' 2013 draft is effectively finished before it gets started (via Larry Coon of ESPNLosAngeles.com):
- On March 15, 2012, the Lakers traded Luke Walton, Jason Kapono, cash and a 2013 conditional first-rounder to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Ramon Sessions and Christian Eyenga.
- The conditional first-rounder hinged upon the Lakers making the playoffs in 2012-13. If they make the postseason this year, they'll get the worst pick among the Cavs', Miami Heat's, Sacramento Kings' or their own.
- If said pick is a lottery pick (top-14) due to L.A. missing the playoffs, then they will retain it or be free to trade it.
- On July 11, 2012, the Lakers did trade that 2013 conditional first-rounder to the Phoenix Suns in the sign-and-trade to acquire 38-year-old Steve Nash in addition to giving the Suns their 2015 first-round pick and two second-rounders in 2013 and 2014.
What that means is that if the Lakers don't make the playoffs this season, they will give their guaranteed high pick directly to Phoenix, a team that will likely have a lottery pick of its own and happens to play in the same division. If the Lakers make the playoffs, Cleveland gets first rights to it, and then the Suns would get whichever pick among the four teams mentioned earlier that the Lakers end up with.
That wipes out the 2013 draft for Los Angeles. The only way the team can stockpile picks is to trade for them. Because of the lottery, there are no guarantees on how high a pick will truly be, making things even more uncertain when trading for picks.
Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard are L.A.'s greatest assets, but Gasol's high salary ($19M in 2012-13, $19.285M in 2013-14) along with Howard's troubling injury history make getting great value back from them a tall order.
What about free agency? Don't count on that, either. The Lakers will have to try to dump salaries in order to get under the luxury tax threshold with stiffer penalties set to begin next season.
The bad news continues to pour out of Hollywood, and on the NBA's greatest reality show, there's no script to dictate what happens next.
Michael C. Jones covers the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA as Southern California-based sports journalist. In addition to being an award-winning Yahoo! Contributor, he writes regularly for SB Nation and Examiner.com and is also the Editor of Sports Out West.
Catch up with him on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets