Losing, lottery luck, and location bring Lakers back to life
"Hey if the Lakers suck long enough and get enough top picks because of said sucking they can use those picks to clear cap space by trading players they overpaid to sign me and trade for you!"
Whenever I used to debate with someone how I hate how the NBA Draft rewards losing and poorly run teams, the counterpoint was always, "Well you have to give the top picks to the worst teams; Imagine if a team like the Lakers got a top pick?" Well in the last four years the Los Angeles Lakers received three #2 overall picks and a #4 pick. Note the one season they didn't have their own pick last year (they had traded it years before for Steve Nash and it ended up in Philly), they actually tried and ended up with pick #10.
Despite being the team that most people outside of New England call the most successful NBA franchise in league history (even though 17 is still greater than 16), the Lakers sucked their way into becoming relevant again. They traded three of those top picks for Anthony Davis tonight after they had previously traded one of the #2 picks to the Nets to dump Timofey Mozgov's contract to give them cap space to bring in LeBron James and another star.
Of course they were the inept team that gave Mozgov that contract one year prior. LeBron picked the Lakers not because they had done anything right, but because of location. Los Angeles, warm weather, Hollywood. Anthony Davis wanted the same things and the Lakers had collected enough assets due to being rewarded for losing the past few seasons that a deal was able to be struck.
The Lakers were also able to hold onto Kyle Kuzma and not have to take on Solomon Hill's contract (which now enables them to sign another star who wants to play in L.A. or forgo sign much needed depth). This after Brandon Ingram's health concerns one would have thought would have lowered the appeal of the package the Lakers offered the Pelicans back at the deadline (Also worth noting that Ivica Zubac was in that initial offer).
How may you ask did the Lakers acquire Davis for less than the Pelicans has previously turned down despite Ingram's health issue? Well after that failed trade, the Lakers tanked their way into the lottery and luck once again brought them a pick atop the draft at #4. And Rich Paul insisting that Anthony Davis would leave for Los Angeles in 2020, lessoned what non-Los Angeles teams were willing to offer. Losing, lottery luck and location.
While the Lakers have had four top 4 picks since 2015, the last time the Celtics had one of their own (meaning due to their record or lottery luck) was in 1997. The Lakers didn't shrewdly accumulate assets and then cash them in for Anthony Davis. They sucked the years they owned their own picks and then when they had picked up enough of them Rich Paul and the Lakers were able to get his client to his preferred location.
You'll see a bunch of articles and talking heads in the coming days giving the Lakers credit for their return to contention(and probably bashing the Celtics as well), but the Lakers don't deserve such credit. Losing, lottery luck, and location is all it was.