What: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns
When: 7:00 PM AZ Time
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix AZ
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
The worst two teams in the Western Conference face off tonight in Phoenix. The Phoenix Suns (17-39) host the Los Angeles Lakers (19-38) as both teams approach the All-Star break without a single representative in the grown-ups All-Star game itself.
Such is the continuing trend of two former consistently winning teams as they try to rebuild from the ground up.
The Lakers pick
Remember that Brandon Knight trade? I know, I know, you’ve totally forgotten how the Phoenix Suns acquired Brandon Knight in February 2015 and why we might care how the Lakers do in the lottery this year.
So let me remind you.
Back in 2012, the Phoenix Suns traded two-time MVP Steve Nash to the Lakers for a pile of draft picks, including protected first round picks in 2013 and 2015.
Traded • Steve Nash to Lakers for • 2013 first round pick (least favorable of Cavaliers, Heat, Kings (top 13 protected), Lakers (top 14 protected) picks) (#30-Nemanja Nedovic) • 2013 second round pick (protected top 40 in 2013, unprotected in 2014) (#57-Alex Oriakhi) • 2014 second round pick (#36-Johnny O'Bryant) • first round pick (protected top 5 in 2015, top 3 in 2016-17, unprotected in 2018) (?-?) • $3M cash on 2012-07-11
That 2013 pick eventually became Archie Goodwin, who is now out of the league and may never come back.
The 2015 pick has not yet conveyed because the Lakers got so bad they clearly kept it.
In February 2015, the Suns traded that pick away for Brandon Knight, a starting point guard for the 30-23 Milwaukee Bucks who was averaging 18 points and 5 assists per game at the tender age of 23 and already was in his fourth year of starting after being taken 8th overall in the 2011 Draft.
Eventually, that Lakers pick will be conveyed to another team. At this point that is the Sixers, who acquired that pick for former Rookie of the Year PG Michael Carter-Williams.
These days, MCW and Brandon Knight are afterthoughts for their teams (MCW is a backup on the Bulls), while that pick is about to be realized.
The Suns and Lakers are currently 2nd and 3rd in the reverse standings, just behind the awful Brooklyn Nets - who are giving THEIR pick to the Boston Celtics from a 2013 trade.
There’s a greater than 50% chance the Lakers will drop to 4th or lower after the Draft Lottery. If that happens, their pick is conveyed to Philadelphia, which would give the Sixers two picks in the top 10 of this draft.
It’s in the Lakers’ best interest to keep losing and somehow finish worse than the Suns to improve their odds of keeping their pick one more year.
For the Lakers, the net result of the Steve Nash trade was to get very little on-court production, zero playoff wins and two lost draft picks - the latter being VERY much needed, but in retrospect they needed both.
Still owing a high 2017 or 2018 pick will continue to stall the Lakers rebuilding efforts, the latest move being to give operational control to former player Magic Johnson. What could possibly go wrong?
Meanwhile, what the Suns eventually got out of the Steve Nash trade was three years of a 13th man, one year of an injured/rehabbing starter and one year of a sixth man shooting under 40% from the field and in danger of losing his rotation spot altogether.
Brandon Knight has surely seen a precipitous fall from grace.
Knight came in as a rising star - talked about being a borderline All-Star in the mold of Kemba Walker, for example - to the Suns, but is in danger of being traded for next to nothing.
He has devolved into a journeyman, capped most recently by his unexpected start Saturday against Houston - where he shot 1-8 from the field, dished 0 assists and saw his team get outscored by 37 points in his 20 minutes on the floor. Comparatively, Tyler Ulis had career high 13 points and 6 assists and was a +6 on the scoreboard in 28 minutes of play.
At this point, the Suns can only hope they don't have to trade him WITH a future first round pick just to get someone to take him off their hands to give Tyler Ulis more run.
Knight IS A GOOD NBA PLAYER. For some reason, he's decided that won’t happen here in Phoenix unless he’s an undisputed starter, preferably at point guard.
The Lakers would love to think that Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram and D’Angelo Russell are the core of the future and that they don’t need that protected top pick for a rebuild.
The Suns would love to think that they don’t need that Laker pick either when they already have Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender (injured) in the fold, PLUS their three first round picks in the next two years (one from Miami, lightly protected).
Tonight’s game, the last one before the NBA’s trade deadline, will likely feature both teams playing their veterans to showcase them for trades.
The Lakers would love to swap Lou Williams for a pick since he’s doing what Brandon Knight was supposed to do - average 18/3 as a combo guard off the bench.
The Suns would love to turn any of their vets into a future picks or more young players, and will be showcasing them one more time tonight just for that.
This should be an ugly game.
Both teams are bad.
And both team are going to try very hard to forget the Steve Nash trade ever happened.