Vote: How should the Lakers handle the rest of the season?

BySN Staff ESPN logo
Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Los Angeles Lakers dropped into the cellar of the Western Conference following Sunday's 122-73 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the worst defeat in franchise history. The team is still within striking distance of a playoff spot, having entered Monday four-and-a-half games behind the No. 8-seeded Denver Nuggets.

However, there are six teams between the Lakers and Nuggets in the standings, so leapfrogging all of them is not going to be an easy task. Los Angeles has gone 6-22 since its surprising 10-10 start to the season. Currently, the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets are the only teams with worse records than the Lakers, who own a protected top-three pick in what is widely expected to be a strong draft in June.

Los Angeles would surrender that pick to the Philadelphia 76ers if it falls outside the top three. Should the Lakers creep into the playoffs as an 8-seed, a first-round matchup against the Golden State Warriors would likely await. Los Angeles shocked the Dubs 117-97 back on Nov. 4, but the two-time defending Western Conference champions throttled the Lakers twice later that month.

As the losses continue to mount in Los Angeles, the team might opt to give more playing time to a young core that features 19-year-old Brandon Ingram, 20-year-old D'Angelo Russell and 22-year-old Julius Randle while reducing the responsibilities of veterans Lou Williams, Nick Young, Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng.

Two other young Lakers, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., could see expanded roles if the team decides to prioritize player development over chasing the playoffs.

Packaging members of its young nucleus into a trade offer for an established star is also a consideration for Los Angeles as the Feb. 23 deadline approaches, though accelerating the rebuild via that route is reportedly unlikely for the Lakers.

There are several approaches for Los Angeles as the season heads into its second half. Which one should the Lakers take?

The Lakers travel to the Pacific Northwest for a Wednesday matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers on ESPN.

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