The Los Angeles Lakers finally got back on the winning track against Utah on Wednesday, but it came at a steep price.
Late in the second quarter, eight-time NBA All-Star Anthony Davis rolled his right ankle while coming down with a pass from Malik Monk. Let's just say the injury didn't look good at all.
Immediate X-Rays came back negative, but an MRI on Thursday will determine just how much time Davis might miss.
While the timing of the injury may help Davis and his team a bit, there's no question this one could mean serious trouble for the already tumbling Lakers. Examining this from a San Antonio Spurs perspective, there are several ways his missed time may affect their future for both the current season and the upcoming NBA Draft.
The Lakers Falling Even Further is a Real Possibility
Heading into the NBA All-Star break, the Lakers will be the 9th seed in the Western Conference with a 27-31 record. They're 4.5 games ahead of the Spurs, who sit at 12th, and four games ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans, who are just outside the play-in tournament range at 11th.
By not making any moves at the trade deadline, it already wasn't looking very promising for the Lakers for the rest of the season. If Davis is going to miss even more significant time, we could see them start to slip out of the play-in tournament range altogether.
Where L.A. Finishes Will Have a Huge Impact on the 2022 NBA Draft
There will be three teams closely watching where the Lakers finish in the standings this season: The Pelicans, Grizzlies, and Spurs. Los Angeles won't have a draft pick this July, as their 1st rounder will be headed to New Orleans or Memphis while their 2nd rounder will be going to San Antonio.
Either way, the Lakers will be helping a Western Conference rival and hurting the Spurs with their 1st round giveaway, as New Orleans will take it if it lands in the top 10 and Memphis will take it if it's 11th or beyond. Personally, I'm more worried about the Grizzlies adding another lottery pick to the mix given the season they're having.
On the positive side, the 2nd round pick the Lakers owes the Spurs might just get better as the season goes on. The order for the second round is determined by simply flipping the full standings upside down so the worst team picks first and the best team picks last.
The pick is currently projected at 42nd but will go up the further Los Angeles drops in the standings. Realistically, we can probably say the Lakers won't fall in the bottom six of the standings, meaning the highest pick Spurs fans can hope for is probably around 36th.
The Immediate Future for the Lakers Looks Bleak
In his recent article, our own Cal Durrett predicted the Lakers as being one of the teams the Spurs leapfrogs next season. When you look at their contracts and total lack of draft picks, it's not hard to see why.
LeBron James will be 38 next year, Russell Westbrook will still be around eating up $47 million, and Anthony Davis will be returning from seven separate injuries since 2021.
There isn't much the Lakers can do this offseason to improve their roster, and I'm not sure when exactly they'll be in a position to turn things around. Unless James and Davis have a near completely healthy season and return to their peak forms, we might see a repeat of this season in 2023 for Los Angeles.
If the San Antonio Spurs can build upon their huge trade deadline and maximize everything they have, we could very well see them propel past a few teams next season -- Lakers included.