Currently the Lakers (9-12) are not in position to make the playoffs, but the team has every expectation that the return of Steve Nash and Pau Gasol will change its fortunes.
Looking ahead to the 2013 NBA draft, the Lakers have already made a number of transactions.
When the franchise acquired Ramon Sessions last season from the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Cavs gained the right to swap first-round picks.
The likelihood of that transaction taking place is slim as the Lakers' pick is top-14 protected. The 4-17 Cavaliers would need to make the playoffs and finish with a better record than the Lakers for any exchange to be viable.
After the Cleveland obligation is sorted out, whichever pick the Lakers possess is then due to the Phoenix Suns for the Steve Nash trade.
[For the Record, 5:45 p.m. Dec. 11: The original post said if the Lakers do not make the playoffs, they will keep that protected pick. The pick is only protected in the trade with the Cavaliers, not in the trade with the Suns.
The Cavs may have picks from the Miami Heat (top-10 protected) and the Sacramento Kings (top-13 protected). Whichever pick is furthest from the No. 1 pick can go to the Lakers in exchange for L.A.'s first-round pick, at the Cavaliers' discretion.
Cleveland is mostly likely to have the Miami pick which would presumably be swapped with the Lakers (if they're in the playoffs). The Suns would then end up with Miami's first.
How does that impact the Lakers? It doesn't.
Whether the pick goes to the Cavaliers or a Lakers, Cleveland, Miami or Sacramento pick goes to the Suns, the Lakers still aren't going to pick in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft barring an additional trade.]
The Lakers also have their own second-round pick. Though they do owe a 2013 second-round selection to the Suns for Nash, the pick to be conveyed comes from a previous trade with the Denver Nuggets.
The Lakers might actually have two second-round picks. Thanks to a nearly forgotten Chris Mihm trade, the Memphis Grizzlies' selection will go to the Lakers if it's in the 56-60 range.