The Los Angeles Lakers are a team that has had more draft success than most people give them credit for. This is because most of the players they drafted have already been moved on from the team, whether it was to make space to sign LeBron James or it was to acquire Anthony Davis in a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans.
A lot of the players LA selected come in the late first or second round, with the franchise showing remarkable consistency in getting players in these rounds. Jesse Buss, the Director of Scouting with the Lakers, sat down with Mike Trudell and revealed the Lakers’ philosophy regarding finding talent on the lower ends of the draft board.
“A lot of times when we’re discussing the board, it comes down to potential vs. production. In the particular cases of the guys we’ve had success on that were older in college, we felt their production and who we thought they’d be as NBA players were just too high to pass on. What I mean by that is, in comparison, there were players with upside that were available at those picks. But we felt that even if those guys hit their upside, the player we were getting with those selections was going to be a better player five years from now. That’s really what we focus on when we’re ranking these guys. We want whoever is going to be the best long-term player for the Lakers. My philosophy is that any time we draft a player for the Lakers, I want him to finish his career here. I want him to make the case that he’s a player here for the long run.”
Should The Lakers Focus On Finding Steals In The Draft?
The Lakers are trying to build a solid developmental ethos through the scouting department, but it seems other teams benefit more from the Lakers’ ability to find the right young players and develop them.
The current roster features a distinct lack of homegrown players as the best homegrown players have been moved on to other teams for trades that haven’t looked as good over time. The trade that sent Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and Lonzo Ball to the Pelicans for Anthony Davis might have been worth the 2020 championship, but the Lakers have struggled to keep AD healthy and lost 3 rotational players for him.
The Russell Westbrook trade saw them lose the likes of Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso (the Lakers couldn’t afford to keep him because of Russ’s contract), as both players had career years in their new organizations. Talen Horton-Tucker went from being a prized youngster on the roster to being traded for an expiring contract in Patrick Beverley.
The Lakers picked Max Christie over former lottery-projected pick, Jaden Hardy, so there are gambles that they have taken when drafting this season. Hopefully, the Lakers can develop Austin Reaves and Max Christie into strong NBA players as they have done with so many. If they succeed in that task, the rotation will start to look more sturdy alongside LeBron and Davis.