19 Jun 19
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
“The Los Angeles Lakers select …”
Thursday night is liable to be the last time for the next few years the Lakers hear that phrase uttered in the NBA Draft lottery, and it is likely to be a strange moment. With a trade pending but not yet officially complete for Anthony Davis, NBA commissioner Adam Silver is poised to announce the fourth overall pick as a Lakers selection – even though everyone knows that player will be headed elsewhere no later than the end of July.
The Lakers, who will have no picks remaining in the draft unless they trade back into it, have no plans to issue any statements about the No. 4 pick. Soon, he will likely be on his way to either New Orleans or possibly another trade partner to be revealed.
In one sense, it’s the end of an era for the Lakers, although perhaps a welcome end. The prolonged stretch of losing seasons has given a franchise that had just two lottery picks before 2014 a rare chance to dip into the most exciting young talent entering the league. In four of the previous five drafts, the Lakers picked in the top seven picks, and were poised to do so again this year.
But now, all of those picks are gone – turned into Anthony Davis in Saturday’s megadeal, traded away for salary cap space, or simply allowed to walk away for nothing. The Lakers also gave up much of their future draft control to the Pelicans in the most recent trade, meaning they’re unlikely to mine significant talent through the draft in coming years – perhaps a necessary cost of gaining a transcendent star like Davis, but a cost nonetheless.
Here’s a timeline of how the Lakers’ bounty of draft choices ended up elsewhere, with course-changing events highlighted and notations for opportunities seized or missed:
June 2014: The Lakers pick Julius Randle from Kentucky at No. 7 overall after falling one spot in the draft lottery. General Manager Mitch Kupchak says Randle was ranked higher than his draft position on the Lakers’ board.
“He’s a player that will blend well in Los Angeles,” Kupchak says on ESPN. “He competes hard, he plays hard, and he loves contact. Great kid.”
The 2014 draft turned out to be a relatively weak draft: Only two players, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, selected in 2014 have gone on to become All-Stars. Notable players selected after Randle include Zach LaVine, Jusuf Nurkic, Clint Capela, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Spencer Dinwiddie and Jokic.
October 2014: Against the Houston Rockets in his NBA debut, Randle breaks his leg. He goes on to miss the entire season with the injury, adding to the Lakers’ injury woes that year which include Kobe Bryant tearing his rotator cuff. The Lakers win just 21 games.
June 2015: The Lakers pick No. 2 (moving up in the draft lottery) and select D’Angelo Russell from Ohio State.
“At No. 2 you hope to get a player who has All-Star capability, and we think we did,” Kupchak said. “He is young. He’s got gifts you can really work long and hard on and still not acquire those gifts. Some of them you’re just born with, or somebody just sprinkles a little gold dust on you and it’s just there.”
Only two other players from the 2015 draft have gone on to become All-Stars, and only Kristaps Porzingis (now with the Dallas Mavericks) was picked behind Russell. Other notable players picked behind Russell in the draft include Myles Turner and Devin Booker.
March 2016: Russell and teammates have a public falling out over a leaked video of teammate Nick Young. While not a total expression of Russell’s reception in the locker room, the incident continues to affect the perception of Russell throughout his Lakers tenure – some outsiders call for him to be traded right away.
June 2016: After a 17-win season and Bryant’s retirement, the Lakers wind up with the No. 2 pick and select Brandon Ingram from Duke. Kupchak calls Ingram’s comparisons to Kevin Durant as “unfair” but says “the similarities are striking.” One of the pre-draft evaluations Kupchak mentions at the podium is that Ingram seemed to get along with Randle, Russell, Larry Nance, Jordan Clarkson and other young members of the team at a dinner event.
“We look at him and his age and his body type, his willingness to work and be coached,” Kupchak said. “So we think the upside, and the potential in him – we think right now there is no ceiling on him.”
To date, only No. 1 pick Ben Simmons has made the All-Star Game from this draft. Other notable picks behind Ingram include Jaylen Brown, Buddy Hield, Jamal Murray and Pascal Siakam.
February 2017: Magic Johnson assumes power as Jim Buss and Kupchak are fired. The front office’s power shift comes with the renewed emphasis on clearing salary-cap space to pursue elite free agents.
June 2017: The Lakers trade away Russell for the No. 27 pick and Brook Lopez, with Johnson later saying Russell lacked the leadership qualities that he sought in a point guard. The deal is also used to unload the contract of Timofey Mozgov for roughly $22 million in cap space, which the team identifies as critical to drawing elite free agents (at the time, the Lakers are in trade discussions for Paul George as well).
The team goes on to use the No. 2 pick (moving up a spot in the lottery) to select point guard Lonzo Ball from UCLA, a local prospect with considerable hype. Johnson adds to it, identifying Ball as “the new face of the Lakers.”
Notably, No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz has barely played to date, mostly sidelined by injury. The players who have been productive behind Ball to date include Jayson Tatum, De’Aaron Fox, Lauri Markkanen and Donovan Mitchell.
The No. 27 pick in the Russell deal becomes Kyle Kuzma, who enjoys an All-Rookie team season and remains with the Lakers to this day.
February 2018: While the Lakers don’t lose any lottery pick assets in a big trade at the deadline, they send Nance and Clarkson to Cleveland, profoundly shifting the chemistry of the team’s youthful core and further opening cap space in the hopes of luring two max contract players.
June 2018: A first-round pick that the Lakers once conveyed to Phoenix in an ill-fated 2012 trade for Steve Nash finally becomes the No. 10 pick for Philadelphia. The 76ers use that to pick Villanova’s Mikal Bridges, who is traded to Phoenix.
The Lakers are able to pick Michigan’s Moe Wagner in the first round at No. 25. While not involved directly among lottery picks, Wagner remains on the Lakers roster.
July 2018: LeBron James signs with the Lakers, utilizing some of the cap space freed up in the Russell trade. Other Lakers assets leave during free agency, however.
[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-section”]The Lakers renounce their rights to Randle, who turns around to sign a deal with the Pelicans. He goes on to set a career-high in scoring (21.4 ppg). Lopez also walks after one season to sign a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, going on to become a key piece of an Eastern Conference finals team that led the NBA in wins.
February 2019: As the Lakers fail to acquire Davis at the trade deadline amid rumors that all of the team’s young talent was up for grabs, Russell is named an All-Star reserve amid a breakout season in Brooklyn. So far, he’s the only Lakers lottery pick from the past five years to be named to the All-Star Game.
March 2019: Ball and Ingram are shut down for the season: Ball fails to come back from a severe ankle sprain, while Ingram requires surgery for a blood clot in his shoulder. Both players wind up playing fewer than 53 games in a 37-win season.
June 2019: The Lakers trade away Ball, Ingram and this year’s No. 4 pick to the Pelicans in the Davis deal.
When the trade is officially executed in July, the Lakers will have no remaining lottery picks – just James, Davis, Kuzma and cap space as the result of their maneuvers.