Listen. No one is going to credibly argue the Lakers weren’t wildly successful at Tuesday’s draft lottery. Rather than surrendering their 2017 1st round pick to the 76ers and, by domino effect and legacy of the Dwight Howard trade, their 2019 1st round pick to the Magic, the Lakers retain both.
Just having these two picks back in hand opens up opportunities and scenarios previously closed off. If the Lakers want to patiently rebuild, they now have two more 1st rounders (including this year’s #2 overall selection) in their coffers. If they want to try to contend now, they’ve added a top asset this summer as ammunition they can leverage alongside they young players they’ve added in recent years.
Solely from this perspective, the Lakers have made out like bandits and are now staring at a wide open field to chart their path back towards competitive basketball.
That said, the Lakers still have a penance to pay for those trades for Steve Nash and Howard. So, even though they undoubtedly were a winner on Tuesday, an accounting of what they still owe is also in order.
First, the Lakers will now surrender their 2018 1st round pick to Philly. There are no protections, no escape routes. No longer can the Lakers alter lineups in the last 20 games of the year which — even in the name of investment in young players — deflate win totals and up their chances to keeping next year’s pick. It’s gone. And, should things fall a certain way, that could be a tough pill to swallow.
I’m not going to speculate on how good or bad the Lakers might be next season. October is a long way from now and anything from internal improvement to smart trades and free agent signings (not to mention any impact the draft picks have) could catapult this team forward. But, from where we sit now, there’s a better than small chance the Lakers remain a lottery team next year. And, as we just saw Tuesday night, anything can happen in a lottery. If the pick the Lakers owe somehow ends up in the top 3-5 next year and Philly gets a top flight talent…you see where I’m going with this, right?
Beyond that, while the Lakers no longer owe the Magic a 1st round pick, the 2nd rounders they will convey have value. The Lakers now surrender this year’s #33 pick and next year’s 2nd rounder as well. This year’s 2nd rounder is a good selection that is now out the door. And, as stated above, while we do not know how good next year’s team will be (thus, we don’t know how good that 2nd rounder will be), it’s not a stretch to say it will be in the top 40-42 picks. Again, that’s not nothing.
And while drafting in the 2nd round isn’t a long term strategy for finding rotation players, I don’t need to remind you that the Lakers have had success finding talent there in recent seasons. Three years ago they got Jordan Clarkson with the 46th pick. Last year Ivica Zubac was taken at #32. As the Lakers beef up their scouting department, the hope would be they only improve in being able to mine this part of the draft to find contributing players who other teams overlook or pass up.
The good news is that the Lakers won’t be fully without 2nd round selections in the coming seasons. As part of the Jose Calderon trade last summer, the Lakers received two future 2nd round picks. Real GM’s future draft picks owed page (a true resource, btw) tells us those are Denver’s 2018 2nd rounder and Chicago’s 2019 2nd rounder. Those picks will give the Lakers some chances to find some hidden gems, but removing their own picks means the Lakers have fewer bullets in the chamber to try to hit that target.
Again, I’m not going to argue what the Lakers still owe is greater than what they received Tuesday. If choosing between the 2017 and 2019 1st rounders or the 2018 1st rounder and the 2017 and 2018 2nd rounders, I’m choosing the former every time. The return from the 2017 pick alone can outweigh any of those other assets — and maybe combined.
That said, it’s always good to keep a tally on both sides of the ledger. And, despite being huge winners on Tuesday night, the Lakers lost some stuff too. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go back to scouting this year’s top prospects.