With the 39th overall pick in the NBA draft the Philadelphia 76ers selected Isaac Bonga, a SF from Germany. This, as we told you, was the pick the Lakers had reportedly traded for on Wednesday night a day before the actual draft.
By the time this pick was made, I fully expected this to be the Lakers selection, but as Rob Pelinka clarified in a post-draft press conference, this trade is not yet finalized. More accurately, Pelinka said the Lakers are “in discussions” to acquire “another 2nd round pick” from the draft, but due to the moratorium he was not at liberty to say anything more than that.
If you’re confused, I’ll explain a bit more. As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Wednesday, the Lakers did in fact make a trade with Philly for the pick that became Bonga. However, due to the fact that the Lakers will include cash in this transaction, the deal cannot be completed until the new league year begins on July 1st. Further, because there is a moratorium on transactions through July 6th, this deal cannot be completed until that time.
So, the Bonga will be a Laker, it will just have to wait.
As for the player, Bonga is a 6’9″ perimeter player with a 7’0″ wingspan from Germany. He’s a bit thin (only 203 pounds) and is one of the youngest players from this draft class, not turning 19 until November of this year. He’s a project player, but one who offers some upside due to his playmaking and progressing jumpshot. He’s not considered a great athlete at this point, but seems to offer some quickness — though you can tell from some of his highlights he still does not have a great feel for his body, playing a bit off balance in ways that make him seem like he’s a bit out of control.
From where I sit, Bonga is clearly a draft and stash player. Someone the Lakers hope can develop into someone worth bringing over in the next few years; someone who can grow his game, raise his skill level, and further advance physically to be ready for the NBA.
Now, if you’re wondering why the Lakers would trade into this draft slot only to select a player they probably do not plan to have on their roster next season, you’re not alone. It seems counter intuitive to go through the efforts of acquiring this pick only to use it on someone who will continue overseas. Why not just pick that player at 47? Isn’t there a possibility a similar talent would be available using the pick they traded next year?
These are legitimate questions, but we have no answers. Mainly because this deal isn’t even done yet and the GM of the team basically was able to pivot by saying he can’t even discuss it. So, here we are. Looking at random youtube clips of an 18 year old German forward with little to no context of to what the team sees in him or how he might be a part of future plans.
In the big picture, this isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s not like we can glowingly reflect on what the team has done here either. On some levels I think this scouting department has earned some benefit of the doubt with their ability to spot and draft talent later in the draft. But even if that wasn’t the case, I’d also argue the expected return on picks in this range is so low it’s not the biggest deal to take a flyer on a player of Bonga’s ilk.
So, welcome to the Lakers Isaac Bonga. Sort of.