Let’s count the Lakers draft picks since 2007. One is in jail for murder. One is an All-Star who never played one game in a Lakers jersey. Three are in the league with other teams. One played a measly game, that’s it, just one NBA game. Another played zero NBA games and never should have been drafted. Several others did their time, 41 games or 49 games or 132 games. Who cares, no one worth remembering came out of that group.
In 2014, the Lakers invested themselves in rebuilding and they drafted a corp of young guys to do the impossible. Trusting players who are 19, 20, 22 and 24 years old to lead them somewhere when they still haven’t figured out their NBA game is the reason the Lakers are here, the second worst team in the NBA, and not guaranteed to keep their lottery pick (it is top-3 protected, otherwise it goes to the Sixers).
Let’s go back in time. In 2007, the Los Angeles Lakers had a tumultuous summer. Kobe Bryant wanted out and demanded to be traded. The Lakers had a team with Smush Parker and Kwame Brown, need I say more? The Lakers didn’t have much young talent other than Andrew Bynum and Jordan Farmar. Bynum was a 20 year old and the last of the high school players. He was still developing and no one was sure what he could do or if he could even stay healthy. He already had a couple of knee episodes. Farmar was a UCLA product, a guard who could drain the three but wasn’t versatile, didn’t rebound, had average point guard talent. He was 21. So the Lakers needed to think about the future and developing young players. They needed a point guard, a back up shooting guard for Bryant who they refused to trade, a back up center to Kwame, and someone to tag team with Lamar Odom. Luke Walton was a ball mover but he wasn’t much of an offensive player and his defense was average.
But developing talent is not what the Lakers do. They steal other teams stars.
Suddenly, though, the league was hypersentisized to small markets keeping franchise players. The system of the rich teams getting richer because they threw their money and influence around was over. But the Lakers didn’t get the memo to start rebuilding in the draft. They covered their eyes as if business as usual was still here, refusing to accept that one day Kobe Bryant would be gone and that team, without Bryant, and without developed young talent, would be a disaster.
A wise man learns from other people’s mistakes. An average man learns from his own mistakes. A fool never learns.
In 2007, Greg Oden was the number one pick and Kevin Durant was the number two pick. The Lakers won 42 games and lost in 5 games to the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs. They barely put up a fight. So they needed help. They Lakers drafted Javaris Crittenton with the 19th pick. Crittendon is currently in jail for murder, serving a 23 year sentence and having thrown his NBA career away. He was an explosive shooting guard who had a nice career at Georgia Tech but only played in 113 NBA games, 5.3 points per game average. In the second round the Lakers drafted Marc Gasol who was Pau’s younger brother and relatively chubby. They stashed him in Europe. Marc was the piece the Lakers used in the winter to pull Pau out of Memphis, a particular Lakers habit, stealing other teams stars.
In 2008, the Lakers had no first round pick (Pau Gasol trade). The 58th pick they chose Joe Crawford out of Kentucky. He played in 1 NBA game.
In 2009, the Lakers were NBA champions.But Kobe Bryant was 31 years old. They had to start thinking about a future without him and putting the pieces in place to develop for the long term. They drafted Toney Douglass with the 29th pick and they immediately traded him to the Knicks for the a second round pick. In the second round they drafted Patrick Beverley who they traded to the Heat. (Beverley is currently a rotational defensive guard with the Houston Rockets.) At the end of the second round the Lakers drafted Chinemelu Elonu from Texas A & M. He played zero NBA games.
So the Lakers, in three separate drafts, only had Javaris Crittendon wear a Lakers uniform. The rest were traded or treated as garbage. They stuck with the players they had. After all they were the defending champions but no one was getting any younger.
In 2010, the Lakers were repeat champions. They drafted Devin Ebanks. He played 63 NBA games. They drafted Derrick Caracter. He played 41 games. Both were second round picks and average talents. The Lakers had no first round pick (Pau Gasol trade).
In 2011, the Lakers were humiliated in the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks who swept them. A couple of months later they had no first round pick, having relinquished it to the Nets. In the second round they drafted Darius Morris who was a nice player for them. Morris played 132 NBA games. He had quickness but no jumpshot. They drafted Andrew Goudelock who was the opposite of Morris. He could shoot but wasn’t quick enough for NBA defenses. He played in 49 NBA games. They drafted Chukwudiebere Maduabum who they traded to Denver and who never played.
In 2012, before the Lakers made the Steve Nash deal and before they acquired Dwight Howard in a trade, they drafted Robert Sacre with the last pick of the draft. The big man was mostly a bench warmer though he managed to get in some games during garbage time. He played in 189 NBA games. The Lakers traded their first round pick to the Cavs in the Luke Walton trade.
In 2013, thinking/hoping/praying Howard was going to stay to offset the Achilles injury of Kobe Bryant, the Lakers drafted Ryan Kelly, a three point shooter who got to the NBA and couldn’t make threes. His claim to fame was his wife. She was the daughter of former Pittsburgh Steeler coach Bill Cowher. Fans hated Kelly, and leaped a lot of abuse onto him. The Lakers traded their first round pick.
In 2014, when the train was going downhill and fast, the Lakers drafted Julius Randle. Which brings up to this current crop of draft picks: Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr, Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac. None have paticularly distinguished themselves as anything other than 15 point per game role players, though Ingram appears to to have the length, athleticism, intelligence and work ethic to possibly be an All-Star.
Since 2007, no Lakers draft pick has worn a Lakers uniform for 5 years. There has been scant player development, very little consistency, a vacuum of talented free agents. So the young are leading the young. Or the blind are leading the blind.
Losing by 49 points doesn’t happen by accident. The front office makes it happen by ignoring the obvious. You have to develop. You have to build.
Trust the process.
photo via llananba