It’s no secret that the Lakers have a history of a blockbuster trade or their capability to lure in the big name free agents. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, and Dwight Howard all came via trade or free agent signing.
The problem is, in recent years, the Lakers have shot themselves in the proverbial foot with poor draft choices. No, not just poor draft choices, putrid drafts. They are clearly more interested in signing/acquiring their players than drafting them.
Their 2012-13 roster featured just five players drafted by the Lakers: Kobe Bryant, Devin Ebanks, Andrew Goudelock, Darius Morris, and Robert Sacre. The key element between those latter four are their ineffectiveness as they finished with four of the six worst Player Efficiency Ratings on the team.
This isn’t a case of a bad draft or two. but nearly a decade of bad drafts. We all remember the Andrew Bynum selection, but since then, it’s been a series of underwhelming draft classes. Here are the Lakers selections since 2005:
Robert Sacre – 60th overall pick
Darius Morris – 41st overall pick
Andrew Goudelock – 46th overall pick
Devin Ebanks – 43rd overall
Derrick Caracter – 58th overall
Toney Douglas (traded) – 29th overall
Patrick Beverley (traded) – 42nd overall
Joe Crawford – 58th overall
Javaris Crittenton – 19th overall
Sun Yue – 40th overall
Marc Gasol – 48th overall
Jordan Farmar – 26th overall
That’s a hell of a putrid list of players. It’s easy to say who the Lakers COULD have drafted in those spots, but just looking at some names, players like Arron Afflalo, Tiago Splitter, Glen Davis, DeJuan Blair, Jeremy Lin, Isaiah Thomas, and Alexey Shved were all picked after the Lakers’ selections. While none of those guys were necessarily All-Stars, they could have been far more solid role players than the group the Lakers had last season.
And even though 2005 was the line drawn, it’s not to say the Lakers were great at drafting until that point. They took Ronny Turiaf three picks before Monta Ellis. In 2004, they took Sasha Vujacic three spots before Anderson Varejao. 2003 saw them take Brian Cook three spots before Kendrick Perkins.
There’s also the case of the Lakers happily trading away future picks for current talent. At one point in time, the Lakers traded away the pick that would later be used to draft Grevis Vasquez and Rajon Rondo. Again, while Vasquez hasn’t been a star, he’s better than Darius Morris. And nothing needs to be said for Rondo’s accomplishments.
The obvious counterpoint to all this is that, in the last 13 years, the Lakers have won five different titles. They’ve literally sold draft picks for money in order to help pay for their luxury tax penalties.
The result of all this? While they’ve won titles in recent years, they’ve created a team with very minimal depth. Even dating back to their title winning teams in 2009 and 2010, the Lakers’ top six were simply that much better than everyone else. Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar provided guard depth, but they were forced to rotate Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum at the forward positions.
Now? They’re a team even more top-heavy than ever. They aren’t a team that’s built to withstand injuries and maintain a level of excellence, unlike a team like the Spurs or even the Heat. When Tony Parker went down, Patty Mills and Cory Joseph were able to step up and fill in. When Russell Westbrook was lost for the season, Reggie Jackson walked right in and averaged 15 points a game in the playoffs.
But when Steve Nash and Steve Blake went down? Darius Morris looked overwhelmed. When the Lakers front court was ravaged with injuries, Ebanks wasn’t even looked at and Sacre provided an inspired, but lackluster performance. Andrew Goudelock was sent to the D-League all season, although he shined in his 15 minutes in the spotlight against the Spurs.
The Lakers situation isn’t too keen on them building through the draft right now, either. They sent away a handful of future draft picks for Nash, most of them first rounders, which makes it that much more crucial that the Lakers figure things out immediately.
The Lakers have continued to mortgage their future in order to win in the present. Now, without much winning present, the Lakers need to quickly figure out how to readjust for the future.