The Lakers recent struggles in the draft have been documented in the past, including on this very site. The summary is that, short of Andrew Bynum in 2005, the Lakers haven’t had a good draft since 1996
In the course of that time, the Lakers essentially sold off or draft foreign born players from 2009 through 2011. Of their nine draft picks, only Devin Ebanks, Darius Morris, and Andrew Goudelock saw playing time as Lakers. Meanwhile, the Lakers sold and traded players in order to save or increase cap room. Essentially, the Lakers mortgaged their future for the present and it bit them in the butt.
But how much DID they save during that span? Was it truly a significant amount?
In 2009, the Lakers had one first round pick, which they used on Toney Douglas. The Lakers immediately traded Douglas to the Knicks. In his four seasons with the Knicks, Rockets, and Kings, Douglas has made a total of $5,280,760, meaning the Lakers saved a nice chunk of money.
Patrick Beverly was taken in the 2nd round of that draft, but was also promptly traded away. He also would have a semi-productive career as a role player, netting $1,985,491. Chinemelu Elonu was drafted late in the 2nd round of the draft, but the Lakers never signed him, saving themselves roughly $400,000.
Their next four draft picks over two years saw them draft Ebanks, Derrick Caracter, Morris, and Goudelock. All but Caracter spent multiple seasons on the Lakers, but none playing very productive roles.
The next two draft picks were foreign players in Chukwudiebere Maduabum and Ater Majok. The Lakers stashed both players overseas and never brought them over, meaning they didn’t have to spend a dime on them. By not bringing either over, the Lakers saved themselves roughly $475,000 per player.
So what do all these figures mean? Over that time period mentioned above, the Lakers saved roughly $8.22 million in salary. The Lakers did spend $2.98 million on the likes of Ebanks, Caracter, Morris, and Goudelock over the past couple seasons.
So from 2009 to 2011, the Lakers saved about $5.22 million. What did that buy the Lakers? Well the extra money saved helped them resign Jordan Hill last season for $3.5 million. They also brought in Jodie Meeks on a $1.4 million contract. So the Lakers not spending money on the majority of draft picks over three years helped clear money that was later used on two important role players.
Is this a sustainable trend? Do we want to see the Lakers continuing to mortgage their future for a win-now mode? Was striking out on five of their nine draft picks – and finding only marginal role players with the other four – worth a couple first round exits?
For me, it’s a simple solution. The Lakers need to place a higher importance on the NBA Draft and less importance on the present. The present features many old, breaking down players who could use some young, rejuvenated players behind them.