November 16, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Former pro basketball player "Julius Dr. J" Irving sits next to Los Angeles Lakers Mitch Kupchak during the ceremony unveiling the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Building The Team, Q&A with Kupchak

That is quite the interview with Mitch Kupchak.  It turns out, he thinks like us fans do.  There are some tidbits about that interview that give hope the Laker fans.

It turns out that Kupchak with the scouting staff likes to speculate on how to build the team.  Imagining if the Lakers acquired one or two players to build the franchise around is usually rumor that Laker fans love to gossip about. It doesn’t seem that they’re seeking particular free agents, but rather,  that they’re open to all possibilities and organizing how to build a championship team through a multitude of avenues, especially with players of varying talent.

Dec 20, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers small forward Xavier Henry (7) takes the ball down court in the second half of the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center. The Lakers won 104-91. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It should be especially encouraging that Mitch Kupchak has such a positive attitude about Pau Gasol, Xavier Henry, Kendall Marshall, and the rest of the Laker roster. Everyday the Laker staff gets a clearer picture of how to build the team with the current players retained.  Kendall Marshall and Xavier Henry could be considered draft picks of sorts.  They’re still very young players, very early into their careers, with upside to improve on their games on both ends of the floor.  The background checking with Roy Williams about Kendall Marshall, or referring to a previous workout with Xavier Henry, shows how careful the free agent decisions are being made.

Personally, nothing makes me happier than to see the Laker staff examine picks #1-#60.  Teams go through the draft process in different ways.  The best way I perceive doing the draft is making a draft list, #1-#60 with the scouting staff on board as part of a group-think decision.  This way, regardless of where the Lakers pick, all the team has to do is pick the highest player on the list.  Everyone else would just get crossed off the list.  The true magic though, is balancing the draft while continuously sorting out trade options. I would have chosen a higher-risk pick than Ryan Kelly, just to have a young prospect to groom with perceived higher upside.  I would have loved to see James Ennis, B.J. Young, C.J. Leslie, Jackie Carmichael, Myck Kabongo, or Brandon Paul.  These guys have varying levels of increased athleticism, better physical tools, and more aggressive skill sets than Kelly.  At least Kelly is showing solid skills on the offensive end of the floor.

Mitch Kupchak grew into his own as a General Manager after frustration from Laker fans early on.  He was mentored by the great Jerry West.  But, the early Summer Pro League games into his first few seasons as a general manager were surrounded by disdain from Laker fans.  People were frustrated by late 1st-round picks that weren’t doing as well as the mid-90′s picks before.  Guys like Elden Campbell, Nick Van Exel, Vlade Divac, Ruben Patterson, and Derek Fisher were stellar draft choices with picks #26 and into the mid-2nd round.  Starting talent, defensive players, and even All-Stars were found and help build the team back to a championship contender. It’s unfortunate that Jordan Farmar, Devin Ebanks, Javaris Crittenton, and Ronny Turiaf couldn’t match the output of the aforementioned players, but steals were found in Andrew Bynum (even if he was a lottery pick) and Marc Gasol late into the 2nd round.

It took Kupchak awhile, but West’s touch shines through in Kupchak.  The Lakers are in safe hands through him.

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