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

The Lakers Pick 7th: Now What?

The stakes were high- this was a lottery class that was talked about when the players were in high school. So the anticipation was thick. Would the Lakers shock the world? Or, would they get their comeuppance for all the years they tormented the league? The rhetoric reached epic levels. Some sports hosts vowed not to come to work if the Lakers got the #1 pick. Others watched amazed. By the time the unveiling happened it seemed like water torture, it was just that slow. And then there was no escaping the truth. This was not the year for the Lakers to shock the world. There will be no Jabari Parker in purple and gold. No Andrew Wiggins on Time Warner commercials. No Joel Embiid to compare to a young Lew Alcindor.  The Chick Hearn bobblehead did not bestow fortune. The Lakers will pick 7th. They will have to shift their attention elsewhere.

Apr 14, 2014; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol watches from the bench during the second half against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. The Lakers won 119-104. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

For the past few months, in lieu of watching the disaster that was on the court, Lakers fans engaged in a game of what if. What if we get a top three pick?  What if we land someone to deliver us out of the darkness and into the promise land? Yes, that’s it. That is the reason we are having the worst season in Lakers history- now it makes sense. This is our self-inflicted punishment for Mike D’antoni and his defense and his hatred of Pau Gasol. The pendulum will have turned back to goodness, in our favor; we will reap our rewards.

This kind of thinking helped ease the pain of 30 point losses. But it always was a long shot to move up in the draft which proved true on Tuesday night. You have to be lucky and the Lakers were not, even as they trotted out their last number one pick, James Worthy as a charm.  Cards were turned over. Logos were revealed. Dreams fell to the earth. The Lakers will pick 7th.

They cannot trade this pick as many have speculated, NBA rules don’t allow it; they traded last year’s pick in the Steve Nash deal. There will be considerable debate and discussion and contemplation on which of the remaining players are the best fit for the Lakers future. At the NBA Combine the players measurables were as expected. Noah Vonleh had incredible hands. Dante Exum was an agile guard and very young.  Aaron Gordon could jump out of the gym.  Julius Randle had short arms. Marcus Smart was quick. But there is no test to measure heart and desire and toughness. There is nothing to determine if a player is resilient, can take criticism and has a work ethic. There are leaders. They are winners. They are fighters. And there are losers. Every lottery has one of each, often several.

The question to be answered by Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss and their scouting staff is which of the players available to them at the seventh pick have the best chance at avoiding the negatives. Which player has the best chance at being an All Star because that is the expectation of lottery players: All Star talent. But talent does not always deliver on its promise. The last 5 lottery classes have produced 9 All-Stars (Blake Griffin, James Harden, Steph Curry, DeMar DeRozan, John Wall, Paul George, Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard). 9 All-Stars out of 60 lottery players.

We know this. We know Ben McLemore was picked #7 in 2013 and shot 37% his rookie year.  We know Harrison Barnes was picked #7 in 2012 and had a disastrous second year. We know Bismack Biyombo was picked #7 in 2011and averages three points a game. We know Greg Monroe was drafted #7 in 2010 and has a good shot at an All-Star selection sometime in his future. We know Eric Gordon was drafted #7 in 2008 and has had an injury riddled career. We know Corey Brewer was drafted #7 in 2007, has developed each year but will never be an All-Star (12 points, 3 rebounds). We know Randy Foye was drafted #7 in 2006; he too will never be an All-Star (13 points, 4 assists). We know Charlie Villanueva was drafted #7 in 2005 and is an underachiever. We know Luol Deng was drafted #7 in 2004 and has had a very good career.

Apr 27, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) shoots the basketball against the Los Angeles Clippers during the fourth quarter in game four of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Clippers 118-97. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

We also know Steph Curry. He was the #7 pick in 2009. He is the best shooter in the NBA. He is a 20 point, 8 assist player. But he was not in the playoffs his first three years. Steph Curry was in college for three years. He developed each year, he got better each year. He matured each year.  No one the Lakers will pick will be as polished as Steph Curry. The experience of a three year player and his maturity hardly compares to that of a freshman.

There is no player at the 7 spot that is a slam dunk. Even worse, the Lakers do not have a coach. They do not have a leader. They do not have a philosophy. They do not have a defense. They do not have a system. They do not have a face.

College coaches have began to pull back. Kevin Ollie has signed a new deal with Connecticut. John Calipari has renewed his commitment to his “kids”.  Roy Williams has not said much about whether he is interested. That leaves the rest. Byron Scott. Mark Jackson. Jeff Van Gundy. Ettore Messina. Quinn Snyder. Mike Dunleavy. Lionel Hollins. George Karl. The interviews will be lengthy. Remember they hired Mike Brown because he killed it in the interview. Then there were only three viable candidates. Now there are close to a dozen. They hired Mike D’antoni because of Steve Nash. And Dr. Buss wanted a fast paced style. Two failures in three years have defined the Lakers front office as much as the players they acquired whose skill set was mediocre.

Mitch Kupchak has repeatedly said that he wants a coach by draft night, June 26th.  After that the world is fast moving. Free agency begins July 1st and the Lakers aren’t the only ones with money to spend. No other team has so few players. These are not your father’s Lakers. These Lakers have the most work to do, more than anyone else in the league. On Tuesday night it got a little clearer, their path. From here, it looks like the road with a lot of bumps and curves and hills is the one they have to travel. It may be a rough ride.




Tags: Draft Lottery Lakers Pick 7th Los Angeles Lakers

  • stucktrader

    I get a headache everytime Mike Brown is mentioned… hard worker, but not meant to be a head coach in the NBA. Maybe he would do better in the college ranks…

    No one is going to trade picks… that is purely old CBA… it only works in the NFL and MLB…

  • cyborgspider

    I’m certain Mitch & Jim anticipated the 6th or 7th pick since it’s the most likely scenario. Marcus Smart or Zach Lavine will probably be available, and with the right grooming can become productive point guards, even starter caliber in a season or two. Thus saving the Lakers the need to spend on Rondo or Mike Conley when they become free agents.

    I wouldn’t be mad if they tanked in 2014 as well, although Kobe will have none of that. I’m really leaning on the Lakers picking up Carmelo Anthony over Kevin Love (Melo is available as a free agent July 1st, KLove another year) and getting a defensive center like Gortat or Asik (bye Pau, we love you). The team will at least be competitive and still have Nash’s money to pick up a piece next year.

    I just hope the Lakers don’t commit to Pau long-term and believe that they can recapture the 1-2 magic of their Finals runs. Mitch is smarter than that, but his comments about Pau being a priority concern me a bit.

  • David Green

    there is no one worth a sh%t at the 7th pick this team is done for at least a Decade! Jim buss you are a dick!!!

  • Alex Amerling

    So many negative nancies

  • Alex Amerling

    There are still good players who should be there around 7. I would be thrilled with Smart, Gordon, and possibly Vonleh or Randle.

  • Qing Zhang

    This is article sounds very depressed, it’s a great read for Lakers haters, they will be thrilled after reading this article. It almost certainly gave the #7th pick Lakers going to have a death sentence, it tries to take away all the optimism fans have for this pick. It’s ok for Lakers decision makers to stress over such things, we fans need to feel good about our teams, or else we can just jump ship to support other teams.