Trading away a lottery pick makes sense for a team that is close to a championship. That kind of team is just waiting for one more piece to the puzzle to round out the roster. Oddly enough, the last time the Lakers traded away a draft pick for a big-name player, was when Pau Gasol was traded for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, and a 2nd round pick, which ended up being Pau’s brother, Marc Gasol.
The Lakers finally got that last piece to the puzzle. The championship window opened.
However, this Laker team isn’t that close to the championship. Health is a major issue. The team ran with a slew of free agent pick ups on veteran minimum contracts. Most of them played above their value, worthy of bigger contracts. Who do we know is going to stay a Laker? How can the team build chemistry when there’s no foundation?
This is a 27 win team. That pill is hard to swallow. It’s also the truth.
So, how does a team build a foundation again?
The mid-90’s Lakers team did well. They did it through the draft. Anthony Peeler was a mid-1st rounder. George Lynch was picked up just outside of the lottery. Nick Van Exel was a steal pick in the 2nd round. Vlade Divac was found in the late 1st round as a project center. Elden Campbell was a late 1st-rounder. It wasn’t easy watching the 1992 team with Sam Perkins, Byron Scott, and James Worthy play without their leader, Magic Johnson. They did all of this without a lottery pick.
Within a short amount of time, the Lakers amounted caproom, with players playing above their rookie-scale contract worth. Eddie Jones was drafted 10th. The Lakers drafted Kobe Bryant. They acquired Shaquille O’Neal. The rest is history.
The point is, they built that foundation through the draft. The team had energy. The team had speed. The team was deep. They needed franchise talent, and acquired it elsewhere.
Trading down in the 2014 draft fixes problems in the short-term. It may give Kobe Bryant his one last shot at a championship. But, we need to realize that the franchise is greater than the player. Kobe Bryant, as great as he is, doesn’t define all of Laker history. He is a legend among the string of legends that have donned the Laker uniform.
The Lakers need to move on, with or without him. The franchise will always want to compete for a championship, whether Bryant is on the team or not.
It would be considered a poor decision by the franchise to possibly miss out on the next franchise player. Why waste a lottery season for role players? Why acquire players through trade, when the player can grow in the team’s culture in-house?
It just doesn’t make sense.
This crop of rookies is under a lot of scrutiny. We forget the draft is an imperfect science. It cuts both ways. A team out there thought Derrick Williams would be a great player, and picked him 2nd. The Golden State Warriors drafted Stephen Curry in the lottery; behind Ricky Rubio, Tyreke Evans, and Jonny Flynn. Guess who became the franchise player. Klay Thompson was picked #11, late in the lottery, behind Tristan Thompson, Jimmer Fredette, Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight, Bismack Biyombo, and Jan Vesely. Now, it’s the Golden State Warriors just that one piece away from competing in the Finals.
Let the other teams make the draft mistakes. Draft the best player available.