Lakers Draft: Is A Top Pick Worth The Humiliation?


It used to be the Lakers considered anything short of a championship a disappointing season. It was not enough to make the playoffs, they had to go to the finals. If they went to the finals, they had to win. If they went to the finals and lost, as they did a couple of times in recent memory, it was considered a wasted season. It was championship or bust.

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  • To put it mildly, things have changed for the Lakers. The goal today is no longer to win every game. It is to lose every game. They take the court each night with the intent to lose, and they have succeeded admirably.

    For a professional athlete, it is pure humiliation to be a part of this team. For a fan, it is beyond frustrating. Can you imagine any scenario in which Dr. Buss, were he still alive, would approve of what the Lakers are doing? All in the name of preserving the precious top five draft choice the Lakers seem to feel will be their salvation. Is any draft pick really worth enduring all of this embarrassment?

    In 2013, the top five selections in the draft were Anthony Bennett, Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter, Cody Zeller, and Alex Len. In 2012, the top five choices were Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd Gilchrist, Bradley Beal, Dion Waiters, and Thomas Robinson.

    In 2011, it was Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, Enes Kanter, Tristan Thompson, and Jonas Valanciunas. Of these 15 top choices, only two — Davis and Irving (both number 1 selections) — have emerged as stars. All the rest have proven to be complete busts, adequate reserves, or decent players on bad teams.

    Last year’s draft was supposed to be a strong one. Andrew Wiggins has had a decent season for the Timberwolves but has not set the world on fire. Jabari Parker missed most of the year after suffering a knee injury, and Joel Embiid missed all of it. Aaron Gordon has been labeled a complete bust, and Dante Exum is close behind him.

    The best and most dominant new player I watched this year, by far, is Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat, who was actually drafted in the second round in 2010 (the same year our very own Wesley Johnson was chosen as the fourth overall pick). For four years, Whiteside shuttled from team to team and spent lots of time in the D-League, before he finally got to play in the NBA for the first time this season.

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    It also bears remembering that aside from Andrew Bynum, who was injured for most of his time with the Lakers, one would have to go back to 1996 and the selection of Derek Fisher, late in the first round, to find a draftee who played a major starring role on the team. Since the selection of Magic Johnson and James Worthy decades ago, the Lakers have always been a team built primarily on trades and free agent acquisitions.

    So desperate are the Lakers to find some reason to be optimistic that many have already anointed last years’ number seven draft pick, Julius Randle, the future face of the franchise. It is scary how much the Lakers sound like they are depending on Randle. I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but that sort of optimism is preposterous. Randle may prove to be a great player, but it is also possible he will never be more than a journeyman.

    In truth, no one has any idea. All we know is Randle has already suffered serious foot and leg injuries in his short basketball career.  He played one season at Kentucky, whose system, to be honest, makes everyone look good. His brief collegiate experience was solid but hardly transcendent.

    Watching Randle play in the summer league last year, and in training camp, he looked very raw and inexperienced. Plus, he is one of those “in between” players, not nimble enough to play small forward but not big enough to play power forward. We are told he needs to work on his shooting, his rebounding, and his defense, three awfully important skills. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard anyone say he is already outstanding at anything.

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    Don’t get me wrong, in this league you need assets and a top draft choice is an asset. It means there is hope for a better tomorrow. But, the fact is, as those draft choices of the past five years illustrate, it is all one big guessing game. There are very few veteran players – perhaps only one — who are so good that they instantly make your otherwise bad squad a playoff team. The same can be said of any draft choice, except with draft choices it is even more speculative. Every few years a can’t miss rookie comes along, but even with those players such as Davis and Irving who were chosen number 1, how many playoff games have they even appeared in let alone won?

    No one wants to hear it, but what it all comes down to is luck. A top five draft choice is not going to turn anything around by himself, and he can just as easily be a wash-out. In the end, this is what the Lakers have sacrificed their integrity for this season — the unknown. I guess it had to be done, but what an ugly way to do business.

    Next: What The Los Angeles Lakers Can Learn From The Utah Jazz