Los Angeles Lakers: 50 Greatest Players in Lakers History (Updated 2023)

(Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Los Angeles Lakers
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Greatest Lakers of all time: 30- Nick Van Exel

  • 5 seasons, 378 games
  • 14.9 PPG
  • 7.3 APG

The Lakers have recently had great success with late first and early second round draft picks. That was also true back in 1993, when the Lakers selected “Nick the Quick” with the 37th pick of the draft.

Van Exel immediately impressed his coaches in Summer League with his speed and quickness off the dribble as well as his streaky outside shooting. He moved right into the starting lineup as a rookie and played well enough to make the All-Rookie second team.

Nick joined a franchise that was attempting to rebuild on the fly after the Showtime era. His teammates included Divac and Elden Campbell the first season, and Eddie Jones and Cedric Ceballos the following year. The Lakers missed the playoffs his rookie season (even though Magic Johnson coached the team for its final 16 frustrating games) but qualified in each of Van Exel’s final four years with the team.

However, the Lakers of that time were mired in the “pretty good but not great” category. They advanced as far as the Western Conference finals just once in Van Exel’s tenure, and compiled only a 17-19 playoff record despite the comeback of Magic as a player in the 1995-96 season, and the first two Laker years of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant the following two seasons.

By the time Phil Jackson was hired as coach, and the talents of Shaq and Kobe were maximized to win 3 straight titles in 2000-02, Van Exel had been traded to Denver. He ranks 3rd in assists, 21st in PPG and 25th in career points.