The Los Angeles Lakers’ dream team if they nailed every draft pick

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We know that the Lakers like to build through trades and free agency, not the draft. Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis are just a few of the many players who found the allure of Tinseltown too appealing to pass up.

The one downside to attracting innumerable stars seemingly at will? The team is usually good and often great. That leads to middling draft picks, at best, such as this year’s 17th pick. The further back in the draft you are, the fewer game-changers there are to be found… but like big fish and high school girlfriends, there’s always one that got away.

The Lakers also had three straight second-overall picks in the middle of the last decade. Would they have made the same choices with the benefit of hindsight? (Spoilers: no.)

Let’s go through a silly (but hopefully fun!) exercise. What if the Lakers had absolutely nailed every first-round draft pick they’ve had in the last decade? Obviously, the butterfly effects are impossible to predict; if they’d drafted better in 2014, maybe they wouldn’t struggle in 2017 and end up with another second pick.

But in the dog days of summer, after the draft but before the excitement of summer league, it’s okay to let our minds drift on some pleasant daydreams.

There are universes out there where the Lakers are in the midst of another dynasty anchored by any of a number of different stars. Let’s go through the last decade to see what the Lakers did right and what they could’ve done differently with their first-round picks in the NBA draft.

Lakers actual 2014 pick: Julius Randle; Should have been: Nikola Jokic

If we’re going to dream, we’re going to dream big.

The Lakers didn’t have a first-round pick in 2013, so Randle came in with high expectations. Unfortunately, he broke his tibia in his very first NBA game. That injury caused him to miss the rest of his rookie year. He fully recovered, but despite his voracious rebounding, Randle struggled with bringing consistent effort and efficiency. He lasted four intriguing-but-frustrating seasons before the Lakers decided to cut bait, letting Randle enter unrestricted free agency.

Of course, if the Lakers had drafted Jokic in 2014, the league’s entire history would need to be rewritten. It’s unlikely that LeBron comes, for one, and who knows what sort of supporting cast the oft-perplexed Lakers management would’ve put around Jokic.

But Jokic can make lemonade from cow pies and could’ve been the anchor for the next great Lakers dynasty. Mikan, Kareem, Shaq, and Jokic…

The only consolation: 28 other teams made the same mistake, many of them multiple times. And Randle has become a two-time All-NBA player (even if he is someone teams seem plenty fine with unloading), which is better than the average #7 pick. It’s just unfortunate that he blossomed for someone else.

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