Lakers’ actual 2018 pick: Mo Wagner; Should have been: Jalen Brunson
The 2018 draft will go down as one of the best in history. The top-end talent speaks for itself: Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Jaren Jackson Jr., Mikal Bridges, Miles Bridges, Michael Porter Jr., and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander were all lottery picks.
But there was a load of ability in the back end of the draft, too. Wagner is a guy; he does basketball things on occasion. But the Lakers could’ve had numerous other, better players. If they needed a big, Robert Williams was selected just two picks later (by the Celtics, again!), and Mitchell Robinson went in the second round.
Tweener forward Jarred Vanderbilt could’ve been had years earlier than in reality. Nuggets ace sixth man Bruce Brown was on the board, as were quality rotation guards De’Anthony Melton and Shake Milton.
But Jalen Brunson, picked #33, would’ve been a perfect fit for the Lakers. Even though the 2018-19 Lakers had several solid backcourt options (Ball, Rajon Rondo, Reggie Bullock, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and more), Brunson is comfortable playing either guard position and flexible enough to fill an abundance of roles.
We’ve seen Brunson get better and better throughout his career, and his offensive flexibility and crafty, stutter-steppy game would’ve been a perfect fit next to LeBron when he gained more experience.
Late first-rounders are always a flier; it’s hard to fault the Lakers for missing here. But given the quality still available, it’s a disappointing outcome.