2020: Lakers traded pick 28 (Jaden McDaniels); Should have been: Desmond Bane
The Lakers’ 2019 first-round pick was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, where the team then flipped that selection for more picks so the Atlanta Hawks could take DeAndre Hunter.
Darius Garland, the whimsical point guard for the Cavs, went #5. Tyler Herro went #13. (Future Laker Rui Hachimura went #9 but didn’t live up to that billing while in Washington.)
This draft did have a run of solid players selected late. From 28 to 31, the picks were Jordan Poole, Keldon Johnson, Kevin Porter Jr., and Nic Claxton, but none of those guys are worth not trading for Anthony Davis.
Onto the 2020 draft…
McDaniels is turning into a superb player in Minnesota and may very well end up being the best available player at this spot. But the Lakers traded him on draft day for Dennis Schroder in an attempt to bolster the champions’ backcourt as they tried to repeat.
McDaniels is now one of the best defenders in the league and an improving offensive player who doesn’t need plays run for him to make an impact. Interestingly, however, he had a rep as a bit of a ballstopper and an offensive-first player coming into the draft, which would not have made him a great fit for the Lakers at that time.
You know who would’ve been terrific from Day 1? Desmond Bane, drafted just two picks later with the final selection of the first round. (Bane was actually picked by the Celtics, too, but they immediately flipped him to the Grizzlies for a future pick).
Bane turns three-pointers into layup drills. He knocked down an astonishing 43% of his triples as a rookie and hasn’t slowed down since. Although he’s not the fastest guy, he’s one of the few NBA players who could take LeBron in an arm-wrestling match, and his strength allows him to hold up on defense.
Los Angeles management has struggled to find reliable shooting to put around LeBron for most of his tenure. Bane would’ve been exactly what the doctor ordered, and he’s quickly becoming one of the best offensive guards in the league. While McDaniels may become the better player in a vacuum, Bane is a lab-created fit next to AD and LeBron.
What makes it worse is the fact that there were legitimate ties between Bane and the Lakers before the draft.
(Either of these players would’ve been more useful than Schroder.)