The Los Angeles Lakers entered the 2023 NBA Draft with the opportunity to take a first-round prospect for the first time since 2018 and that is exactly what the team did. Los Angeles did not trade its first-round pick and instead drafted Jalen Hood-Schifino with the 17th overall pick.
Coupled with Maxwell Lewis — who the Lakers took with the 40th pick that they traded up for earlier in the day — Los Angeles came away with a pretty solid draft class. It will take time for these players to fully blossom into rotation players but both guys have the potential to do so.
All that being said, the Lakers’ 2023 draft almost looked much different as the team almost made an extremely risky move with the 17th pick. And no, that risky move was not trading the pick, which was heavily rumored before the draft but didn’t come to fruition.
Instead, the Lakers nearly took the most polarizing prospect from the 2023 NBA Draft, Villanova’s Cam Whitmore. Jovan Buha of The Athletic confirmed that Whitmore was considered by the Lakers’ brass.
“Even as Cam Whitmore, who was a projected lottery pick, slid to Houston at pick No. 20, no team decided to trade up to steal him. (The Lakers considered Whitmore, according to team sources, but determined Hood-Schifino was a surer bet.)”
NBA Rumors: Lakers nearly drafted Cam Whitmore over Jalen Hood-Schifino
Cam Whitmore was one of the most exciting prospects in the 2023 NBA Draft as many considered him to be a top-six or so prospect in the draft. Some talent evaluators were extremely high on Whitmore, ranking him as high as the third-best prospect in the draft.
There is not a concrete answer as to why Whitmore fell as it looks to be an assortment of things. Underwhelming workouts and interviews coupled with some long-term injury concerns tanked Whitmore’s draft value all the way out of the lottery.
It is a shame, too, as Whitmore has the tools to be a legitimate difference-maker in the NBA. He is exactly what teams covet in 2023: he is a two-way wing that competes on both ends of the floor with tenacious defense and solid shotmaking. Anyone who watched Whitmore play for Villanova saw the foundation for a very solid NBA player.
Hood-Schifino might be the more sure-fire bet because of the perceived health concerns but it is interesting to think what could have been if the Lakers just took the risk of Whitmore. After all, this is a team that desperately needs wing depth and could have given Whitmore minutes in his rookie season.
What really is the ceiling of a 17th overall pick, anyway? Sure, there are outliers, but the Lakers would be happy if JHS turned into a solid rotation guy that can play in a playoff series. But there is also a reality in which JHS is not on the team after his rookie deal.
Whitmore at least had the ceiling of a lottery pick. Despite his concerns, the chances of him being a future all-star (because of his talent) is still higher than JHS, even if JHS is a bigger sure-fire bet to stay healthy.
Regardless, the Lakers made their bed and now they have to lay in it. But there is a world in which Whitmore lives up to his high ceiling and there are a handful of NBA teams that end up regretting not taking a chance on his talent.