Lakers Agonized Over Draft Day Selection


By Mitch Chortkoff

Sports Editor

When I realized the deadline for this week’s paper was Wednesday and the NBA draft was Thursday I was quite disappointed.

I wouldn’t be able to comment on the Lakers’ selection until the following week. Then I had an idea.

There had been so much interest, so many conflicting rumors in what the Lakers were going to do that there would be considerable reader interest in a description of this process.

So. Hopefully, I was right and you’ll read on,

At the beginning after the Lakers had won the No. 2 pick in the NBA lottery, moving up from No. 4, the obvious choice was going to be Kentucky 7-footer Karl Anthony-Towns or Duke’s splendid Jahlil Okafor, depending who Minnesota picked at No. 1.

In the ensuing month when candidates work out and go through interviews with teams, Okafor dropped.

He measured at slightly over 6-foot-9, and that’s small for a great center. The Lakers then joined experts who had warned that Okafor was a power forward, not a center.

Well, he could be a center but not with the size of a Wilt Chamberlain, a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, or a Shaquille O’Neal.

The Lakers had treated Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol so badly that they’d both left. The Lakers went with an undersized Jordan Hill last season and lost 61 of 82 games. Should they draft Okafor anyway, play him at center and risk losing a lot of games while he gained necessary experience?

Would they decide that if Okafor couldn’t become a dominating center he might become a marvelous forward like Tim Duncan. He’s about the same size as Duncan and pretty talented.

There was one other impressive big man in the draft, 7-1Kristaps Porzingis from Latvia, but he plays like a forward, good shooter but very thin. And then two guards who ranked high too. Maybe they should draft DeAngelo Russell of Ohio State or Emmanuel Mudiay, a 19-year-old who played professionally in China last season after coming out of a high school in Dallas.

Or trade the pick. They had inquired about trading for Demarcus Cousins but Sacramento didn’t seem interested.

Former Laker Vlade Divac now makes personnel decisions for the Kings and he’s been adamant that Cousins won’t be traded.

So if the Lakers settled on drafting a guard they’ll go after forward Kevin Love, who opted out of his Cleveland contract on Wednesday to become a free agent. But Love might sign again with the Cavaliers or someone else.

By now you know what the Lakers did, And next week we’ll explain how they arrived at their decision.

But I don’t think we’re going to see 1986 again.

Yes, 1996 when Jerry West was Lakers’ general manager and took the biggest gamble of his life. It resulted in the Lakers getting O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

Read carefully. This is brilliant.

Bryant, a kid just out of high school, was so impressive in a pre-draft workout with the Lakers that West decided to go all out to acquire him.

The Lakers had a low pick and had to move up. West was able to get them to No, 13 by trading Divac to Charlotte.

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With Divac gone the Lakers didn’t have a center but West was determined to get O’Neal, who was a free agent.

West described the next few weeks as his longest ever. But then he did bring in O’Neal.

The Lakers won three championship with the two star newcomers.

Nothing against Jim Buss or Mitch Kupchak, but I don’t expect anything of that sort to happen again to revive a now-struggling Laker franchise.


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