Ronnie Lester Pre-Draft Chat

Assistant general manager Ronnie Lester looks on with general manager Mitch Kupchak

Not since 2005 (Andrew Bynum) have the Lakers been in the NBA Draft lottery; winning a lot will take care of that, deep playoff runs keeping L.A. late in the first round most of the time.

In related news, the buzz around the team’s facility in late June isn’t going to match that of a team with a lottery pick or two, but that doesn’t mean the Lakers’ basketball operations staff works any less hard preparing for the unknown. Second round gems like Manu Ginobili, Carlos Boozer, Gilbert Arenas and Michael Redd have been unearthed in the past, and there’s always the possibility of a trade. Accordingly, GM Mitch Kupchak has his staff literally prepared to make a pick in each draft slot, 1 through 60.

Heading into Thursday’s 2011 Draft, the Lakers do not have a first round pick, having traded it to the New Jersey Nets along with Sasha Vujacic for Joe Smith, New Jersey’s 2011 second round pick, a 2012 second round pick and the rights to Sergei Lishouk. L.A. does, however, have a plethora of second round picks at its disposal: No. 41, No. 46, No. 56 and 58.

As such, we spent a few minutes with Lakers assistant GM Ronnie Lester for a final update on what the team is hoping to accomplish with the two picks in the 40’s (i.e. select guards) and the two in the late 50’s (i.e. stash guys in Europe):

Q: On taking the best player available, the team’s need for backcourt depth and keeping players in Europe:
Lester: Normally we take the best player available when we draft. We’ve seen all of these players a number of times either on film or in person, and having four second round picks, we look at our team and think we need at least one and maybe two backcourt players. I think that’s going to be our focus with those first two picks. With the second two picks, I don’t think those guys really can make our team this year because we have several players under contract already. So we’ll look to maybe take a couple of European kids we like and keep them in Europe, or take an American player or two that will go to Europe.

Q: On his recently completed trek to Treviso, Italy to attend the European predraft camp:
Lester: You see some good young players that have developed over the years, gotten better. It’s a good opportunity with us to take one or two of them with the late picks, leave them over in Europe for a few years and hope they continue to develop down the road. No matter where you go, what venue you’re scouting, there are always guys you like. We have a list of guys, European guys that we like, and a list of American guys we like that would be willing to go to Europe, where we’d hold their rights.

Q: On what he, Mitch Kupchak and the rest of Kupchak’s staff will do leading into the draft:
Lester: Our scouts came in on Friday and have been here since working hard. If the draft happened today, we’re ready. With us being in the second round, you just don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re hoping to get a couple of backcourt players that we like, but you don’t know that for sure. If we can’t get two, we’ll get one plus a bigger player. But we’re ready to go.