Lakers Buck Odds, Get No. 2 ... What's Next?

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

14. 5. 3. 12.

On Monday night, that combination of numbers delivered the No. 2 overall pick to the Lakers.

So, what happens now?

Well, first, a celebration within the Lakers facility, blessed once again by the Draft Lottery Gods.

After all, as Magic Johnson's huge smile up on the dais in Manhattan's midtown Hilton in NYC revealed during ESPN's broadcast of the 2017 lottery, L.A. managed to buck the odds and thus avoid paying off a first round pick owed to Philadelphia for a third straight season.

Not only did the Lakers defeat the 53.1 percent chance they'd fall out of the lottery ... they moved up a slot to No. 2. The odds of that happening were just 15.7 percent. And oh, by the way, their 2019 first rounder that was owed to Orlando from the Dwight Howard trade in 2012 now stays with L.A., with the Magic instead getting two second round picks.

"It's a great time for (Lakers GM) Rob (Pelinka) and I," said Magic. "We'll get to work soon. I'm looking forward to working out a lot of players we can choose to decide what player we'll select at No. 2."

Working out players and ultimately deciding what player they like the most is certainly a big part of what comes next, but it's not the only thing.

The Lakers are now pretty loaded with assets (from 2014-2017 Drafts):

  • No. 2 pick, 2017 Draft
  • No. 28 pick, 2017 Draft (from Houston for Lou Williams)
  • Brandon Ingram (No. 2, 2016)
  • D'Angelo Russell (No. 2, 2015)
  • Julius Randle (No. 7, 2014)
  • Larry Nance, Jr. (No. 27, 2015)
  • Ivica Zubac (No. 32, 2016)
  • Jordan Clarkson (No. 46, 2014)

So … this is where Pelinka's frequent references to chess, or solving a Rubik's Cube, come into play. There are many, many ways to go from here. For example, consider these options that come just from keeping this No. 2 overall pick and acquiring the No. 28 pick from Houston.

  • L.A. could make both selections this season and develop the young roster while focusing mostly on a robust 2018 free agent class (as Magic said).
  • They could make both selections and keep them, but trade one of their current young players to acquire a veteran player or to relieve some salary to current veterans.
  • They could trade one or both of the picks before or during the draft in a package to acquire a veteran from another team.
  • They could trade down to acquire more picks.
  • They could trade down to acquire more picks, and then use one or both of those newly-acquired picks to acquire a veteran on a different team.

Pelinka put things more succinctly.

"This is a tremendous position of strength, and we just feel grateful, and thankful and blessed," he said.

Now, Pelinka also mentioned that had the Lakers not kept their top pick, they were happy with their Plan B, which would have included knowing for sure they'd keep their 2018 first round pick (which now definitely goes to Philadelphia).

But Plan A was of course always the preference, provided the lottery balls bounced the right way.

"We have a winning plan in place and it wasn't contingent around tonight," he clarified. "What this does is just kind of establishes what our assets are in the short term, and now we can start making all the chess moves we want to effect the winning plan that we have."

The No. 28 pick doesn't look as attractive on paper as a lottery pick … and of course it isn't. But it should look shinier specifically for the Lakers, since their scouting department has done so well in recent years around that number.

Johnson and Pelinka, as well as Luke Walton, can rely on Asst. GM/Director of Scouting Jesse Buss, Director of Player Personnel Ryan West and their staff to keep that going, while also imparting their vision of the culture moving forward that they want to define Lakers players.

"I think any player that we pick for the Lakers has to fit our Lakers DNA, and that's players of high character, with diversified skillsets, versatility, team-first mentality and an obsession for the relentless pursuit of excellence," said Pelinka. "Those are the types of guys that Magic and I want to build the team around and that's who we'll search for in the draft."

As Magic relayed, Pelinka hasn't been wasting any time.

"Rob has been working the phones," Johnson concluded. "He's been doing an excellent job already. So I can imagine it's gonna happen now. We're both working really well together. It's gonna be exciting for both of us to get to work now. Roll our sleeves up and get to work."

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