When the Lakers brand new practice facility opens after next season, the organization may want to feature a ping-pong table.
Thanks to a certain combination of ping-pong balls, the Lakers now hold the rights to the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
There were an abundance of nerves emanating through GM Mitch Kupchak, representing the franchise in New York City’s Draft Lottery on Tuesday evening. He was well aware that L.A. had a 55.8% chance to keep the pick, and the opposite 44.2% chance that it would go to Philadelphia if it fell out of the top three.
But the entire lottery went chalk, with nobody moving up or down, which suits the Lakers extremely well.
“There is a methodology to work your way through this, said Kupchak. “Obviously, if you don’t hear the Los Angeles Lakers name at 5 or 4, when you don’t hear that, you know you’re in the top three. But then you start to get greedy.”
When NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum said “Boston” at No. 3, Kupchak felt pretty good.
“I found myself thinking back to a year ago,” he said. “It was the exact same situation. We had two picks left, and they were either going to say the Lakers name with the next pick or not. Either way it’s great situation to be in.”
L.A. now have the chance to add an elite player to a young, talented roster that will feature the No. 2 overall selection for the 2nd straight season. Kupchak hinted that the Lakers feel pretty good about their backcourt situation, acknowledging that they could use some help elsewhere.
“Just looking at our white board, our depth chart, it’s easy to make an argument we need a player in our frontcourt,” he said. “Having said that, it’s way too early or premature to say there is separation between two and three. We’ll start to work players out and bring them in.”
Of course, just having the pick guarantees little. Kupchak noted the importance of making the right selection.
“We have to draft well,” he explained. “I think our staff that is in charge of the domestic and international scouting is the best in the NBA. I trust them completely, and they’ve rewarded the franchise with really good players the last two years … If we do get the right players, we’ll go from five or six nice young players to six or seven, and that’s a significant jump.”
Philly still holds the rights to a Lakers lottery pick, which will again be top 3 protected next season. L.A. moved that pick back in 2012 to Phoenix to acquire Steve Nash, the Suns in turn flipping the pick to Philadelphia. The pick had various lottery protections upon it, which this year were at just Top 3.
The 2014 Draft delivered Julius Randle to Los Angeles at No. 7, and 2015 brought D’Angelo Russell at No. 2.
Kupchak recalled the “low point” for the Lakers when Randle broke his leg in his first regular season game with the team, and how things have been starting to go right subsequently.
“Julius had his surgery, it went well,” he said. “Jordan Clarkson got an opportunity to play and he showed be belongs in the league. We had three picks in the last draft and we think we got three really good players.”
What will 2016 bring?
Lakers.com will spend the next month and change leading up to June 23rd’s Draft exploring that question, not just for the No. 2 pick, but also for the No. 32 overall pick.
The rights to that No. 2 pick in particular represent an important asset for the franchise, who also possess a great deal of salary cap room with which to sign free agents.
“I think we have something more to sell than we did a year ago,” said GM Mitch Kupchak.
It was, indeed, a good day in L.A.