Pelinka Reacts to L.A.'s 2018 Draft

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers came into the 2018 NBA Draft with a roster boasting an already robust crop of young talent, highlighted by the last two No. 2 overall picks in Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, plus 2017 steals Kyle Kuzma (27) and Josh Hart (30).

GM Rob Pelinka, in his second Draft since being hired alongside President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson in February of 2016, discussed the team’s latest additions, Moritz Wagner with the 25th pick, and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk at No. 47, on Thursday evening at the UCLA Health Training Center.

“Selecting Mo Wagner was a big target for Magic,” he said. “When you build a team you have to have pillars that you build on, and for us, we’re sticking to those core principals, which are guys that are high IQ basketball players that play the game the right way, that can shoot, that have length, that have versatility, that play with toughness...

“We added shooting and guys that know how to play the game the right way. Luke (Walton) was incredibly excited with the choices, and we’re just thrilled with the way the night ended for us.”

There were myriad reports of an additional second round pick for the Lakers, but Pelinka couldn’t comment at this point.

“We are in discussions with another team, but because of the moratorium that doesn’t end until July 6, we can’t really talk specifically about that.”

Wagner averaged 14.6 points per game with 7.1 rebounds and 1.0 steals, and significantly, converted 39.4 percent of his threes in 4.1 attempts per game as a junior at Michigan, whom he led to the NCAA title game as a member of the West Region All-Tournament Team.

“Luke felt like when we did the workout with (Wagner) in our building that he had off-the-charts basketball IQ,” noted Pelinka. “You guys are going to love Mo Wagner because he literally lights up a room when he walks into it.”

Kuzma and Hart were at Wagner’s workout, and both were elbowing Magic and Pelinka, impressed with what they saw. Each (former) rookie texted Pelinka immediately after the pick, eager to bring him into the group.

Pelinka mentioned how impressed he’s been in the two months since the Lakers season ended with the development of last year’s rookies, all of whom have spent extensive time in the building. He used the example of player development coach Miles Simon citing how increasingly difficult it is to move Kuzma on the court, and how much stronger Lonzo Ball looked in a widely circulated Instragram post, not to mention all the film Ball has been watching with Pelinka and Magic after asking if they’d make the time for him.

“Grind everyday like it ain’t no tomorrow” - @lilbaby_1

A post shared by Lonzo Ball (@zo) on

Now, Pelinka is looking forward to getting Wagner going on the program.

“We’re most excited about in Mo Wagner is to get him in and develop him and grow him into an NBA body (to go with) his skill set and mental makeup,” he said. “We feel like he’s going to be a special, special player.”

Meanwhile, Johnson has been coveting Mykhailiuk’s primary skill since he took the job.

“Magic has preached over and over again adding shooting to our core,” said Pelinka. “He’s a 20-year-old player that was really one of the best knock down shooters we had in our building during the draft process. Beautiful stroke. And a tough guy.”

Pelinka cited times in the NCAA Tourney where Mykhailiuk – who is 6’7’’ – guarded elite players like Marvin Bagley (2nd overall pick), and didn’t back down.

So, the Lakers have checked off one major offseason box in completing the Draft, and now turn their focus to free agency, which begins on July 1.

He was asked how the Lakers will approach things, if they can try to both bring in elite max level free agents either this summer towards the goal of winning right away, but also develop the young core.

“The ideal scenario is to do both,” he answered. “Be able to win in the now but also have a young core you’re developing to win in the future. I think we’re ideally situated to do that. If you look at the landscape of the playoffs this past year, youth succeeded in some instances.

“The game is fast paced. The game is about quickness and athleticism, and you need young legs to do that. We feel like we can be really, really good right away, but also build sustainable winning. I don’t think leveraging the success of the future for a short now is the right thing to do. I think sustainable success is really our goal.”

Does he feel a sense of urgency towards that end?

“I’ll personally feel a sense of urgency until we get a championship,” Pelinka concluded. “I won’t rest until then. That’s just the way I’m built, and I know Magic’s the same way, and Jeanie ultimately. We don’t compete to play games, we compete to win championships.”

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