Svi Earning (Unprompted) Praise in Camp

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

When Alex Caruso and Travis Wear took to the podium on Media Day as the last two Lakers to speak, the press throng had thinned considerably. LeBron James, after all, had finished talking more than an hour prior.

But as a final question before they left, I asked the two South Bay Lakers two-way players if anybody in particular stood out to them over a summer they spent working around most of L.A.’s young guys.

“I’ve been really impressed with Svi,” said Caruso of the 47th pick in the 2018 Draft, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk out of Kansas and Ukraine. “I think he’s going to be the steal of the draft like Kuz was last year.”

“He’s really good,” added Wear. “Much better defender than I would have expected.”

I wasn’t so much surprised at them singing Svi’s praises – he was of course terrific in both the Sacramento and Las Vegas summer leagues – but that he was the first and only name mentioned amidst a talented group of young players including Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and the aforementioned Kyle Kuzma.

Fast forward from Media Day (Monday) to Thursday, when Luke Walton was asked who’d been standing out to him in practice aside from the obvious (LeBron). He started generally.

“A lot of people have impressed me, because the main thing that everyone showed is that effort and that competitive edge,” said Walton.

Then he added this.

“Svi has been good … he’s had limited opportunities coming with the guys we have, but in the opportunities he’s had he’s looked good.”

So that’s a reserve point guard and the head coach singling Svi out without any prompting. Walton didn’t mention anybody else on the roster at that point.

OK then. Let’s try LeBron.

“He’s great,” said the King. “(Svi) doesn’t say anything and he works his butt off. He puts in work. He’s one of the first ones on the court, obviously because he has to be (because) he’s a rookie. He’s one of the last ones to leave the floor, obviously because he has to be (because) he’s a rookie. But he can shoot the peel off the ball. That’s gonna be very good for our ball club, no matter if it’s to start the season or whatever. If he ever gets his number called, when he gets his number called, he’ll be ready.”

High praise from Caesar, indeed.

The last Lakers draft pick that lit up Las Vegas, the No. 27 pick in 2017, Kuzma, certainly backed it up in the NBA regular season in earning All-Rookie First Team honors. After Friday’s practice, I asked Kuz what he thought of Caruso calling Svi the potential 2018 Draft’s Kuzma.

“I see a potential,” said Kuz. “What (Svi’s) done in training camp so far has been great, especially for a second round pick that nobody really expected nothing out of. He comes in every day and works. One of the first ones on the court, first ones in the weight room, and he’s been hitting shots. That’s what you want to see out of a rookie.”

I wondered how Kuzma focused on constantly living up to that billing after the hype he got out of Vegas, then out of the preseason, then out of the start of the season as he continued to far outplay his draft position.

“You just gotta have that chip on your shoulder,” Kuzma continued. “I would have a three-times-bigger chip if I was drafted 47th. But, just coming in and working like he has every single day is something that can really keep that up for him.”

Ball, drafted No. 2 overall last year, is still younger than Svi, who turned 21 in June, and – like many of us – thinks first of Svi’s shooting, especially after going through post-practice shooting drills with Svi and Josh Hart all week.

“He for sure can shoot the ball,” Lonzo said. “Might be one of the best shooters on the team. Working out with him and J-Hart after is gonna get my shot better.”

Lonzo was asked if he knew where Svi liked to get the ball on the perimeter, and was liberal in his answer.

“Anywhere on the 3-point line, he’s gonna catch and shoot,” said Ball. “He’s gonna help us a lot.”

Svi’s shooting is so well established already that there seems little reason to belabor the point. And while that may be the primary reason Luke Walton may find himself making room for Svi in a crowded wing rotation that could include Ingram, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Hart and Lance Stephenson, Mykhailiuk has shown himself to be more than just a shooter.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what the Lakers Asst. GM/Director of Scouting Jesse Buss told us in August.

“We definitely think he had more to his game than just being a sharpshooter, and he showed that at Kansas last year,” said Buss. “He’s underrated as an athlete. He has great size for his position. He’s underrated as a defender. One thing people don’t talk about is his assist numbers were the biggest jump for him from his junior to senior year. His playmaking ability really improved. We felt there’s a player with more room to grow given his age, and it’s not very often you come across a prospect like that.”

Buss and his staff had been tracking Svi’s development for longer than you may think, and had him rated far higher than his ultimate draft position. They were thrilled when Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka pulled the trigger on him … and that he was still on the board at 47.

“He’s always been a favorite of my department for the past several years,” Buss said. “He really came on our radar when he participated in the Hoops Summit four years ago. Then he went to Kansas, a big-time program, and we watched his growth.”

Of course, just like Kuzma last year, Mykhailiuk will have to prove that his skillset translates from Summer League to training camp and to actual games.


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