The 2021 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday night and it should be a busy one for the Los Angeles Lakers as not only do they own the No. 22 pick in the first round, but they also have been involved in a number of trade talks.
The Lakers have the potential to move either up or down, with the latter more likely so they can pick up more picks in the second round.
L.A. has been working out a number of prospects throughout the process and this draft is expected to be a deep one, so perhaps there are a few second-round prospects that they’d like to add to the organization.
In an interview with Jovan Buha of The Athletic, Rob Pelinka gave some insight into the process the Lakers’ front office goes through before selecting a player:
“Our process here tends towards being very meticulous, very detailed, very strategic, in terms of how we evaluate players, how we collaborate between the front office and the scouts, the amount of information and tape and in-person observations that we have,” Pelinka said. “… You can’t make emotional decisions on draft night. And if you’re methodical from the beginning, then you can be confident with the final result.”
Pelinka also discussed how nice it has been being able to work out players at the Lakers’ practice facility once again, which they weren’t able to do last year because of the pandemic:
“It’s been great,” Pelinka said of the recent draft workouts. “I mean, our building was built by (governor) Jeanie (Buss) and her family, the basketball players in here. It was so tough during the pandemic for this to be a quiet place. Just to have draft candidates coming through and the energy and balls bouncing and guys competing, that’s the lifeblood of our training center.
“So it provides the energy, and our scouts have been here and are having those draft workouts in person. (It) has really brought a lot of excitement for us as we head into the draft.”
The Lakers have been one of the best teams in the league at drafting in recent years, especially in the late-first and second rounds. Part of the reason for that is they have a number of bright minds in their scouting department in addition to their front office.
Pelinka likes that the effort is so collaborative on draft night, even sometimes leading to spirited arguments:
“Draft rooms and draft discussions can get heated,” Pelinka said. “But that’s a good thing. We don’t want echo chambers. We don’t want voices in the room that just agree with leadership. We want everyone to feel strongly, and we encourage that. I think that’s important.”
It remains to be seen who the Lakers will take in this year’s draft, but if they keep their pick then the expectation is they’ll select a player who can come in and contribute right away since the team’s championship window is now.
Data shows Lakers are third-best drafting team over last decade
In recent years, the Lakers have been able to find a number of gems late in the draft such as Larry Nance Jr., Ivica Zubac, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Thomas Bryant, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Talen Horton-Tucker.
That’s in addition to lottery picks that have turned into All-Star caliber players such as Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball.
With that draft record, data recently showed that the Lakers have been the third-best drafting team in the NBA over the last decade.
The hope is that Pelinka can pull another rabbit out of his hat on Thursday night, adding one or multiple gems once again.
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