The Los Angeles Lakers have already started bringing in players for pre-draft workouts, the first step in what will be a lengthy pre-draft process. However, if the results of last year’s NBA draft is any indication of how successful that process is, they can take as long as they’d like.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka joined John Ireland and Steve Mason of ESPN LA’s “Mason and Ireland” to talk about the team’s thorough pre-draft process and how that plays into the decision they make on draft day. During the interview, Pelinka recalled what it was like scouting Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart last year and what set them apart from the other prospects they were considering late in the draft.
“When we sat down at the combine with Josh Hart and he talked about Jay Wright and playing under him and winning a championship under him and just how locked in he had the players, how focused on clean eating and grass-fed beef and the focus they had in their film sessions and just that he was engrained with this culture, that stands out,” Pelinka said.
“You look at a player like that and you know that’s going to pay dividends in terms of forming Josh and who he is and how he plays, and he showed that this year because he was a guy that if there’s a loose ball, he’s going to get it. He’s going to make all the winning plays.”
It sounds like, Hart separated himself from the pack more with his intangibles and character than anything spectacular he did on the floor. While that might also be the case for Kuzma, his appeal was more about his upside on the court.
“I think for Kuzma, an on the court example, I think Magic and I, and Jesse Buss, our director of scouting and assistant GM, we look at the energy guys play with and the toughness,” Pelinka said. “He just has an electricity in his footwork. You could just tell he wasn’t the typical slow-footed, 6’8 guy that can shoot. He had this energy to his feet that was palpable and that stood out in the workout.”
Selected with the No. 27 and No. 30 picks respectively, Kuzma and Hart shattered all expectations — except maybe their own — in their first year with the Lakers.
Combined, Kuzma and Hart averaged 24 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game, making them the most productive duo selected outside of the top-20 on paper, according to stats.nba.com.
The Lakers are hoping to find the next Kuzma or Hart somewhere in the crowd within the next few months. You can keep track of every player the Lakers have worked out to date with our 2018 NBA draft tracker here.