In the days leading up to the 2018 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers made a move that raised some eyebrows by trading a future second-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for the No. 39 pick in the draft.
This year’s draft class was especially deep and there were still a handful of intriguing, high-profile prospects on the board when the Lakers were on the clock with the No. 39 pick, such as De’Anthony Melton, Keita Bates-Diop and Bruce Brown, to name a few. They also could have also tried to package both of their second-round picks to move up.
Instead, the front office decided to take a chance on 18-year-old Isaac Bonga from Skyliners Frankfurt of the Bundesliga and not everyone as thrilled about it.
Unlike some of the aforementioned players that were available, Bonga is still a few years away from contributing, as evidenced by his shaky outing at the NBA Las Vegas Summer League tournament in Las Vegas. However, the front office showed their confidence in Bonga when they inked the German guard to a three-year deal.
In an interview with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, assistant general manager Jesse Buss explained why the Lakers took on a project like Bonga instead of a more NBA ready prospect:
“It’s very difficult to have three picks, and draft players that you expect to contribute right away. Sometimes you have to diversify a little, and knowing that we drafted Moe and really liked Svi, we couldn’t bring multiple players in that needed minutes right away. We wanted to take a player that we felt has a good long-term upside for the team. You have to look at the rest of your roster, and see if you have a spot where you can develop someone over the next few years. The job that coach Walton and his staff have done with our young players gives me a lot of confidence that they can really help Bonga develop into a player.”
Bonga will get the majority of his reps with in the G League with the South Bay Lakers next season, where the Lakers’ scouting department will get a better feel to what kind of player Bonga can be in the NBA.
Standing at 6-foot-9, one might assume Bonga is a win, but in his two years with the Skyliners, Bonga played point guard almost exclusively. In fact, if you watch the tape from his limited action in Vegas, his playmaking is one of the few things that stood out.
Those instincts drew the Lakers to Bonga late in the draft, according to Buss.
Aside from the time Rob and I saw him recently in Germany, we had heard about him and watched tape on him. We got most of our intel from our two international scouts, Antonio Maceiras and Can Pelister. In person, I saw a guy that had tremendous size for his position, being a point guard, and thought he really moved well for a guy that big. He showed a lot of attributes I think can translate to the next level, like court vision and passing ability. Obviously, he’s a guy that’s going to need time to develop, and he’s got things to work on. We feel confident in his potential that he can be a player for us in the future.
While it might be hard for the fans to get excited about a player that has shown so little at this stage of his career, the Lakers seem to be very high on Bonga. If the success the scouting department has had in recent years is any indication of what’s to come for Bonga, he might just be worth the wait.
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