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Jesse Buss says the Lakers had an eye on Svi Mykhailiuk for years and were ‘terrified’ he wouldn’t last to No. 47

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The Lakers have done a fantastic job finding talent late in the draft. Svi Mykhailiuk looks to be the latest example, but Jesse Buss says they didn’t think he’d stay on the board long enough.

2018 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers’ scouting department pre-dates this new, Magic Johnson-led front office. Usually, when a new president of basketball operations is chosen, sweeping changes take victims throughout the organization. That wasn’t the case with Jesse Buss’ staff, and for good reason.

(Note: It definitely probably also helps that he is a Buss sibling but that’s neither here nor there. Moving on.)

Buss and his team have unearthed some absolute gems through the draft. Mike Trudell of Lakers.com sat down for a Q&A with the assistant general manager and director of scouting and had this very insightful exchange regarding Svi Mykhailiuk, the Lakers’ No. 47 pick in June’s NBA Draft.

Trudell: Since I don’t watch much college basketball and thus hadn’t seen Svi Mykhailiuk play much, I kept asking myself how he didn’t get drafted higher as I watched summer league.

Buss: He’s always been a favorite of my department for the past several years. 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...

He tested the Draft waters – we interviewed him – and we told him he could probably get drafted as a shooter, but he hadn’t had a chance to expand and show all the nuances of his game. I felt like when he came back for his senior year he exploded onto the scene. He was a more confident player. He put on about 10 or 15 pounds of muscle, which was completely noticeable between the interviews at the Combine.

He’s a guy that’s always been one of the best shooters in college basketball and one of the top shooters in this Draft. We definitely think he had more to his game than just being a sharpshooter, and he showed that at Kansas last year. 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.

And were the Lakers ever concerned that Svi might not be there when the Lakers were making their selection at 47?

Terrified. We felt like he was basically a first round talent. We were surprised he was there at 39, and much more surprised he was there at 47.

This is where the draft can be so fascinating. The Lakers very obviously had a few things in mind heading into the draft a few months ago. They obviously could have taken Svi in the first round and seen how things played out from there. But by gambling on him being available later, they wound up with another player they evaluated as a first-round talent (Moe Wagner) and Svi.

Mykhailiuk is going to be really interesting to watch this year. He may not be as generally talented as someone like Lance Stephenson, but his shooting and low usage demand might make him a better overall fit for what the team needs from that role.

For the Lakers, both Stephenson and Myhkailiuk represent low-risk fliers taken on guys who could have actual impacts on the ceiling of this team. Stephenson is signed to a one-year deal and, if anything isn’t working out to plan, can always be waived.

Svi was taken with the 47th overall pick, a spot that rarely produces impact players. Him not working out would certainly be a disappointment given what he showed over the summer, but it should hardly surprise anyone given where he was selected.

Here’s hoping Svi does work out and, if that’s the case, this was a cool look into the process that led to yet another Lakers draft success story.