Coming off of a disappointing 2005-06 campaign for the Los Angeles Lakers, which ended with them blowing a 3-1 lead to the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, they had two picks in the 2006 NBA Draft: the Miami Heat’s first-round pick (No. 25) and their own second-round pick (No. 51).
The Lakers traded their own first-round pick in 2004, when they sent Gary Payton, Rick Fox and a conditional first-round pick to the Boston Celtics for Chris Mihm, Chucky Atkins, Marvin Banks and a second-round pick. That pick would have conveyed in 2015 if the Lakers landed outside of the top 10, but they didn’t, and Los Angeles drafted Andrew Bynum with the No. 10 pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. The rest is history.
With the Lakers’ pick in 2006, the Celtics drafted Rajon Rondo, who went on to be one of the team’s all-time great point guards. However, the player the Lakers drafted five picks later played a pivotal role in his team’s success, too. I’m, of course, talking about Jordan Farmar.
Farmar, a 6’2” point guard out of UCLA, was drafted with the No. 26 pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. At the time, the Lakers’ starting point guard spot was being vacated by Smush Parker, so there would be no shortage of opportunities for Farmar to prove his worth under Phil Jackson as a rookie.
Farmar wasn’t spectacular in his first season, but the flashes were there. He could clearly lead a unit and use his handles to get past his defender, and he was comfortable taking the 3-point shot, even if it didn’t fall at a particularly high clip (32.8%). The following season, Farmar built on his solid foundation by averaging 9.1 points per game on 46.1% shooting from the field, including 37.1 shooting from behind the arc, though 82 games. He also averaged 2.7 assists and 0.9 steals per game.
With Farmar’s emergence and Fisher’s return in 2007, the Lakers had a point guard rotation they were comfortable going to in the postseason. That’s not to mention Kobe Bryant, who ran the offense most of the time, if for no other reason than the fact that he was the offense most of the time.
Unfortunately, that depth wasn’t enough to get them to the finish line, as they lost to the Boston Celtics in six games in the 2008 NBA Finals. With the feeling of defeat fresh in their minds, that same guard rotation ran it back in 2009, and this time, they were able to take care of business.
Farmar’s most impactful stretch with the Lakers came during the 2009 Western Conference Semifinals against the Houston Rockets. With Fisher suspended for Game 3 because of a hard body check on Luis Scola in Game 2, Farmar got his first postseason start since his rookie season, and easily the most important start of his career.
Farmar made the most of his minutes, tallying 12 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and a block in nearly 33 minutes. Farmar had higher-scoring playoff games before that, but the expectations had never been higher for him, and he delivered, giving the Lakers a 2-1 series lead over a tough Rockets team.
It ended up taking seven games for the Lakers to best the Rockets, but had Farmar not stepped up in Game 2, it’s possible that the series wouldn’t have even gone to seven games.
Farmar ended his career with the Lakers with two rings, which is one more than Rondo has. The most ironic part of it all? Rondo is the backup point guard on a championship-hopeful Lakers team today. While Rondo has undoubtedly had the better career, it remains to be seen if he’ll deliver in the postseason when asked to step up for the purple and gold in the same way Farmar did. Farmar will always have those special moments, brief flashes of the full extent of his talents exactly when the team needed them, and so for Game 2 of the Western Conference semis in 2009, Game 5 of the NBA Finals in 2010 and his 41-game comeback season in 2013, Farmar will forever be a Laker worth appreciating.