The Lakers may finally be leaning into some of their strengths as a franchise.
As of now, the Lakers do not have any picks in the upcoming NBA draft next month after having dealt their first round pick in the Anthony Davis trade and their second round pick in the trade to offload Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones in 2019. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t draft anyone come the draft on June 23.
The Lakers, like any other team, could buy their way into the draft and appear willing and interested in doing so. In a recent article from John Holinger of The Athletic, the Lakers are interested in using their remaining cash available to buy a draft pick.
We were critical of the Lakers’ decision to not pay a team cash to take DeAndre Jordan at the trade deadline, but it may pay off at the draft. L.A. has been open about using its remaining cash stash (the Lakers can put $4.7 million into a trade between now and July 1) to buy its way into the second round, where the Lakers currently do not have a pick. The Lakers’ scouting department has built up an impressive track record of finding sleepers late in the draft, so it will be interesting to see who they might target. (One other note for the cap nerds: The Lakers still could have done a Jordan trade and then bought their second-rounder in a pre-arranged trade when the new cap year’s cash rolls over on July 1; that has been done before, but also would have impacted their flexibility for 2022-23.)
The Lakers have had success in buying draft picks, the most recent instance being when they paid $2.2 million to the Magic for pick No. 46 in the 2019 NBA draft to select Talen Horton-Tucker. Prior to that, the Lakers paid $1.8 million for the No. 46 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft to select Jordan Clarkson.
For those wondering, Detroit has the No. 46 pick this year since that seems to be the team’s sweet spot.
The Lakers have until the end of the league year, which is the end of June, to include any of the $4.7 million Hollinger mentioned in a trade before that figure resets for next season. The money does not carry over from one year to the next, so there is no benefit in saving that money.
The only thing that would stop the Lakers from making a trade is either not wanting to spend the money or not being able to find a trade partner to buy a pick from. With there being 29 other teams in the league and plenty of opportunities to purchase a pick, it would be the former option that would hold them back most.
Hopefully, their reported interest is a sign of them leaning into one of the franchise’s biggest strengths in their scouting department. The previous two purchased picks provide a fine example of how great the scouting department has been for a decade running. Other recent second-round draft picks include Svi Mykhailiuk, Isaac Bonga and Ivica Zubac with only the middle of those three no longer in the NBA.
Considering the Lakers’ lack of assets and draft picks available right now, they should be flexing their financial might and buying a draft pick. It allows them a young player that could potentially contribute right away — similar to Austin Reaves this season — and it comes at no outgoing cost other than money, which the team rakes in hand over fist each year.
It’s an encouraging sign for the franchise, particularly given their success in buying draft picks. Now, just be sure to aim for the 46th pick to keep the luck rolling.