Lakers hope for diamond in the rough
Without a pick until the second round of the NBA Draft, L.A. plays a game of chance
LOS ANGELES -- The top 14 picks in the NBA draft are referred to as the lottery, but coming up with a contributor in the second round is really where the game of chance is played.
The Los Angeles Lakers have four second-round selections (No. 41 from Golden State, No. 46 from New York, No. 56 and No. 58 from Miami) in the upcoming draft and hope to strike it rich with one of the names that deputy commissioner Adam Silver will announce up on stage in Newark, N.J., on June 23 when commissioner David Stern's night is finished after the first round is over.
"That's the kind of thing you look for when you got these second-round picks," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a phone interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com on Tuesday. "Maybe you get lucky."
The Lakers have had some relatively good luck in the second round, as six of the 13 players they selected in the second-round since 2003 were still playing in the NBA last season. The success stories include Luke Walton (No. 32 in 2003), Ronny Turiaf (No. 37 in 2004), Von Wafer (No. 39 in 2004) and Marc Gasol (No. 48 in 2007).
Gasol, who become a crucial trade chip for the Lakers in landing his older brother Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies, has developed into a true impact player as he averaged 15 points and 11.2 rebounds during Memphis' playoff run this past spring in his third season.
"We were excited he was still on the board," Kupchak recalled. "We were looking to draft a player that we could keep in Europe for a year or two and hoped that player would develop. We know the family he came from and we're very familiar with his size and his skill level. He was a little heavy, a little overweight, and was still growing into his body as a youngster and turned into be a heck of a pick. Our scouts did a great job. We'll look to do the same [this year]. I don't know if we can duplicate it."
While Los Angeles might not be able to draft a player of Gasol's caliber, Kupchak is confident they will be able to use one of their four second-rounders to find a player that will make the team's 15-man roster next season.
"We always feel that we can get a pick that can help our team in any draft, that's how we approach the draft," Kupchak said. "I would like to be able to maybe get one player that makes our roster."
This year's talent pool is widely considered to be pretty shallow, with many marquee underclassmen opting to stay in school with the prospect of a work stoppage wiping out all or part of next year's NBA season. But, that could actually end up helping the Lakers as a player available in the early 40s could be of similar ability to a player available in the late 20s, where L.A. would have drafted had it not sent its first-round pick to New Jersey in the Joe Smith-Sasha Vujacic deal last season.
"There will be some players that will be there at 41 that maybe we'd feel like would be gone by 30, and hopefully we'll be able to get one of those players and hopefully the player is as good as we think they should be," Kupchak said.
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The Lakers GM said the team has already worked out close to 20 draft hopefuls at their training facility in El Segundo, Calif., and plans to have brought in close to 40 players by the time draft night comes.
New Lakers head coach Mike Brown will be present in the Lakers' "war room" a week from Thursday, but he is not actively offering input on who he thinks the team should take.
"He and I spoke about it and he said, 'Mitch, I don't know these players. If you want me to look at a tape or something, I will. But I don't know them. I'll be in the building if you want to run something past me,'" Kupchak said. "Other than him being in the building, I don't expect him to have much to do with the draft."
Brown will be relied upon in the rest of the Lakers' offseason moves as they consider trades and free agent acquisitions, however.
"He's been in the Eastern Conference, so that will help a little bit, the fact that he's seen some of these guys more than we have," Kupchak said. "So that's another resource and his input would be valued."
Kupchak said the team looking to find a backup center to replace Theo Ratliff, who is expected to retire. The Lakers will also try to shore up their backcourt as insurance against Shannon Brown deciding not to pick up his player option worth approximately $2.2 million to stay with the team next season.
"Shannon has an option to extend," Kupchak said. "We don't know what he's going to do. That's an area that we should look to operate a little bit, the backcourt."
In the meantime, just days after the Dallas Mavericks were crowned NBA champions -- the team that swept Los Angeles out of the second round of the playoffs -- the Lakers are starting the long, arduous journey of trying to get back to their 2009-10, back-to-back championship level.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.