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What the Lakers Were Doing as Golden State Assembled a Record-Breaking Team

May 28th, 2016 · No Comments · Basketball, Kobe, Lakers, NBA

This topic occurred to me tonight as I watched video of Draymond Green reciting, in selection order, the 34 players who were taken ahead of him in the 2012 NBA draft.

This is significant because the Golden State Warriors, who spent their second-round pick that summer on the Big Ten player of the year … were built through the draft.

They acquired their three best players through the draft, which pretty much is how it usually works, with championship teams.

Those three would be Stephen Curry, No. 7 in the 2009 draft; Klay Thompson, who saved the Warriors with 11 three-pointers tonight, the 11th pick in the 2011 draft; and Green, 35th in the 2012 draft.

Reflecting on that … it made me wonder what the hometown Los Angeles Lakers were up to while the Warriors were building a team that this season set an NBA regular-season record with 73 victories and is still in the running for a second consecutive NBA title.

Not much, as it turns out.

–In 2009, when Curry was the seventh pick, the Lakers had just won a championship and probably did not think they would get any help from the draft. They were right. They traded their first-round pick, 29th in the draft, to the New York Knicks, who took Toney Douglas. No loss there.

–In 2011, when Klay Thompson was the 11th pick, the Lakers probably should have been thinking about the future, after their push for a third successive title had sputtered out, but they did not. They had traded their No. 1 pick (and Sasha Vujacic) to the Boston Celtics for Joe Smith — and pretty much nobody has ever been happy with Joe Smith.

A pick the Lakers could have made, had they kept their selection, was Jimmy Butler, who went No. 30 to the Chicago Bulls. He has been more than useful.

–In 2012, when the Warriors picked Green with the 35th pick (and, also, Harrison Barnes, with the No. 7 pick overall and Festus Ezeli with the 30th, one hell of a draft for them), the Lakers’ pick, the 24th, had gone to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a trade (with Jason Kapono and Luke Walton) for Ramon Sessions. The Lakers thought Sessions would be an upgrade at point guard over Derek Fisher, whom they traded later in the day to Houston. Didn’t work out.

Sessions was gone in the offseason as the Lakers went all in on Steve Nash, etc., the trade that mortgaged their future and created the disaster we know now.

Looking back at this, we can be less annoyed with the Lakers than I might have been, as the Warriors were drafting their three best players and two key role players.

A team which had won an NBA title (2009) was going to draft late and likely would not get any help — though that draft was heavy with stars (James Harden and Blake Griffin and Demar DeRozan, etc.) in the early going.

The bit we can second-guess is their actions in 2012, when they were beginning to slide and went after a beat-up Nash, and gave up first-round draft picks in 2013 and 2015 and second-round picks in 2013 and 2014.

On the other hand, the Lakers were looking at Kobe Bryant, knowing he was nearing the end, and trying to wring one more title out of him and a supporting cast of Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Metta Word Peace and Nash. They made the playoffs but were swept by San Antonio in the first round.

The real second-guessing of the Lakers will come in a few years, when they actually have had some top picks. If these don’t turn out (see: D’Angelo Russell, 2015 draft), and if they continue to be among the league’s worst teams … then we can be really annoyed.

The Warriors, anyway, have shown how a bad team can become great through the draft. Do the Lakers have the wit to know the future stars from the future busts? It’s a difficult business.




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