When the Los Angeles Lakers acquired superstar Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans this past off-season, they essentially mortgaged their future. This was in terms of their future draft picks, as 3 first-rounders made their way to New Orleans. Including the fourth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, which was used on De’Andre Hunter. Unprotected swaps in the 2023 and 2025 drafts were included also.
Due to the “Stepien Rule”, the Lakers were unable to trade their first-round draft picks in consecutive years. Consequently, the purple and gold hold their first-round pick for the upcoming 2020 Draft. But the question is, what will the franchise do? Will they keep it?
Keeping the Pick:
As it stands, the Lakers are set to receive the 29th pick in the draft. Yes, it’s a low first-round pick with not much expectation, but the Lakers have drafted very well in previous years. Especially in late first-round selections, going into the second round. Some of those selections include Kyle Kuzma, Larry Nance Jr, Ivica Zubac, Josh Hart, Moe Wagner, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, and most recently, Talen Horton-Tucker. This year’s second-round pick for the Lakers is with the Philadelphia 76ers. The purple and gold traded the pick to the Orlando Magic, for the pick that selected Horton-Tucker, and it has since been traded on.
Players included in mock drafts around the 29th selection include the likes of Aleksej Pokusevski (Olympiacos B), Tre Jones (Duke), Cassius Stanley (Duke), Zeke Nnaji (Arizona), Cassius Winston (Michigan State), and so on. An endless list of names could be stated that all the major outlets are including in their mocks. Opinions are varied on this one, which is a whole different topic.
Most importantly though, if selected correctly, the Lakers could grab a player that could play a role moving forward. The current roster is one of the oldest in the league, so a youthful contributor would be welcomed. For the 2019-20 season, the rookie scale contract for the 29th pick in the draft was set at $1,625,000 in the first season. The second, $1,706,700. The third, $1,788,100. Via Real GM.
Those are very cheap numbers, and while Kyle Kuzma provides such relief at the moment, his contract nearly doubles to just over $3.5 million next season. After that, he’ll be chasing a paycheck most likely.
The Lakers have a few players in their ranks at the moment that could potentially provide cheap production. Such as Horton-Tucker, Devontae Cacok, and Kostas Antetokounmpo. Horton-Tucker is a very raw prospect that probably needs more time to develop in the G League. The latter are both on two-way contracts and look to be tested as the season resumes in Orlando at the end of July. The jury is still out on them.
Trading the Pick:
Another alternative could be to package the pick in a trade, possibly alongside Horton-Tucker and a veteran asset. The trade will probably be for a third scorer and/or a ball-handler. Names thrown around include Chris Paul, Zach Lavine, Jrue Holiday, and Derrick Rose. However, the Lakers will tread lightly with this one, as they look to keep the books clear for Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021 free agency. Saying that, 35-year-old LeBron James’ window is relatively short and needs to be taken advantage of. Plus, even though it’s highly-touted that he will sign on, Anthony Davis isn’t guaranteed to be staying long-term.
With the names mentioned above, the Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans, and Detroit Pistons will have relatively high prices set. All will ask for significant assets in the trade, something that the Lakers don’t possess having shipped out the majority of their young core for Anthony Davis. Whether Rob Pelinka and Co. can finesse their way in negotiations for a big talent is possible. Albeit minimal. The Lakers may have to target lesser names if they want to go down the trade route.
If the franchise wants to find a hybrid between these two options, they could package the pick to jump up in the draft. Acquiring a higher pick, probably with the vision of it being late in the lottery.
There are a few options ahead for the Lakers as the 2020 NBA Draft approaches on October 16. But first, the quest for championship number 17 in the NBA’s DisneyWorld bubble.