Lakers could make major deal to move up in NBA draft, but would it be worth it?


A year ago, the NBA needed a private ballroom inside a fancy midtown hotel the day before the NBA draft to introduce the presumed top pick, French phenom Victor Wembanyama.

Tuesday in more modest settings, projected first-round picks in Wednesday’s event politely worked their way through smaller crowds, a not-so-subtle reminder that this isn’t your typical draft.

The No. 1 pick, which belongs to Atlanta, is still a bit of a mystery. No one really knows exactly how the top half of the lottery is going to shake out. A mixture of young prospects with players who established themselves with productivity over long college careers has teams such as the Lakers optimistic they could land a meaningful piece.

The Lakers are scheduled to select 17th in the first round Wednesday and 25th in the second round (55th overall) Thursday, the NBA splitting their draft over two days for the first time.

The Lakers are among the teams with second-round interest in Bronny James.

Although the general consensus about the top part of the draft isn’t great — regarded as lacking top-line stars teams typically hope to snag in the top five — there’s still value if a scouting department can get it right.

Some rival executives believe the Lakers could be aggressive in moving up in the first round. Two players they like, Providence’s Devin Carter and Baylor’s Ja’Kobe Walter, are expected to be picked ahead of No. 17.

If the Lakers stay at 17, Colorado forward Tristan da Silva and Baylor center Yves Missi are among the options.

Da Silva, 23, worked out for the Lakers and met with general manager Rob Pelinka. The 6-foot-9 forward is regarded as one of the more polished prospects because of his shooting, size and instincts.

“You know, I’m big on detail. I’m big on basketball I.Q.,” da Silva said Tuesday. “Playing with somebody like LeBron [James] would be crazy. One of the best ever do it, if not the best. His basketball I.Q.’s off the charts and learning from somebody like that would be amazing.”

Da Silva shot 39.5% on three-pointers the last two seasons at Colorado while averaging 15.9 points.

“I feel like really confident with the type of talent that I’ve played against so far,” da Silva said. “… I feel really comfortable with, you know, jumping into any situation really.

“And I can play. Obviously, my versatility allows me to play multiple different positions and play actions from different angles. So, um, I feel like I could fit.”

Generally, teams picking in the middle of the first round don’t have high expectations for rookies to make major impacts. A year ago, though, after the Lakers picked Indiana guard Jalen Hood-Schifino, Miami added Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Golden State drafted Brandin Podziemski. Both were among the best in last season’s rookie class.

Hood-Schifino, who underwent back surgery late in the season, scored only 34 points in 109 minutes for the Lakers — both third fewest for anyone picked in last year’s first round.

When the Lakers announced JJ Redick as the team’s new head coach Monday, he and Pelinka stressed how important player development would be for the organization.

Still, Wednesday represents an opportunity for the Lakers to make a splash. According to league rules, the organization is eligible to trade up to three first-round picks, from this year, 2029 and 2031.

Asked about the likelihood of using those picks in a blockbuster deal, Pelinka said Monday new salary-cap rules are designed to discourage these kinds of super teams.

“It is a different system,” Pelinka said. “So we’ve got to be mindful and thoughtful around that. And I do think … part of the road to a really, really good team, and you can look around the landscape of the league right now with many young teams doing really, really well, is going to be lean hard into that player development piece.

“And of course, part of that is, is drafting the right way. We’ve had a great track record here of drafting good players and developing them. And we’re going to continue on that path as well. So that’s not a yes or a no. If the perfect trade comes along, we can use picks to make it and win a championship.”

The team also could pursue smaller deals for players on less-than-max deals to avoid some of the second apron repercussions that team builders are trying to avoid.

This draft, though, doesn’t seem like the kind that “perfect” is going to come along, probably making it the first test of the Lakers’ developmental mindset.



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