The NBA Draft is a young men’s game in more ways than one.
The Lakers were fully focused on the present and had a quiet Wednesday night as much of the league tried to get closer to the defending champion’s heels.
Technically, the Lakers used their first round, selecting Jaden McDaniels, a 20-year-old striker from Washington. But overall No. 28 had passed through two cities before McDaniels even donned his cap to compliment his bow tie tuxedo, surrounded by friends and family on his couch.
The Lakers ‘agreement over the weekend to send veteran officer Danny Green and McDaniels’ choice to Oklahoma City was firmly in place on Sunday. By the time the pick came on Wednesday night, the Thunder had planned additional transactions to send Green to Philadelphia and McDaniels to Minnesota.
The Lakers’ own prize was Dennis Schröder, the 27-year-old point guard the organization believes can help them pave a different path to the final. The front office was expected to comment on the deal Thursday morning, following a late call with the league to make the deal official.
After getting five lottery picks in the previous six draws, the Lakers no longer circle draw night as their main off-season date – the start of free agency Friday is their red letter day.
Starting with Anthony Davis ‘commitment to a maximum wage contract, all of the Lakers’ goals are on a shorter timeline, including bringing back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and learning whether Avery Bradley and JaVale McGee will opt for the second year of their contract. The Lakers have reportedly viewed veterans like Wesley Matthews in free service to bolster their depth at the wings. Getting rookies has been pushed to the back of the business.
It’s a feeling the Lakers – aside from a few smart moves over the next few years – will get used to: cutting back the excitement of the draft night for the more grueling work of finding veterans and supporting role-players. In addition to trading their last two first round picks, they’ve already traded in two of their next three first rounds in the deal that brought Davis from New Orleans.
Pelinka declined to buy a pick on Wednesday in the second round, even though the team’s scouting division has a strong history of finding solid talent beyond the top of recent drafts.
In the previous five checkers alone, the Lakers selected or acquired seven current NBA players who were chosen outside of the top 20: Larry Nance Jr., Ivica Zubac, Thomas Bryant, Moe Wagner, Isaac Bonga, Svi Mykhailiuk, and Talen Horton-Tucker. They then moved all those players, except Horton-Tucker, who earned a ring last month, as assets to build a championship roster. The Lakers had already traded their own second round, 58th overall, against Orlando in the summer of 2019 for the Horton-Tucker design rights.
Still, the design machinations were paired with teams trying to level up to challenge the Lakers, a reminder that there’s plenty of work to be done between now and the start of the training camp on December 1.
During the Western Conference, there was a literal changing of the guard for a handful of teams: The Clippers traded for Luke Kennard, who exchanges Landry Shamet. The Dallas Mavericks traded for Philadelphia 76ers wing Josh Richardson and sent Seth Curry back.
Minnesota, with ambitions to return to the playoffs, did most of the reform: in addition to taking McDaniels, the Timberwolves scored the No. 1 pick of the draft in Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, and teamed up with the Oklahoma City Thunder to Ricky Rubio, who they first put together in 2009. They also traded for Argentinian forward Leandro Bolmaro. It’s a series of movies that might not make them a real threat to a playoff spot, but still a peskier team on the edge with cornerstones Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell already in place.
At least one notable challenger in the East saw a major deal fall apart on draft day, when a planned sign-and-trade for the Milwaukee Bucks to get Sacramento Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic two days after it was first reported , crumbled. ESPN reported that he would be entering the limited free service.
In a tragic way, another Western rival feared a devastating injury: The Athletic first reported Klay Thompson injured his right lower leg during training in Southern California, sparking concerns that the Golden State Warriors All-Star guard might miss a second consecutive season after sitting with a torn ACL last year.