The 2023 NBA Draft is less than one month away and the Los Angeles Lakers will be on the clock.
The Lakers’ season ended much later than anybody expected after a dismal start and a total restructuring of the roster at the trade deadline. One of the team’s biggest stories was Austin Reaves, going from undrafted in 2021 to a vital part of the Lakers’ Western Conference Finals run.
Reaves will now enter restricted free agency, but he speaks to the success that the Lakers have recently enjoyed when either drafting or picking up new acquisitions at this time of the year.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Lakers before June 22:
What picks do the Los Angeles Lakers have?
The Los Angeles Lakers have the No. 17 (a little after the end of the lottery) and No. 47 (mid-second round) picks in the 2023 NBA Draft.
Last year, the Lakers drafted Max Christie from Michigan State with the 35th pick. Christie appeared in 41 games this season and averaged three points in 12 minutes per game. His overall contribution was minimal, but that is to be expected for a developing rookie on a team with championship aspirations.
Interestingly, the Lakers traded for last year’s no. 35 pick, sending cash and a 2nd round pick in 2028 to the Orlando Magic. The team previously had no picks of their own and, theoretically, the Lakers would not have to resort to this next month.
Who could the Los Angeles Lakers draft?
The Lakers will have a bevy of appetizing options at no. 17. Outside of the top pick being Victor Wembanyama, this draft remains completely open. Few prospects have truly set themselves apart, so I expect that the Lakers will be looking at a wide range of names for their first round pick.
An interesting possibility that would bring versatility and production is Leonard Miller from the G League Ignite. The Canadian forward had a highly efficient first season as a pro, averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds while putting up monster finishing numbers at the rim. The 19-year-old worked out for the Lakers on May 26 and has been preparing for the draft a few hours away with P3 in Santa Barbara.
Miller’s jump shot needs development, but he has touch and isn’t a non-shooter. He will at the very least take open spot-up looks, similar to Jarred Vanderbilt. At previous levels, Miller has also shown real flashes of ballhandling and passing. That wasn’t his role for the G League Ignite this season, but I expect those to pop up again eventually in his NBA career. Miller remains green on defense, but he is toolsy and is bound to grow in the NBA on this end. He’ll have to.
The Lakers should also take a look at prospects who are self-sufficient and can create their own shot. This was a point of emphasis this season and playoffs with LeBron James moving into a bigger off-ball role, and it’s a question mark looking ahead with Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell’s futures still to be decided. Kobe Bufkin and Jett Howard (Michigan), Nick Smith Jr. (Arkansas), Maxwell Lewis (Pepperdine) or Brice Sensabaugh (Ohio State) could be logical fits.
At no. 47, Los Angeles will need to get more creative. This hasn’t been a problem in the past for Rob Pelinka or Joey and Jesse Buss, whose scouting work has earned rave reviews. A large part of the draft this late on is also circumstantial, depending on the type of fit or contract situation that prospects are looking for (see Reaves’ case going undrafted). A high-upside but long-term pick on the wing such as Emoni Bates (Eastern Michigan) or Chris Livingston (Kentucky) — if he stays in the draft — could be considered. International prospects also come into the equation.
Who have the Los Angeles Lakers drafted recently?
The Lakers mostly lacked draft capital in recent years, but the team has done an excellent job snatching up lesser-considered prospects and developing them into NBA mainstays. When the Lakers had high draft picks — the likes of Julius Randle, Russell, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball — they turned into high-end NBA starters, but that’s largely occurred outside of the initial development in Los Angeles.
Recent picks for the Lakers include: Larry Nance Jr. (no. 27 in 2015), Ivica Zubac (no. 32 in 2016), Kyle Kuzma (no. 27 in 2017 after a draft-day trade), Mo Wagner (no. 25 in 2018), Svi Mykhailiuk (no. 47 in 2018), and Talen Horton-Tucker (no. 49 in 2019 after a draft-day trade based around cash).
The Lakers also signed Alex Caruso to a two-way contract in 2017 after he went undrafted the previous year.
How does the rest of the roster affect the Los Angeles Lakers’ draft?
The draft is only a piece of the puzzle as it concerns the Los Angeles Lakers.
After settling LeBron James’ future, the moving pieces that need to be addressed start with Austin Reaves and Rui Hachmura. Both become restricted free agents this summer and are widely expected to return to the Lakers. General manager Rob Pelinka seemed to indicate as much when he said that he valued roster continuity.
Returning both of them would limit — although not totally prevent — the Lakers’ ability to pursue Kyrie Irving. Those three players, or at least roles, figure into the Lakers’ draft plans. For instance, not bringing Reaves back would suddenly necessitate a secondary ballhandler. Not bringing back Hachimura would bring frontcourt size and scoring punch to the forefront.
D’Angelo Russell, Dennis Schröder, Lonnie Walker IV, Wenyen Gabriel, and Troy Brown Jr. become unrestricted free agents this summer. All five, especially the former three, were important parts of the Lakers’ rotation to differing degrees. Depending on what happens with them, the Lakers might be in need of point-of-attack defense, rebounding and size, and floor spacing.