CHICAGO — A busy few days that entailed taking detailed notes and asking detailed questions finally ended. But as Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak wrapped up his work evaluating and interviewing draft prospects at the NBA pre-draft combine, this only marked the beginning of a process where he will seek more clarity on the Lakers’ rebuilding process.
The next event will happen with the NBA Draft lottery on Tuesday in New York City where the Lakers will learn their draft order surrounding their first round pick. After finishing with a 27-55 record, the sixth worst in the NBA, the Lakers’ draft pick will likely fall either in sixth (43.9 percent) or seventh (30.5 percent). The Lakers have a 21.5 percent chance of climbing to a top-three pick and have slim odds of dropping either to eight (4 percent) or nine (.1 percent).
“If the window is 1-9, it’s significant,” Kupchak said on Friday. “Obviously we want to get lucky. So there’s a lot of anticipation and we’re hopeful that Tuesday is a good day. If I had to be in the lottery, this would be a year to have a pick.”
So much that Kupchak said he may seek acquiring additional first-round draft picks.
“We may look to get a pick some other way because we have guys we interviewed who aren’t going to be gone before the second round, but they’ll be around after [our current pick],” Kupchak said. “You only get so many assets in this league. Draft picks are an asset. There’s cap room, draft picks and players. Those are assets you can use to rebuild a team.”
Yet, Kupchak still reiterated his stance from last month’s exit meetings that the Lakers are open toward trading their current first round pick should they find a suitable offer.
“It may be a factor,” he said. “We’ll see. The thing that’s challenging. You can only trade a pick if you have a trading partner too. So their willingness and what they would be willing to give up would be dependent on the pick. We will just have to wait and see.”
The Lakers have only participated twice in the NBA lottery, both in 1994 and 2005 that ended with acquiring Eddie Jones and Andrew Bynum both with the respective tenth overall picks. The Lakers last had a No. 1 pick in 1982 when they acquired James Worthy, who helped the Lakers to three NBA championships during the Showtime Era. The Lakers also have lacked a first round pick since 2007 after trading away some of those assets to maximize their short-term championship potential.
But Kupchak puts more value this year in draft picks, and the reasons go beyond the star-studded class headlined by Andrew Wiggins (Kansas), Joel Embiid (Kansas), Jabari Parker (Duke) and Dante Exum (Australia). Kupchak attributed the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement constructed in 2011 indirectly putting more value on draft picks because of the labor’s deals harsher penalties for high-spending teams.
“Years and years ago, you could outbid for free agents,” Kupchak said. “You rally can’t do that now. We have to get players that want to take less. It’s harder to use your cap space. Pertaining to the free agent market, it’s more difficult than it is now than in the old collective bargaining agreement. Therefore, draft picks are more important than ever.”
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