Los Angeles Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak during a press conference held at the Toyota Sports Center, El Segundo Calif., Friday, April 18, 2014. (Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily Breeze)
For his next trick, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak will somehow try to accelerate the team’s rebuilding process with one hand tied behind his back and the other hand holding very few poker chips.
The Lakers received a sobering dose of news by receiving the seventh overall pick in next month’s NBA Draft, adding more misfortunes amid a season full of them.
“It wasn’t bad luck,” Kupchak said Wednesday on a conference call. “We could’ve dropped down to number nine. We were hoping to get lucky, or worse case, stay where we were. It could’ve been worse.”
The Lakers’ seventh pick likely deprives them of landing a top prospect, such as Kansas’ Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins as well as Duke’s Jabari Parker and Australia’s Dante Exum. But Kupchak disagreed with the recent suggested from Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who said about his sixth pick, “I don’t think anyone’s going to come in and change the face of our franchise right out of the gate.”
“We think drafting at number seven, there will be a good player available there,” Kupchak said. “Maybe Danny is talking about a guy who changes the face of the organization from the get go. But you can’t evaluate these things until later when you look back on it.”
Still, the Lakers will also likely face challenges dangling such a pick in a trade, such as one for Minnesota’s Kevin Love.
“The higher the pick the more value it has,” Kupchak said. “But a sixth pick or a seventh pick certainly has value.”
Kupchak invoked last year’s rookie of the year candidate in Portland guard Damian Lillard, who was selected sixth overall. Recent seventh-pick selections include Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Detroit’s Greg Monroe. Kupchak plans to start bringing in players for individual workouts. The Lakers interviewed with Kentucky forward Julius Randle and Oklahoma City guard Marcus Smart last week at the NBA pre-draft combine.
“It depends,” said Kupchak, before mentioning the possible discrepancy between the likely younger top prospects at the top of the draft versus the more experienced ones selected afterwards. “You do have to work with a younger player and those are the guys that get drafted the highest. Whether as a freshman or sophomore, it may take a year or two.”