The Los Angeles Lakers weren’t big winners in the NBA Draft Lottery, but they were winners.
Considering how their first season with LeBron James as the face of their franchise went, that is, well, a win.
Los Angeles jumped to No. 4 at the lottery proceedings in Chicago on Tuesday night and could use it as part of a deal to make a deal for a potential All-Star to pair with James.
“This is a powerful asset for us,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said on a conference call. “We owe a commitment to our fans to have an outstanding season next year. What this does is it gives us the ability to either select an impact player at [No.] 4 or possibly use this as an extremely valuable asset in trade.”
The Lakers leaped from No. 11 to No. 4 in the lottery and could have $32.5 million in salary-cap space heading toward the NBA’s free-agency period, which tips July 1.
In making the jump to No. 4, Los Angeles will have an opportunity to selected in the top four for the fourth time in the last five years. The Lakers have missed the playoffs for six consecutive seasons.
With James, the aforementioned salary-cap space, a young core of players of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart and now another asset with the No. 4 overall pick, perhaps all is not lost in Hollywood.
“I think it’s an extraordinary shift for us,” Pelinka said. “I mean, top-five picks in the draft, if you go back in the history and study them, those picks can alter and impact franchises. This is a big moment for us. Last year, of course, we had to go through some hard and difficult things that this is certainly a great silver lining. Our dedication is really toward our fans right now and doing all we can to deliver a really special Lakers season for our fans.”
The Lakers were stunned by the resignation of team president Magic Johnson, fired coach Luke Walton days after their season ended and were then spurned by both Monty Williams and Tyronn Lue in their quest for a new head coach, finally agreeing on a three-year contract with former Pacers and Magic coach Frank Vogel, who agreed to have former Nets and Bucks coach Jason Kidd on his staff as an assistant.
“The biggest motto is just laser focus, head down, do the work,” Pelinka said in his first comments since the season ended on what the past month has been like for him and the Lakers. “And I think that we’ve been trying as an organization to just be methodical and continue a path forward and doing the work … to make the Lakers a successful organization for our fan base, and that’s really the course and the path that we’ve been on. This is just a burst of goodwill for us as a franchise and it just gives us some excitement and a nice launching pad going into next year.”
Pelinka said he received some advice from his young son before the lottery Tuesday night.
“I had asked my son, who is 11… what should I bring to the draft lottery for good luck,” he said. “He said, Dad, just bring some optimism. He said the world needs more optimism.”