The Players the Lakers Drafted During the Tanking Years

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Being a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers between 2013 and 2017 was a tough ride. After having years and years of consistent success, driven by the likes of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers found themselves in need of a huge rebuild. This was as it became apparent that an aging Bryant and a failed big 3, featuring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, wasn’t going to bring the Staples Center faithful the success they were used to.

Therefore, the purple and gold had to turn to the draft to try to deliver new talent. Talent that would come under immense scrutiny and talent that would need to deliver quickly.

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The 2013 NBA Draft

In July of 2012, the Lakers acquired Steve Nash and in turn traded away a 2013 1st-round draft pick. This pick, in hindsight, could have landed the Lakers the likes of Rudy Gobert, Tim Hardaway Jr, or Andre Roberson. However, the only pick in the 2013 draft that the Lakers owned was the 48th pick, where Mitch Kupchak selected Duke alumni, Ryan Kelly.

Kelly ended up playing 147 times for the Lakers over the course of 3 seasons, with 59 starts. In that time he averaged 6.5 points a game. Kelly’s most memorable moment was against the Portland Trailblazers, where he caught an inbound pass, faked the hand-off and span to the basket, dunking the ball home and getting the Lakers 1 of only 27 wins that season

Where Is Ryan Kelly Now? 

In 2017, Kelly signed for Real Betis Energia Plus in Spain. He featured for the Spanish outfit 34 times in the 2017-18 campaign, and averaged 13.4 points in 27.8 minutes

Kelly can now be found leading his new team, the Sunrockers Shibuya, of the B League in Japan. A team that was once home to Lakers stalwart and fan cult hero, Robert Sacre.

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The 2014 NBA Draft

After a dismal 2013-14 campaign, which saw the Lakers finish the season 27-55 and miss out on the playoffs for the first time since 2004, the draft was crucial in moving the franchise forward.

Tipped as being one of the deepest draft classes in some years, the 2014 draft had the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, and Jabari Parker all waiting to start their NBA careers. The Lakers went into the draft with pick number 7 and worked out a small group of players at their El Segundo training facility. This group included the likes of Zach Lavine, Tyler Ennis, and Noah Vonleh.

When draft night came around, Julius Randle was selected. Mitch Kupchak was quoted as saying: “Randle was higher than 7th on the draft board”. At the time hopes were high for the Power Forward out of Kentucky.

Later in the 2014 draft, Kupchak and his team traded $1.8 million in cash considerations to the Washington Wizards for the 46th pick in the draft. This trade meant that Jordan Clarkson, out of the University of Missouri, would be joining up with the Lakers for the upcoming campaign.

Where Is Julius Randle Now?

Julius Randle’s NBA career started off in the worst possible way when he broke his right tibia 14 minutes into game 1 of the 2014-15 season. That, unfortunately, was the last we saw of him in his rookie campaign. This was the beginning of what was an excruciating season for Laker fans as the team went 21-61.

However, throughout the subsequent 3 seasons as a Laker, Randle went on to be somewhat of a beacon of light in a dismal period. In what went on to be his final season, Randle averaged 16 points, 8 rebounds, and was many fans’ player of the season.

Unfortunately, the Lakers were forced to let Randle become an unrestricted free-agent at the end of his rookie deal, to make way for Lebron James. Randle went onto sign a 2-year, $18 million deal, with a player option, with the New Orleans Pelicans. The following season, with the Pelicans, he averaged a career-high 21.4 points, and rejected his player option at the end of the 2018-19 campaign, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Randle is now plying his trade with the New York Knicks. Randle and the Knicks currently find themselves 2nd bottom of the Eastern Conference, with a record of 7-24.

LeBron James and Jordan Clarkson
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Where Is Jordan Clarkson Now?

Jordan Clarkson’s time with the Lakers started slowly, with him making several trips down to the D-League, with affiliate team the Los Angeles D-Fenders. After making several good impressions during his first season as a Laker, Clarkson then went on to start 79 games in his Sophomore season, averaging 15.5 points.

Clarkson’s efficiency led the Lakers to sign him to a 4-year, $50 million contract in the summer of 2016. He made his mark coming off the bench in the 2016 campaign behind Nick Young and D’Angelo Russell, and was eventually traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in February 2018.

Clarkson went onto play some good minutes in Cleveland’s playoff run in 2018. He even went on to gain valuable minutes in the 2 NBA Finals road games, against the Golden State Warriors.

Most recently, on December 24 2019, Clarkson was traded to the Utah Jazz, in exchange for Dante Exum, and 2 second-round picks.

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The 2015 NBA Draft

In hindsight,  the 2015 draft turned out to include some very special players. The Lakers went into it with the 2nd overall pick, and selected D’Angelo Russell from the Ohio State University.

Before we delve into this further, lets spare a moment for the talent that the Lakers could have taken. The likes of; Kristapz Porzingis, Devin Booker, and Myles Turner. Wow.

Going into the draft, the consensus pick at the number 2 spot was that of Jahlil Okafor. Although, after several successful workouts, it was Russell’s passing and perimeter shooting that persuaded Mitch Kupchak to take the Ohio State alumni.

The Lakers also held draft picks at number 27 and at number 34, where they selected Power Forward Larry Nance Jr, and Small Forward Anthony Brown.

Going into what was to be Kobe Bryant‘s final NBA season, the Lakers were looking to improve on the previous season, where they had just 21 wins.

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Where Is D’Angelo Russell Now?

D’Angelo Russell went into the 2015-16 campaign with huge expectations on his shoulders. At this point, the only way for a Russell-led Lakers was up. It, unfortunately, got worse for the Lakers as they went 17-65. Thus, recording their worst season ever.

However, Russell himself had a great start to his NBA career, leading the Lakers and all rookies in steals, and becoming the youngest player ever to make 130 shots from behind the arc in a season. This earned him All-Rookie Second-Team honors.

Russell finished his Lakers career in 2017 when he was traded, alongside Timofey Mozgov, to the Brooklyn Nets. This was in exchange for Brook Lopez and the 27th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Russell’s time in Los Angeles was cut short because of team failures, more so than individual errors, and this has since been proven from his time at the Nets, where he excelled.

In July 2019, the Nets sent Russell, as part of a sign-and-trade package, to the Golden State Warriors for Kevin Durant. This season, Russell has gone onto set a career-high in points (52) as a Warrior.

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Where Is Larry Nance Jr Now?

After staying all 4 years at Wyoming, the son of former NBA player Larry Nance, snuck into the 1st round of the 2015 draft.

Fans hadn’t had much to get excited about for a few seasons and Nance Jr’s crazy hops and highlight-reel dunks provided at least something for the Lakers faithful to watch on House of Highlights. Combine that with some grit and determination, and Nance Jr definitely captured some hearts in California.

However, after only 46 starts over 3 seasons, the former Wyoming Power Forward was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team where his father had made his name. Larry Nance Jr was very happy to be traded back to his home state and has since signed a 4-year, $44.8 million contract to stay with the Cavs.

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Where Is Anthony Brown Now?

Anthony Brown was drafted at pick number 34 in the 2015 Draft. The Lakers could have picked up the likes of Richaun Holmes, or Josh Richardson with this pick. But opted for Brown.

There is no point in hiding the fact that Anthony Brown was a bust for the Lakers. In his 29 games that he played, he averaged 4 points, and was eventually waived in October 2016.

Brown has since had very small stints with the New Orleans Pelicans, the Orlando Magic, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and has had a training contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. All of which have ended in Brown being released.

Brown also spent a single month in Serbia with KK Partizan, before canceling his own contract. He now plays his trade in France with Limoges CS. In the current season, Brown is averaging 13.3 points per game.

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The 2016 NBA Draft

Off the back of the Lakers’ worst season ever, they once again landed the number 2 spot in the draft. With Ben Simmons, the consensus number 1 pick, the obvious choice for the Lakers was that of Brandon Ingram out of Duke University. After one of the best seasons ever for a freshman at Duke, Ingram was drafted by the purple and gold, and with that, came a whole new weight on his, at the time, small shoulders.

The 2016 Draft also saw the Lakers pick Ivica Zubac with the 32nd pick. Zubac may have come as a surprise to many fans, as a relatively unknown player out of Europe. Especially when the Lakers passed up on the likes of Malcolm Brogdan and Patrick McCaw, to draft Zubac.

After 2 horrific back-to-back seasons, and a hoard of young talent at their disposal, the 2016-17 season was billed as needing to be a turning point for the young Lakers team.

However, with multiple chances in the draft and free agency to improve this team, in February 2017, it was decided that Mitch Kupchak would be relieved of his duties, with Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka taking the front office reigns. Therefore, the 2016 Fraft was the final one for Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss, who was also relieved.

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Where Is Brandon Ingram Now?

Brandon Ingram was only 18-years-old when drafted in 2016, making him the 2nd youngest player in that year’s draft. It was often quoted in the media that he was physically not ready for the toughness of the NBA. During his rookie season he averaged a mere 9.4 points.

Ingram did, however, show glimpses of the player he would eventually go onto grow, and was named in the All-Rookie Second Team. This was a season where the Lakers went 26-56, a slight improvement on the year before.

Ingram then went onto improve massively in seasons 2 and 3 with the Lakers, averaging 16.1 and then 18.3 points, respectively. This form, along with his youth and potential, led the New Orleans Pelicans to make him the key piece in any trade talks that the Lakers would go on to have regarding the generational talent that is Anthony Davis. 

Ingram was eventually traded to the Pelicans in the summer of 2019, alongside a haul of other players, picks, and draft rights for Davis. Since being at the Pelicans, Ingram is averaging a career-high 25.3 points, and at only 22, is being touted as a potential Most Improved Player candidate early in the season.

There are even rumors that the New York Knicks are targeting Ingram as being their next big target in 2020 free agency.

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Where Is Ivica Zubac Now?

After being drafted 32nd, Ivica Zubac went onto start only 23 times in 2-and-a-half seasons with the Lakers. Moving between the G/D League and the Lakers for the best part of his first two seasons, Zubac averaged 7.5 points and 3.7 points, respectively.

However, in the 2018-19 season, Zubac got a lot more playing time, averaging 8.5 points and 4.9 rebounds in 33 games. Rob Pelinka then decided to trade Zubac, alongside Michael Beasley, across town to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Mike Muscala.

Zubac has gone on to flourish as a Clipper and has been held in high esteem by the Clippers’ media. Averaging 8.9 points and 7.2 rebounds in his 51 games with the franchise, he has become a key part of their depth and will be a key role player come playoff time.

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The 2017 NBA Draft

The draft that will be forever known, for Lakers fans, as the draft of Lavar Ball. No, Lavar wasn’t in the draft but it sure did feel like he was. Prior to the draft, Lavar was ‘speaking into existence’ the idea that his son, Lonzo Ball, would become a Los Angeles Laker.

Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson duly obliged and drafted Ball with the 2nd pick, passing up on Jayson Tatum.

The Lakers also went on to trade for 3 further picks in the draft, picking up Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Thomas Bryant in the process. This was the first time that Pelinka had a chance to put his stamp on the roster through the draft and by doing so, he created a very young, talented team going into the 2017-18 season.

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Where Is Lonzo Ball Now?

Injuries. Jump shots. Parents. If Lonzo Ball was to write a memoir of his time at the Lakers this would be the title. His numbers during his rookie campaign were above average, with Ball averaging 10.2 points, 7.2 assists, and 6.9 rebounds. If Ball had been doing this under less scrutiny, in a smaller market, these numbers would have set him up nicely for his second season.

However, there had arguably not been a rookie coming into the league under as much pressure as Lonzo Ball, since the King himself, LeBron James. Therefore, his poor shooting and monotonous public outbursts from his father Lavar, meant that this was an overall disappointing start.

Lonzo Ball then put up lower numbers in his second season, leading to him being packaged into the blockbuster Anthony Davis trade. Having only played 99 of a possible 164 games over his first two seasons, Lonzo Ball has a lot to learn from the game through NBA game-time experience.

In his first 16 games for the Pelicans, Ball is averaging 10.1 points, in fewer minutes than he has ever played. However, recent reports suggest that he is now going to be dropped to the bench in New Orleans.

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Where Is Kyle Kuzma Now?

Kyle Kuzma is the only player to be drafted by the Lakers between the 2013 and 2017 seasons, to still be on the team today. This is some accomplishment, especially as pre the 2017 draft it was touted that Kuzma would be a second-round pick, if not go completely undrafted. However, the Lakers had other ideas, drafting Kuzma as high as number 27.

Kuzma flew out of the gate in the first 20 games of his rookie season, earning him the NBA Rookie of the Month award for October/November. Throughout his rookie season, Kuzma averaged 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds, earning himself yet another accolade by making the All-Rookie First-Team. The boy from Flint, Michigan was making his name in the bright lights of Los Angeles, in a much improved 35-47 season.

In Kuzma’s second season, this time alongside Lebron James, his numbers again increased to 18.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Kuzma was stepping up to the mark and carrying the pressure of 33.1 minutes per game in Los Angeles on his shoulders.

Now in his 3rd season, a season where there is no room for error as the Lakers push for Championship honours, Kuzma has only started 1 game. This is predominantly due to injury and the obvious arrival of Anthony Davis, alongside other veterans. However, the Lakers front office and fanbase expect Kuzma to be a huge part of this title chase, and to even fill into that 3rd-star role. It remains to be seen if, when fit, this will be the case.

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Where Is Josh Hart Now?

Josh Hart came across to the Lakers in a trade on draft night. Hart had spent 4-years at Villanova, meaning that the rookie came into the NBA with a lot of game experience behind him, be that at a collegiate level.

Hart averaged 23.2 minutes for the Lakers in his rookie season, contributing 7.9 points and 4.2 rebounds. However, it was the 2018 Summer League where people really stood up and became aware of the potential Josh Hart had. Crowned Summer League MVP, Hart averaged 24.2 points and 5.2 rebounds, cementing himself into the minds of the Lakers front office.

Hart went on to play 67 games for the Lakers the following season before he was also packaged into the Anthony Davis trade deal. Now with the New Orleans Pelicans, Hart is averaging a career-high 11.5 points and 6 rebounds and is rounding himself into a very nice role player for his team.

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Where Is Thomas Bryant Now?

The final draft pick of the ‘tanking years’ for the Lakers was that of Thomas Bryant. The Lakers traded for the rights of Bryant from the Utah Jazz on draft night.

The Rochester-born center only managed 15 games for the Lakers before being waived. 15 games in which he only averaged 4.8 minutes. In hindsight, there weren’t too many better options on draft night with the 42nd pick. However since, Bryant was picked up by the Washington Wizards and has gone from strength-to-strength.

In the current 2018-19 season, Bryant is obliterating his career highs on what is a relatively poor team. He is posted averages of 13.9 points and 8.5 rebounds, shouldered with an average of 28.4 minutes. At only 22 years of age, Bryant can surely be a very good center in the league. It just was never going to work out for him in Los Angeles.

After all, there is only ever going to be one Bryant in Laker fans’ hearts.

The Conclusion of the Tanking Years

So that wraps up all of the Los Angeles Lakers draft picks through the traumatic tanking years of 2013-2017. Interestingly, as we have seen, the current Lakers roster only contains 1 sole survivor, that of Kyle Kuzma.

The New Orleans Pelicans hold 3 of the Lakers’ drafted players on their roster and they currently hold a 8-23 record. The Knicks and draft pick Julius Randle sit near the bottom of the East with a record of 7-24, and Thomas Bryant’s Wizards sit at 9-20.

Larry Nance Jr’s Cavaliers hold a 6-21 record and highly touted D’Angelo Russell currently holds up the bottom of the West displaying a record of 7-24.

With that being said, the only players, on another roster, with a winning NBA record to be drafted by the Lakers is that of Ivica Zubac who has a 19-7 record with the Los Angeles Clippers, and Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson’s new Utah Jazz team sits 18-12/.

All in all, it looks clear that the Lakers draft picks became key assets in gaining the superstar the Lakers craved, and, that the front office traded them all at the right time when their stock was high.