After what has been a chaotic start to the offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers were one of the big winners in Tuesday's NBA draft lottery, and they could parlay their new fourth overall draft pick into a potential trade for an All-Star.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said the team will either draft an impact player or try to see what it can get on the trade market after the team surprisingly leaped from 11th to fourth overall.
"This is a powerful asset for us," an ecstatic 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 are fixated on landing another max-free-agent star to help LeBron James, and they could have $32.5 million to use in free agency.
Prior to the trade deadline this past season, Pelinka and the Lakers had been focused on trying to strike a trade for New Orleans' Anthony Davis. Now Pelinka has the fourth overall pick as well as a young core of up-and-coming players in Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart.
This is the fourth time in five years that the Lakers will pick in the top four of the lottery after having the second overall pick in 2015 (D'Angelo Russell), 2016 (Ingram) and 2017 (Ball). ESPN NBA draft analyst Jonathan Givony has Vanderbilt 6-foot-3 guard Darius Garland, Virginia 6-8 defensive forward De'Andre Hunter, Texas Tech 6-6 guard Jarrett Culver and Duke 6-9 forward Cam Reddish at Nos. 4-7 in his draft prospect rankings.
"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."
This was certainly a win for the Lakers in what has been a tumultuous offseason for the franchise. Magic Johnson stunned the NBA world by stepping down before the Lakers' regular-season finale, which was followed by coach Luke Walton's exit and, in an attempt to replace him, a failed contract negotiation with Ty Lue. Earlier this week, the Lakers hired Frank Vogel as their new head coach and added Jason Kidd 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.
"I had asked my son, who is 11 ... 'What should I bring to the draft lottery for good luck?' He said, 'Dad, just bring some optimism.' He said the world needs more optimism."