The Los Angeles Lakers are the class of the NBA. A couple of things that were reiterated by doing this article is that the Lakers, until recent, have rarely been seen picking in the top part of the first round, and when they did, they rarely missed Another thing that we learned is that the Lakers managed to attract a lot of their top talents via free agency or trades. Shaquille O'Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Pau Gasol were not drafted by the franchise but instead added later. Still the Lakers did have many hits on their draft picks, which is why the team was able to sustain winning and offer such a attractive destination to upcoming free agents. Below we will showcase the top 8 players drafted in the first round by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Still though, the Lakers did fail to sometimes add an extra piece around their stars with their draft picks. Sure they drafted future Hall of Famers and all should be well, but what if that one little miss in the draft prevented the Lakers from adding a piece to help the Kobe Bryants or Magic Johnsons of the franchise. What if they missed an All-Star caliber player by selecting the wrong talent in the first round. To go along with our 8 top 1st round draft picks, we will sprinkle in 7 1st round picks in which the great Lakers franchise did miss.
Kobe Bryant is not included in this list due to the Hornets technically making him their selection before the draft night trade was complete. Also, we should mention that the Lakers are currently showcasing some young potential stars which have been taken in the past few years. Julius Randle, D'Angelo Russell, and Brandon Ingram all have a chance to one day crack this list.
15 Best - Vlade Divac
The Lakers took Divac with the 26th overall pick in the 1989 NBA Draft. Divac was one of the first European players to really make an impact on the league. Nowadays most NBA teams consist of two more more internationally born players. Vlade played his first 7 seasons in L.A. and added another 1 year stop to end his career. In all he averaged 12.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game for the Lakers. Divac played a role on a Lakers team that would go to the NBA Finals in 1990-1991.
Lakers' fans may best appreciate Divac for turning into Kobe Bryant on draft night in 1996, when the Lakers and Hornets swapped the players, forever changing the landscape of the franchise for the next 20 years. Divac went on to have a lengthy NBA career, with stops in Charlotte then Sacramento. The Kings honored Divac by retiring his number 21 jersey.
14 Worst - Brian Cook
Cook was drafted after his senior year at Illinois by the Lakers with the 24th overall pick. Cook would play sparingly his rookie year, with Shaquille O'Neal commanding the center position. But when Shaq left Los Angeles for Miami, the team turned to Cook to take over the center position. It just never came to fruition, and Cook will find himself mentioned in conversations about the quality of player Kobe was forced to play with upon Shaq's departure and prior to Pau Gasol's arrival. Cook's career highs with the franchise included 19 MPG, 7.9 PPG, and just 3.4 RPG. Cook last played in the league in 2012 after stops on five NBA teams.
In 2007, in true Laker fashion, somehow the team was able to flip Brian Cook for Trevor Ariza. Ariza would go on to be an integral part of their 2009 NBA Championship team.
13 Best - Andrew Bynum
For a player who is still just 29, but has been out of the league since 2014, it would suggest he would turn up on the other side of this list. False; it's hard to argue the starting center on two NBA championship teams, could be listed as a bad pick by the franchise who measures success by titles and nothing less. It is true however, that if his knees stayed healthy, Bynum may have ended up higher on the list.
After a rookie year where he played sparingly and averaged just 7.3 minutes, 1.6 points, and 1.7 rebounds, Bynum found his way into a permanent starting role by 2007-08. That season he averaged a double-double for the first time posting 13.1 PPG and 10.2 RPG. His last season in LA, Bynum added an All-Star apperance while averaging 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds. Unfortunately Bynum would flounder out of the league after being traded by the Lakers, but made his stamp on the prodigous franchise in his limited time.
12 Worst - Mark Madsen
Madsen has a special spot in Lakers' fans hearts for his championship parade dance routines. Madsen was drafted with the 29th pick in the 2000 NBA Draft. He would go on to be a part of two championship teams, but he was just there more to fill out a roster than anything else. In three seasons in Los Angeles, Madsen never averaged more than 14.5 minutes, 3.2 points, or 2.9 rebounds. A 29th pick is not ever going to turn out to be a sure thing, but maybe the Lakers could've acquired more than a glorified practice squad player. Drafted in that same draft, 14 picks later, was future NBA All-Star and Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Redd. Would have been nice to see a knock down 3-point shooter paired with one of the greatest duos in NBA history.
Madsen went on to play nine seasons in total during his NBA career, retiring after the 2008-09 season to pursue a coaching career.
11 Best - Clyde Lovellette
Lovellette was the 9th pick in the 1952 draft. Best known for his accomplishment for being the first player ever to win a NCAA Championship (with Kansas), Olympic Gold Medal for his spot on the USA Men's Basketball Team, and and NBA Championship. Lovellette went on to give the then Minneapolis Lakers four years, which included 2 All-Star games, an NBA Championship in 1954 and an All-NBA team appearance in 1957. At 6 foot 9, Lovellette was one of the first big men to step away from the basket and utilize a set shot.
The Lakers would trade Lovellette after the 1957 season. In all his career averages are 17 PPG, 9.5 RPG, and 1.7 APG. Maybe to the dismay of Lakers fans everywhere, Lovellette also went on to win two more NBA Championships as a member of the Boston Celtics. He was inducted into the Basetball Hall of Fame in 1988.
10 Worst - Mike McGee
The Lakers made the Michigan standout the 18th overall pick in the 1981 NBA Draft. McGee was a star at Michigan, still holding the school record for field goals made. Although he enjoyed a nine year career in the NBA, the greatness in college didn't quite equate to the NBA. McGee saw playing time sparingly in his first two season, averaging below 10 minutes per game. Eventually upping 18.5 MPG but that would be his career high with the Lakers. His best year with the team came with 10.2 PPG, but under an assist per contest. He filled a role deep on the bench for two NBA Championships, but after the 1985-1986 season McGee would be traded to the Atlanta Hawks. Some decent names were drafted after McGee in the '81 draft including Larry Nance and Danny Ainge.
9 Best - Derek Fisher
Fisher was drafted with the 24 pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. This was also the same here the Lakers traded Vlade Divac for the rights to the Hornets 13th overall pick which turned out to be Kobe Bryant. Fisher has been by Bryant side for all five of their NBA Championships. The two won in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010. Fisher was there for the three-peat which included Shaquille O'Neal as well as the Kobe led teams that also included Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom. Fisher's stats don't speak to the kind of floor general he really was, but with the Lakers Fisher averaged 7.9 PPG while taking 2.5 three-point shot attempts per night. Fisher played with the Lakers from 1996-2004, then after brief stints in Golden State and Utah, returned to the Lakers until 2012. He would finish up his career with the Thunder, and recently has begun his pursuit of NBA coaching.
8 Worst - Brad Holland
After four years at UCLA, Holland was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 14th overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft. Although Holland ends up on the wrong side of this list, the Lakers did make a pretty good choice with the number one overall pick in this same draft. Holland was selected before players such as Bill Laimbeer and Mark Eaton.
Holland played in 79 games with the Lakers in two seasons, including zero starts and 3.0 PPG. In 1981, he was sent to the Washington Bullets, and ultimately knee injuries forced him out of basketball by 1982.
Holland did play part in the 1980 Los Angeles Lakers championship team, in which he played 32 minutes appearing in 9 games and scoring 14 points throughout the playoffs.
7 Best - James Worthy
There was a lot that took place in making Worthy a Laker. The Lakers acquired the pick during a 1979 trade with the Cavaliers. The Cavaliers would finish with the worst record, and a coin flip took place between the Lakers and Clippers to decide who picked first. The NBA Champion Lakers did, and chose Worthy out of UNC to add to an already championship roster consisting of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and Michael Cooper, among others. After that its all history. Worthy's career includes:
Three NBA Championships, an NBA Finals MVP in 1988, seven straight All-Star appearances, two time All-NBA, a spot on the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, and his number 42 jersey being retired by the Lakers franchise. Worthy played in 926 regular season games averaging 17.6 PPG, and 143 playoff games averaging 21.1 PPG all with the Los Angeles Lakers.
6 Worst - Toney Douglas
The Lakers selected Douglas with the 29th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. He was promptly traded to the New York Knicks for a future second round pick. He lands on this list simply because it's like the Lakers never used the draft pick at all. The Lakers went on to use the draft pick to selected Andrew Goudelock with the 46th overall pick. In one season with the Lakers Goudelock appeared in 40 games averaging 10.5 mpg and 4.4 points. The Lakers were in the midst of adding two more championships during this time, so there wasn't so much lost. But I do think Kobe would have liked to see a serviceable veteran come through. Douglas was taken ahead of scorers Marcus Thornton and Jodie Meeks, as well as defensive specialist Patrick Beverly. It's almost as though this draft pick never happened.
5 Best - Elgin Baylor
Baylor was taken with the number 1 pick in the 1958 draft. Somehow he never managed an NBA Championship keeping him from moving even further up our list. The Lakers won in the fifties before he arrived and added a title the year after his retirement. His NBA resume still is a thing of beauty though including:
11 NBA All-Star Games, 10 All-NBA First Teams, NBA Rookie of the Year, All-Star Game MVP, and a spot on the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. His number 22 jersey currently resides in the rafters in L.A. In all Baylor averaged 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds for his career.
A Laker is usually measured by NBA Championships, but Baylor was able to make his legacy despite. Baylor made eight NBA Championships without adding the ultimate hardware.
4 Worst - Sam Jacobson
The Lakers made the 6-4 Jacobson, the 26th overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft. And if you haven't heard of him, there's a reason why. He appeared in a grand total of 30 minutes as a Laker, pouring home a grand total of 18 points. Shortly into the 1999 season, the Lakers waived Jacobson. Somewhat surprisingly Jacobson did manage to play for the Warriors and Timberwolves briefly, before ending his playing career in Italy and France. Again, the 26th pick his hit or miss, but for a team that was about to hit their stride and hit a three peat, what if they were able to add a more formidable piece to help the dominance. A few players drafted after Jacobson include: NBA All-Star Rashard Lewis, as well as long time NBA veterans, Nazr Mohammed, Rafer Alston and Cuttino Mobley. The dynasty Lakers may have liked having a Rashard Lewis stretching the floor for the most dominant center of his time.
3 Best - Jerry West
Jerry West was the 2nd overall pick in the 1960 NBA Draft. In that year he would make his first All-Star appearance, and first of 14 consecutive which would happen to stretch the length of his career. West, like Baylor, had the NBA Championship elude him for most of his career, running into Bill Russell's Celtics. But West was able to add the championship to his accomplishments in 1972. West's career includes 12 All-NBA teams and a Scoring Championship. West's most unique accomplishment was in 1969, when after losing the NBA Finals, he was still awarded the NBA Finals MVP for his efforts. West has his jersey retired by the team, is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, and helped the franchise add six more championships with his role as the team's executive. In the role he is known for bringing Kobe Bryant in a draft day trade, and acquiring Shaquille O'Neal through free agency. This draft pick went further than just his playing years.
2 Worst - Javaris Crittenton
Crittenton may be remembered more for his role in a locker room altercation with Gilbert Arenas that resulted in guns being drawn on each other, or maybe the fact that he is spending 23 years in jail for manslaughter. But there was a time where the Lakers viewed Crittenton as a young talent that could help fill the void next to Kobe Bryant. Crittenton was drafted with the 19th pick in the 2007 draft. Remember this was before the trade that brought Pau Gasol to Los Angeles, and the Lakers were still trying to rekindle the winning culture. It never worked out. Crittenton played just 7.8 MPG for the Lakers in his lone 22 games and was eventually traded to the Grizzlies in the Pau Gasol trade mentioned earlier. The Grizzlies viewed him as a good piece to acquire. They would end up trading him not even a year later, and eventually Crittenton was released from his last NBA team in 2010 after just three years in the league.
1 Best - Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson is everything that is Los Angeles Lakers basketball. The winning culture was always there but with Magic came flare and "Showtime". Johnson was drafted number 1 overall in 1979 after winning NCAA Championship with Michigan State. In his rookie year of 1979-80 he averaged 18 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game his rookie year en route to his first of five NBA Championships. He added championships in 82, 85, 87, and 88, during the midst of 3 NBA MVP awards, 12 NBA All-Star Games, 10 times All-NBA, an Olympic Gold Medal and leading the league in assists and steals.
Magic's career was tragically cut short with this HIV illness. But during his 12 year run prior to the diagnosis, the NBA was his league. Magic continues to hang around the Lakers franchise, and has turned into as good a businessman as he was a player, purchasing stakes in the Dodgers, Sparks, and the future Los Angeles Football Club of the MLS.