The Los Angeles Lakers made the most of their three selections during the 2018 NBA Draft, adding Moritz Wagner, Issac Bogna and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk to an already promising young core on the rise.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka was especially thrilled with how the picks played out and specifically credited the organization’s scouting department for their help in the process. “It was really an incredible night for us in the war room,” Pelinka said.
“A lot of work done by our scouting department, including trips overseas. Obviously, we ended up with some international flair in this draft. Jesse Buss and I made a trip overseas, which led to some of our decisions.”
Pelinka was enthused about landing sharpshooter Mykhailiuk in the second round, given the Lakers’ struggles from behind the arc last season.
“Magic [Johnson] has preached over and over again, adding shooting to our core. He’s a 20-year-old player that really was one of the best knockdown shooters we had in our building during the draft process,” Pelinka said.
“Beautiful stroke, stretched the floor, and a tough guy. There were times in the tournament this year where he was guarding great players like Marvin Bagley and not backing down from him. Magic and I noticed that. He has a toughness combined with his shooting, and he’s a legit 6’7.”
Pelinka also offered high praise for first-round pick Wagner, who checks off all the boxes in what the Lakers look for in a player. “Selecting Moe Wagner, he was a big target for Magic. When you build a team, you have to have pillars that you build on,” the Lakers GM explained.
“For us, we’re sticking to those core principles, which are guys that are high-IQ basketball players that play the game the right way, that can shoot, that have length, that have versatility, that have toughness.
“We felt like with the two players we selected in the draft, we added shooting and guys that just know how to play the game the right way. Luke was incredibly excited with the choices. We’re just thrilled with the way the night ended for us.”
Pelinka also highlighted Wagner’s ability to provide spacing on the court and pointed out that having such an ability is critical for the success of modern day big men.
“The game, as you know, requires bigs that can spread the floor,” Pelinka added. “What we noticed in all the games we went to in person is that he’s a tremendous passer, great screener in pick-and-roll situations.
“Coached by John Beilein who is a terrific coach, and Luke felt like when we did the workout with him in our building that he had off-the-charts basketball IQ. Magic had to get over a Spartan drafting a Wolverine, but once we got over that, he was our guy.”
Lakers head coach Luke Walton agreed with Pelinka’s assessment of Wagner and believes the Michigan product will fit in seamlessly with the young core.
“We like his energy, his skill set, his intelligence,” Walton said. “We like the fact that he played for a really good coach. We feel like he’s going to be able to come in right away and help our team.
“We’re building a culture, and he brings a lot to the table as far as the passion he plays with, his unselfish nature, the way that he sprints the floor. All these things that we’ve seen in film and that we saw live a couple times when he worked out for us. We’re really excited he was on the board still when we had our pick.”
Walton was especially thrilled with the Lakers’ first round selection, citing Wagner’s joyous personality that stood out to the coaching staff and front office.
“He’s always got this big smile on his face. He’s got a way of being honest in talking about people and things but keeping the room light.
“He impressed all of us. From his interview in Chicago, which is hard to do, to sit down in a room full of guys you don’t know and have the room electric the way he did. That was impressive. And the two workouts here were just great. He was competing, trash-talking, coaching from the floor. There’s a lot that he brings to the table that we can use.”