Jesse Buss has been the main figure in the Los Angeles Lakers’ scouting department that has unearthed hidden gems in the NBA Draft over the past few years.
Buss officially started to work for the Lakers while still in his teenage years back in 2006. Since then, he’s developed an analytical eye that allows him to thrive in the role of the director of scouting, which he currently holds.
The role has increasingly required Buss to watch NBA games in addition to scouting college players. In an interview with Lakers reporter Mike Trudell, the 34-year-old executive explained that following both college and professional basketball allows him to gauge the potential of young prospects more accurately:
“I think watching both levels help each other. When you’re looking to sign a player, you want to see how they’ve developed. Having people in the room who have watched these guys since they were teenagers when you’re signing a free agent (or making a trade) is important. They’re able to tell you what things they did differently to get to the point where they are now in the NBA. In a lot of cases, it’s guys that have improved so much throughout their career from when they were drafted that it’s a good sign of the type of player you get. So I think it’s invaluable to have our scouting staff be a part of those conversations. And in terms of watching NBA games and applying it to scouting the draft, I think it’s very important, because at the end of the day we’re scouting these players to play in this league, for these coaches, against this competition. We need to know what it takes to be an NBA player. It’s very helpful to go scout a couple college games, and then watch an NBA game, because you notice the speed, the size, the athleticism and the length. Those things really stand out; watching both makes you better at both jobs.
Buss also discussed how his knowledge of the game has broadened since he first took up scouting — saying the process began with, simply, talking basketball with members of his family:
“It was a long process for me. When I started, a lot of the conversations I would have analyzing talent or talking about basketball were just 1-on-1 with my father. Over time, that translated to a three-way conversation with myself, my dad and my brother Jim. Now, to be able to expand and have conversations like this with pretty much anyone in the league, whether they’re an executive with another team, at the league office or an agent, it’s been a long time coming. It’s been part of my growth, and I’m really happy with the place I’m at now. I don’t look at it as that ‘I’ve made it’ in terms of, I’m going to stop learning from other people. I take it as a situation where you try to absorb as much information as you possibly can, and use it to the betterment of the team.”
Under Buss, the Lakers have found a number of talented players whose talent was overlooked by other teams, such as Jordan Clarkson, Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso and Austin Reaves.
This year, L.A. plucked Cole Swider from the pool of undrafted free agents — a Syracuse sharpshooter who showed a great deal of potential during the 2022 Las Vegas Summer League.
Buss brothers taking on larger role in front office
In what was a big offseason for the Lakers as far as decision-making goes, both Jesse and Joey Buss’ voices were reportedly being heard in the front office more than ever.
Both have done great work in recent years and have proven to be smart basketball minds, so it is good to see them have some influence amongst the Lakers brass.
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