When the Los Angeles Lakers selected Larry Nance Jr. with the 27th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, it raised some eyebrows. Most mock drafts projected Nance to either go undrafted or squeak in at the very end of the second round, making the decision to give him the guaranteed money that comes with being taken in the first round surprising.
Since then, Nance has proved everyone who doubted him wrong, quickly becoming a fan-favorite thanks to his non-stop effort, defensive ability, and undeniable athleticism.
Lakers director of scouting Jesse Buss explained to Lakers reporter Mike Trudell why the team decided to go against the grain and take Nance earlier than anyone projected:
His body of work overall as a senior was pretty impressive, and when we began watching him more on Synergy, that’s when we turned our focus to him more closely as a potential guy we could draft late in the first round. He then participated in the Chicago pre-draft combine and did pretty well, and we got him here in June for a workout that really sealed the deal for us. We just knew we had to have him on draft night, and we were hoping he was there at No. 27.
While a workout isn’t always the deciding factor when determining whether or not to draft a player, for Nance if provided the opportunity to confirm the positive impression the Lakers already had of him. Still, it was a surprising pick, one that the Lakers were taking a risk on, which has made his success that much sweeter:
Any time you vouch for a player that you may know better than other scouts, you want to be right. You want that player to show out and do well because you want to trust what you saw that turned you onto him in the first place. That goes for any scout on our staff. Since we’re all spread out across the country (and Europe), certain scouts are going to know certain players better than others. There are certain players you stick your neck out for, and I was pretty comfortable with Larry.
This summer, we have already heard that Nance is working on his outside shot, hoping to be able to stretch the floor a bit more consistently. He only shot 28 percent from three last season, but if he can get that number up a bit Nance could help the Lakers create space.
Regardless, his calling card is his ability to switch everything on defense and occasionally launch for some truly earth-shattering dunks. He is up for the Dunk of the Year for his throw down over Brook Lopez and should be the favorite to win the award.
Taking a risk in the draft isn’t an easy thing to do, but in the case of Larry Nance Jr., it paid off.