The Los Angeles Lakers have done a great job of rebuilding through the draft the last few seasons. Not only have selected well at the top of the draft by picking Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram in the lottery the last three years, but they have also done well with their later selections, picking Jordan Clarkson and Ivica Zubac in the second round and Larry Nance Jr. at the end of the first round.
Clarkson in particular has been a surprise, as the Lakers made a trade with the Washington Wizards for the 46th pick and drafted the combo guard out of Missouri. He started 38 games as a rookie and was named to the All-Rookie First Team, but things could have been much different.
According to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report, the Lakers almost didn’t take Clarkson with that pick, as they were interested in Louisville guard Russ Smith:
The Lakers bought this pick from the Washington Wizards, and there was a real, down-to-the-wire temptation to select Louisville guard Russ Smith, who went at the very next spot. Credit player personnel director Ryan West and Jesse Buss for vouching for Clarkson, who made his first start in January 2015 after Bryant tore his rotator cuff the previous night.
Smith is now playing in Turkey; Clarkson might be the NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
Clarkson is now in his third NBA season and has improved each season. After starting 79 games last year he has accepted a role off the bench this year and is avergaing 14.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists through the team’s first 14 games.
He currently has career highs in both field goal percentage (46.5 percent) and three-point percentage (37.8 percent).
Smith, who had an outstanding college career at Louisville, averaged just 2.0 points per game in 27 career NBA games for the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies before moving on to play in Turkey.