When the Los Angeles Lakers started their rebuilding process and established a young core, one bright spot has been the team’s scouting department.
While only half of the young core remains, the team’s ability to draft well in the late first and early second rounds has earned them high praise.
As all of the attention is currently on the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, it appears there was some disconnect recently during last year’s draft.
With the No. 25 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Lakers selected Moritz Wagner over Omari Spellman, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN:
As the Lakers neared their 25th pick in the first round, staff members in the second war room expected — and, according to one basketball operations staffer present, were excited — that they would select Villanova power forward Omari Spellman, who was the highest-ranked remaining player on the Lakers’ draft board, according to multiple team staffers present. Instead, the Lakers took Wagner, the forward from Michigan. Sources said that inside the second war room, scouts and other staff members watched the pick on television and were shocked.
As a result, there reportedly was shock among the scouts who were separated from former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka in the team’s second war room:
The Lakers had two “war rooms” set up inside their training facility: Johnson and Pelinka were in one; front-office executives, scouts and others who had helped evaluate prospects were in another, according to multiple team staffers present.
At the end of the day, Johnson had the final say in all basketball-related decisions. However, it is interesting Johnson went against the scouting department, who wanted to select Spellman instead of Wagner.
Ultimately, time will tell if Johnson made the right decision or should have listened to others. As Wagner averaged 4.8 points and 2.0 rebounds, Spellman averaged 5.9 points and 4.2 rebounds for the Atlanta Hawks.
With Johnson no longer around, Pelinka is running the team’s front office now. The hope is Pelinka will strongly consider the scouting department’s opinions.
As Pelinka will explore all options with the No. 4 pick, the Lakers reportedly are interested in Darius Garland or De’Andre Hunter. Despite the Lakers being extremely fortunate in moving up seven spots at the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery, they have not been able to move past the drama-filled start to the offseason.
Amid all of the reports, it will be interesting to see how one of the most important offseasons in team history ultimately plays out.