The Los Angeles Lakers draft now consists of the 35th pick in the second round after general manager Rob Pelinka pulled off a trade with the Orlando Magic.
Pelinka had been attempting to trade into the 2022 NBA Draft as the struggling Lakers entered Thursday without a single selection.
Coming off a disastrous 49-loss season, Los Angeles is attempting to find a happy medium between short-term contention with LeBron James and long-term relevance around the NBA. Acquiring a high second-rounder for a future second-round pick and cash isn’t necessarily going to do that. But it will move the needle some.
Below, we look at three ideal scenarios for Los Angeles with the 35th pick in Thursday night’s draft.
Los Angels Lakers draft Peyton Watson
The No. 8 recruit in the class of 2021 out of Long Beach Poly in Southern California, Watson did not live up to expectations as a freshman for the Bruins. He averaged a mere 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds while shooting 32% from the field. That’s just some ugly stuff right there.
Though, there’s a reason why Watson is still being considered a potential late first-round pick in some mocks. The talent that made him a top-10 recruit simply didn’t vanish overnight.
At 6-foot-8 and with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Watson has the physical presence to be an NBA player. He has upside clear across the board, especially with a passing ability and some pretty good defense. Pelinka talked about development when looking to pull off a trade into the NBA Draft. Watson would be that developmental prospect who could shine, especially if Los Angeles moves off Talen Horton-Tucker.
Los Angeles Lakers draft Andrew Nembhard
The Russell Westbrook situation can’t be lost when it comes to Los Angeles’ thought process. While it seems that new head coach Darvin Ham would like for him to return for a second season with the Lakers, rumors continue to persist that he could be traded.
Even if the Lakers somehow make a move for former King James’ running partner, Kyrie Irving (unlikely), getting a point guard of the future should be in the cards at 35.
Enter into the equation former Gonzaga star Andrew Nembhard. The 6-foot-4 prospect boasts great size for the point guard spot. He’s already a great passer, plays good defense and has a nice jump shot. Last season saw him average 11.8 points and 5.3 assists on 52% shooting. He’d be a nice developmental prospect.
Related: 2022 NBA mock draft
Los Angeles Lakers draft includes another trade into the first round
We wouldn’t put it past Los Angeles to exhaust another future second-round pick as a way to move into the back end of Round 1 and add a target player. Interestingly enough, the Pacific Division rival Golden State Warriors are looking to move out of the No. 28 selection.
In this scenario, Los Angeles gives up the 35th pick and its second rounder in 2025 in order to jump other teams for intriguing forward prospect Patrick Baldwin Jr. Like Watson, he was a top–10 recruit in 2021. While the 6-foot-9 wing struggled with Milwaukee as a freshman, his skill-set is tantalizing. That’s especially true when it comes to a fluid three-point shot.
The Lakers would be getting obvious upside by exhausting a total of two second-round picks on a player who was projected to go top-10 at the start of the 2021-22 college basketball season.