Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak is obviously happy that his team has possession of the number two pick in this year’s draft. But make no mistake, he doesn’t believe that quality draft picks will get the Lakers back on track.
Mitch Kupchak tells us on NBA Sunday Tip, “We don’t have …. the time to methodically and slowly build through the draft.” @br_radio
— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) May 24, 2015
Kupchak sounds incredibly impatient and moronic. What he’s really saying is this: “Building through the draft is for other teams, but since we are the Lakers, we can take the express lane to success. Other teams have to re-build, but we don’t have to since every free agent in the NBA wants to come play in Los Angeles.”
While it is true that free agency is key to building a championship team, it is wrong to think that one can build a championship team on free agency alone. Kupchak apparently needs a history lesson and look at the great Lakers dynasties of old. In the Magic & Kareem era, the Lakers drafted Magic Johnson and James Worthy while acquiring Kareem Abdul-Jabbar via trade. As for the Shaq & Kobe era, the Lakers acquired Shaquille O’Neal via free agency, but they acquired Kobe Bryant via a draft day trade with the Hornets.
What Kupchak fails to realize is that most great teams have built through the draft. The Bulls drafted Michael Jordan and traded for Scottie Pippen on a draft day trade with the Sonics; the Jazz drafted John Stockton and Karl Malone; the Spurs drafted Tim Duncan; and the Rockets drafted Hakeem Olajuwon.
Whether Kupchak likes it or not, if he wants the Lakers to become contenders again, he’s going to have to start with the draft and then free agency can be used to add the finishing touches. Sometimes those “finishing touches” can be huge additions, but the foundation still needs to be in place via the draft.
Teams should build through the draft because that is why the draft exists. When you draft a player, you own his rights. A player can’t just say he wants to go somewhere else. He has to play where he gets drafted.
In the case of free agency, you don’t have that same type of security. You enter a bidding war with other teams for a player’s services and therein lies the risk in trying to bank on free agency. You can be confident that you will get a certain player but you don’t just get to pick up a player in the secure way you do with the draft.
In regards to the Lakers being a team where all the free agents will want to go, I think Kupchak is delusional for believing this. The fact of the matter is that no matter how good the weather is, how many attractive women there are in the city, or how many celebrities come to watch them play, no quality free agent will want to join the Lakers until a quality foundation is built through the draft. This is the way it has been and it’s the way it’s always going to be.
—Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord