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Some draft picks wash out slowly after countless chances, and some disappear almost immediately. Such was the case with Ater Majok.
Born in the Sudan, Majok spent eight years in a Cairo detention camp before arriving in Australia as a teenage refugee. Standing 6’10” with a 7’7” wingspan, he was an intriguing but raw high school prospect and was ultimately accepted into UConn. He sat out his freshman year due to transcript problems and decided to leave shortly before his sophomore year. Majok headed back overseas, playing professionally in Turkey and Australia.
On draft night 2011, the Lakers selected Chukwudiebere Maduabum from Nigeria at No. 56, followed by Majok at No. 58.
Most Laker fans scratched their heads as the unfamiliar names were read. Any hopes for an Ater & Chu-Chu duo were cut short when Maduabum was traded to Denver for a future second-round draft pick.
As for Majok, the Lakers never signed him but have kept his draft rights by virtue of the clause that allows such things when unsigned second-round draft picks continue to play pro ball outside of the NBA without an interruption of more than a year.
Known as a fierce shot-blocker and defender, Majok has plied his basketball trade in Russia, Korea and Germany over the past few years. His offensive style is primarily catch-and-dunk, but he does so with authority.
What makes him one of the worst recent picks? The fact that one way or another, the selection seems to have been a waste. The Lakers could sign this global journeyman to a minimum salary contract in a heartbeat if they wanted to.
Yet with all the cut-rate deals the team has used to shore up their rosters in recent years, they’ve never chosen to lob one to Majok. Management is either unimpressed or has forgotten he exists.
Is this the complete or definitive list of the most disappointing draft picks ever for the purple and gold? Not by any means. As mentioned at the outset, such lists are purely subjective. And for any who feel the need to toss the mighty Slava Medvedenko onto the pile, he was never drafted so don’t go there.
There will also invariably be someone who will bring up Sasha “the Machine” Vujacic, he of the fastidious eyebrow grooming ritual at the charity stripe. But remember, Vujacic iced those all-important free throws in the closing moments of Game 7 against the Boston Celtics in 2010—that being the last time the Lakers took home a championship trophy.
This past June the Lakers selected Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson as the seventh and 46th overall picks, respectively. Let’s hope that neither ever has to appear on a list like this.