Destined For Greatness: The Top 10 Draft Picks in LA Lakers History
The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most storied and successful franchises in the history of the NBA, and have established a legacy which will endure for generations.
The list of players who have donned the purple and gold reads like a who's who of NBA royalty, and because Laker ownership is dedicated to excellence, Los Angeles has been able to maintain that through the years.
Even more impressive is the delicate manner which Dr. Jerry Buss, Jerry West, and now Mitch Kupchak have gone about constructing the team so it is relevant each season.
The Lakers have won 15 NBA championships and have only missed the postseason two times due to the ability of management to blend talent through free-agency, trades, and the NBA draft.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Shaquille O'Neal were some of the most dominant centers of their era. The Lakers were able to pry all three away from different teams.
The list of talent which Los Angeles acquired by means of the draft is just as impressive, and may be even more responsible for the sustained glory of the franchise.
I have attempted to compile a list of the very best draft picks in Los Angeles Lakers' history, and, similar to the unpredictability of the draft, my list may be hit or miss on some targets.
But, I feel the majority of my choices are ones you would agree with and the basis of my criteria is fairly simple.
Only two players are on the list from the franchise's days in Minnesota, because these particular two had the most significant impact once the team moved to Los Angeles.
The other eight are all picks made since the team has been in the City of Angels. Although some of the players ended their careers in other cities, their best playing days were with the Lakers.
The very best path to success in the NBA is to build a team of players patterned on your own philosophy—from Magic Johnson to Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have been successful in that respect.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy a stroll down memory lane as we chart some of the players who have made the Laker franchise what it is today, and take a glimpse at the ones who will lead the team of tomorrow.
10. Elgin Baylor: First Pick, First Round, 1958—Minnesota
Although Elgin Baylor played at a time when television was in its infancy, he was still one of the greatest singular talents of his time.
Baylor had a career scoring average of 27.4 points per game, and although he only stood 6'5", he still averaged an astounding 13.5 rebounds for the duration of his career.
He wasn't a great leaper, but he may have been one of the game's best shooters. At a time when the NBA had no three point line, Baylor scored his points in a variety of ways.
He was strong enough to post Bill Russell, and had the agility to drift to the corner and shoot what would have definitely been a three point shot today.
Baylor played during the dominant era of the Boston Celtics, so he was never able to capture a championship in eight tries. He also never led the league in scoring, mainly because of Wilt Chamberlain.
Still, he will forever exist in the minds of many Laker fans as one of the greatest players to ever grace the streets of Los Angeles.
9. Vlade Divac: 26th Pick, First Round, 1989
Vlade Divac had the unbelievable task of following in the footsteps of Laker great Kareem Abdul Jabbar—all things considered, he didn't do a horrible job.
Divac averaged 11.8 points per game and 8.2 rebounds for his career, and although he played for three teams, his best years were as a Laker.
Divac had the opportunity to learn from Magic Johnson, whose influence was seen in Divac's superior passing abilities from the post, and his enthusiasm in his game.
Divac never captured a championship with Los Angeles, but he did help guide them to the NBA Finals in his rookie season, and was directly responsible for one of the biggest draft picks in Laker history.
8. Eddie Jones: 10th Pick, First Round, 1994
Eddie Jones is probably the only player to make this list who had greater success once he left the confines of Los Angeles, but that has more to do with his replacement than his talent.
Jones spent a total of five seasons as a Laker, but may be remembered more for the similarity between his game and Kobe Bryant's, who was his eventual replacement.
The two even shared the same hometown, but the comparison stops there. While Bryant was able to add different dimensions to his game, Jones reached his peak of potential fairly soon.
Jones averaged 14 points and 4.0 rebounds for his career and will be remembered in Los Angeles for his versatility, and his defensive abilities.
7. A.C. Green: 23rd Pick, First Round, 1985
A.C. Green never filled up the stat books for the Lakers, but he may have been the best utility man in the NBA at the height of the Showtime era.
Green did all of the dirty work for the Lakers, and on a team full of finesse superstars, he stood out for his toughness, dedication, and workman-like attitude.
Green averaged 9.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in a career which spanned 16 years. In nine consecutive years he appeared in each regular season game.
He was able to capture two league championships in his time with the Lakers, and fans still speak of his grit and determination when discussing his career.
6. Andrew Bynum: 10th Pick, First Round, 2005
When the Los Angeles Lakers selected Andrew Bynum with the 10th pick in the 2005 NBA draft he was the youngest selection that year at only 17 years of age.
The Lakers were definitely thinking about his potential when they selected him. He has shown stretches of brilliance, followed by periods of inconsistency.
He has still managed to average 10 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in his brief four-year career, and if he can ever stay healthy, the continuity will bring even more maturity to his game.
Before he was injured this season Bynum was averaging 15 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, and was an instrumental piece in the Lakers' bid for a repeat of their championship of 2009.
5. James Worthy: First Pick, First Round, 1982
James Worthy was drafted No. 1 overall by the Lakers in 1982.
Fresh off a NCAA championship at North Carolina, it took him little time to make his presence known in Los Angeles.
Worthy quickly became known for his smooth playing style, and his effortless forays to the rim, which usually resulted in pretty finger-rolls, or emphatic slam dunks.
He helped define the small forward position and appeared in six NBA Finals series, winning three championships while playing beside the likes of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Worthy began his career as a Laker and ended it in the same manner, after a brilliant stint which lasted 16 years and concluded with his induction into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2003.
4. Derek Fisher: 24th Pick, First Round, 1996
Derek Fisher will not be remembered for his blistering scoring averages, but he will be remembered as one of the most clutch players in team history. As well as for the four NBA championships he earned.
Fisher did have his moments playing beside Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. They include a jumper against the San Antonio Spurs with .04 of a second left, which propelled the Lakers into the NBA Finals of 2004.
Fisher also was an integral piece of the Lakers' championship of 2009, hitting two clutch three-point shots to help the Lakers dispose of the Orlando Magic in five games.
Fisher will always be remembered for his toughness, integrity, and leadership at a time when the league has shifted towards players who reek of individualism.
3. Jerry West: Second Pick, First Round, 1960—Minnesota
Jerry West will always have the privilege of being considered one of the top three or four Lakers of all time, and his legacy will endure forever as the NBA Logo.
West was a clutch player before the term had really been coined, and he thrilled Laker fans for years with his pin-point shooting and never-say-die attitude.
West averaged 27 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists for his career, and was able to earn one championship while in Los Angeles.
He finished his career as the top scorer in the history of the Lakers team, and is still one of the more beloved figures in the history of the storied franchise.
2. Kobe Bryant: 13th Pick, First Round, 1996
Kobe Bryant was originally selected by the Charlotte Hornets, but was traded to Los Angeles on draft day for the rights to center Vlade Divac.
It turned out to be one of the best moves in franchise history.
Bryant has helped the team win four championships and appear in six NBA Finals series throughout the course of his career.
Bryant stands as one of the greatest shooting guards in NBA history, and still ranks as one of the best players in the game today.
At 31 years of age Bryant is already the leading scorer in the history of the franchise, and has a realistic chance to be remembered as the greatest Los Angeles Laker ever.
Bryant has posted career averages of 25 points per game, to go along with 5.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists, and looks to lead the Lakers to consecutive championships for the second time in his career.
1. Magic Johnson: First Pick, First Round, 1979
In my opinion, Earvin "Magic" Johnson was not only the greatest Laker to ever play the game, but is also one of the greatest players in the history of the entire NBA.
Magic charmed the league with his flashy style and charismatic personality, and is the main person responsible for the Showtime era Lakers.
He was able to earn five league championships in his career, and stands as the No. 3 assist man in the history of the NBA.
His impact, however, goes far beyond numbers.
Along with Larry Bird, Johnson is credited with renewing interest in the NBA, which was then seen as a dying product. His duels with Bird helped pave the way for the stars of today.
Magic revolutionized the point guard position and was the only player in his day capable of playing all five positions on the court.
He will be forever remembered for the time he was forced to play center in his rookie year, due to an injury to Kareem, and still managed to score 46 points and snag 15 rebounds while leading the Lakers to the championship.