Memorable Draft Day Moves: L.A. Lakers

Tyler NelsonContributor IJune 20, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 4:  Former NBA player Magic Johnson attends game one of the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic at Staples Center on June 4, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images)

Now that the season is over, draft talk is in full swing.

While this year's class bores me overall (although I contemplated a piece on Ricky Efron-Rubio), years past have provided all kinds of intriguing moments. Franchises have been built by ingenius picks and destroyed by negligent picks.

Over the years, the Lakers have been a model of consistent success. So what moves have they made to build greatness and which ones were temporary missteps? In honor of their '09 championship, let's take a look back at the most monumental decisions made by Laker brass on draft day.

5. 1977 NBA Draft, Kenny Carr (sixth overall pick)

In a baffling decision, L.A. selected Kenny Carr with the 6th overall pick of the 1977 NBA Draft. In doing so, L.A. passed on future all-stars Bernard King (seventh), Jack Sikma (eighth), Rickey Green (16th), and Eddie Johnson (49th). So how did the Forward from NC State fare in Purple & Gold?

Carr put up 6.2 and 7.4 ppg, respectively, in his first two seasons in the league before the Lakers gave up on their investment five games into his third season. Carr would later travel around the league for another eight seasons as a journeyman, with mildly effective stops in Cleveland, Detroit, and Portland. To the Lakers' credit, they did steal Norm Nixon with the 22nd pick in the same draft year.

4. 1962 NBA Draft, Leroy Ellis (sixth overall pick)

Even great franchises make bad calls sometimes. The Lakers selected this "promising" young big man with the sixth overall choice, bypassing John Havlicek (who was picked next at No. 7). Ellis was decent in his four seasons with the Lakers, but capped out at 12 ppg in his last season in L.A.

However, it wasn't so much what Ellis didn'tdo, but more what Havlicek did do that came back to haunt the Lakers. Havlicek was a thorn in L.A.'s side for the next decade-plus, one of the key reasons L.A. kept finishing a close second to Boston in the NBA playoffs.

3. 1996 NBA Draft, Kobe Bryant (13th pick via Charlotte)

Jerry West took a chance in trading long-time crowd favorite Vlade Divac for the unproven, college bypassing Bryant. I don't even think the Logo knew how fortuitous this decision would become.

We know the history: Bryant went on to team up with Shaq for three titles, and won a fourth without the Big Fella this season. Equally impressive is the fact that in a league marked by player movement and free agency, Bryant has remained in Laker gold for his whole career. Wise decision, Mr. West.

2.Β  1975 NBA Draft, David Meyers (second overall pick)

After appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated in college, Meyers was picked 2nd overall in the 1975 draft, only behind future Hall-of-Famer David Thompson. Meyers went on to play only four seasons in the L, putting up modest averages of 11.2 points and 6.3 boards per outing. Dumbest pick in NBA history, right? Not so fast.

After being drafted by the Lakers, he was packaged with three other half-wits and shipped to Milwaukee for Lew Alcindor. We all know what happened next...

1. 1979 NBA Draft, Earvin 'Magic' Johnson (first overall pick)

The Lakers struck gold in landing the first pick in the 1979 draft and made the no-brainer choice to select Magic. The four picks that followed L.A.'s selection? David Greenwood, Bill Cartwright, Greg Kelser, and Sidney Moncrief. I'd say the Lakers made the right decision here. Magic went on to team with Kareem and James in bringing home five NBA championships and a plethora of close seconds. He was the catalyst of the "Showtime" era and solidified the franchise as the second-best in all of pro basketball.

Final Words

I flirted with the idea of including the Jerry West and Elgin Baylor selections on this list, but kept them off in the end. Going through the team's draft history, it is easy to see why the Lakers have remained good (or great) for most of their history. Unlike many franchises (ahem, Sam Bowie), they made the right decisions in the offseason.


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