Lakers make a deal, but it’s not <i>that</i> deal
The Lakers spent most of Thursday trying to trade their way into the first round but ended up almost where they started in the NBA draft.
They moved up slightly by spending about $500,000 to acquire Darius Johnson-Odomfrom the Dallas Mavericks, who took the Marquette guard with the 55th pick. The Lakers then selected Gonzaga center Robert Sacre with the draft’s 60th and final pick.
They dangled Pau Gasol in an attempt to get into the draft’s first few picks but came away empty. Then they tried to join the first round a little after its midpoint to grab Ohio State power forward Jared Sullinger but were deflated when Boston took him with No. 21.
They also had their eye on Baylor center Perry Jones III but couldn’t find a trading partner as his stock tumbled amid media reports of a knee problem. He eventually went 28th to Oklahoma City.
The Lakers haven’t had a first-round pick since taking Javaris Crittenton in 2007. They traded this year’s first-rounder (24th overall) to Cleveland in March to acquire point guard Ramon Sessions, who became a free agent last week after declining to exercise a one-year, $4.55-million player option.
Cleveland took Oregon State guard Jared Cunningham with the pick and later traded him to Dallas. The Lakers would have taken Jones if they still had the pick.
When free agency begins Saturday, the Lakers have extremely limited spending power. Their only tool is the “mini” mid-level exception worth a comparatively low $3 million next season. The average NBA salary is $5.3 million.
The Lakers will keep trying to make trades with Gasol as the centerpiece. His contract, however, makes it difficult. He has two more years and $38.3 million remaining.
“We’ll try to hit a home run,” Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said. “We always try to hit a home run.”
Johnson-Odom is 6 feet 2, a shooting guard in a point guard’s body. He was first-team All-Big East as a senior, averaging 18.3 points and 2.7 assists.
Sacre, a 7-footer, averaged 11.6 points and 6.3 rebounds as a senior and was the West Coast Conference defensive player of the year. He finished second in Gonzaga history with 186 blocked shots.
In the days leading up to the draft, the Lakers fielded calls from the Atlanta Hawks, who offered a swap of power forwards, Josh Smith for Gasol, but nothing materialized.
In a smaller move, the Lakers will extend a qualifying offer to point guard Darius Morris for about $940,000, making him a restricted free agent. Morris took the unusual step of signing a one-year contract when he was drafted by the Lakers last season because he felt he was selected too low (41st overall).
He can test free agency but the Lakers now have the right to match an offer sheet if he signs with another team. Morris averaged 2.4 points in 19 games last season.
Kupchak said his exit meeting last month with Kobe Bryant was “very positive” during a “relaxing” breakfast. “There was no agenda,” Kupchak said.
Bryant took the unusual step of scheduling his exit meeting away from the team’s El Segundo training facility after the Lakers were eliminated by Oklahoma City in the second round.
Bryant, who turns 34 in August, has two more years and $58.3 million on his contract.
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