Lakers will receive No. 2 pick in 2017 NBA draft
The Sacramento Kings have two of the top 10 picks in the draft. (May 17, 2017) (Sign up for our free video newsletter here)
Finally free from the sequestering room where he waited for the NBA’s draft lottery show to end, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka weaved through the throng of people exiting a hotel ballroom. He wanted to find Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson so they could celebrate this thing over which they had no control, but that wound up meaning so much to them.
Pelinka found Johnson in a side room. They grinned, and laughed, and embraced.
The Lakers will select second in the June draft. Their winning combination was 14, 5, 3, 12. They had the third-best odds of securing a pick in the top three — a 46.92% chance, and just a 15.74% chance of getting the second overall pick. Had the Lakers’ pick fallen out of the top three, they would have lost it.
“It was just a rush of exhilaration,” Pelinka said. “It just felt like such a blessing.”
In this year’s draft, the Lakers will also have the 28th pick, from Houston. The Lakers traded Lou Williams to the Rockets for their first-round pick and Corey Brewer.
Boston will select first after entering the day with the best odds for securing the top pick.
“I still hate them,” Johnson said. “That’s never going to change. I’m not going to ever like the Celtics. But I’ll tell you, they’re probably the two most storied franchises in NBA history to get one and two.”
The Celtics were in that position because of a trade with the Brooklyn Nets. They won the first overall pick one day after beating the Washington Wizards in Game 7 for a berth in the Eastern Conference finals.
“If we beat Cleveland tomorrow, I might get on a flight straight to Las Vegas,” said Steve Pagliuca, a Celtics part owner who was in the drawing room.
He brought a piece of the old Boston Garden’s parquet floor with him for good luck. Last year the Celtics brought a clay rooster to the draft lottery.
Philadelphia will select third, a pick they received in a trade with the Sacramento Kings. The Phoenix Suns, who entered the day with the second-best odds of getting a pick in the top three, fell to fourth.
Pelinka said it is unlikely that the Lakers will trade the pick, but they will entertain trade overtures.
“If there’s offers, we’ll weigh those and then I’ll make a decision and Rob and I will make a decision based on what’s best for the Laker organization — not short-term, but long-term,” Johnson said.
This is the third year in a row the Lakers will have had the second pick in the draft — and the third straight year they could have lost the pick to the 76ers. Had they lost this year’s pick, they would also have had to surrender a 2019 first-rounder to the Orlando Magic. Instead, their second-round picks this year and next year go to the Magic, and next year’s first-round pick goes to the 76ers.
In 2015, the Lakers selected D’Angelo Russell second overall and in 2016 they selected Brandon Ingram second overall.
“It’s not an Anthony Davis or LeBron James draft,” Pelinka said. Here’s no clear-cut No. 1.”
During the day Pelinka and Johnson met with player agents based in New York. Kobe Bryant called to wish them luck. They FaceTimed with controlling owner Jeanie Buss, who assured them of her confidence in their plan with or without the pick.
Around 7:15 p.m., team representatives began entering the drawing room on the fourth floor of the New York Hilton in midtown Manhattan. Pelinka took his seat in the first row, beside 11-year-old Kylie Rubin, the daughter of a 76ers part owner Michael Rubin. She sat beside Art Wrubel, a 76ers minority owner. Kylie clutched Wrubel’s hand, as Pelinka leaned forward next to them with his left index finger pressing into his cheek.
The first combination was 7, 1, 9, 10, and belonged to the Celtics.
“Woo!” Pagliuca shouted.
The next two combinations were both Boston’s as well — 250 of the 1001 possible combinations belonged to the Celtics.
The fourth combination was the Lakers’.
“Yes!” said Pelinka, quietly, almost as an exhale. He then took another breath and let out a loud exhale. He shook Wrubel’s hand and as the next selection was drawn, Pelinka continued smiling, shaking his head and occasionally looking up.
The third combination belonged to the Kings, but that was conveyed to the 76ers.
When it ended, Pelinka couldn’t wait to see Johnson’s reaction.
The Lakers, after all, had won five of their last six games, finishing 26-56, thus reducing their chances of keeping their pick.
They insisted then that they wouldn’t tell their players to lose and hoped that basketball deities would reward that.
On the set of the televised show, 76ers center Joel Embiid assured Johnson the Lakers would keep their pick. The league announced the picks in reverse order. When the fourth pick was announced and the Lakers had not yet been named, Johnson pumped his fist and smiled brightly.
“You don’t know how hard Rob and I have been working,” Johnson said. “We talk every morning then we work together all day, then we talk at night.
“I think our wives are going crazy. We watch games and we’re calling each other at halftime and in the middle. We already have our strategy in place. It’s just, which one were we going to execute? Was it A or B? So now we get to execute A.”
FIRST-ROUND DRAFT ORDER
No. | Team
1. Boston Celtics
3. Philadelphia 76ers
4. Phoenix Suns
5. Sacramento Kings
6. Orlando Magic
7. Minnesota Timberwolves
8. New Yorks Knicks
9. Dallas Mavericks
10. Sacramento Kings
11. Charlotte Hornets
12. Detroit Pistons
13. Denver Nuggets
14. Miami Heat
15. Portland Trail Blazers
16. Chicago Bulls
17. Milwaukee Bucks
18. Indiana Pacers
19. Atlanta Hawks
20. Portland Trail Blazers
21. Oklahoma City Thunder
22. Brooklyn Nets
23. Toronto Raptors
24. Utah Jazz
25. Orlando Magic
26. Portland Trail Blazers
27. Brooklyn Nets
29. San Antonio Spurs
30. Utah Jazz
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli
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