Mitch Kupchak doesn’t see reason for Lakers to tank for lottery

Mitch Kupchak believes the Lakers will be positioned well in 2014 to quickly build the team into a title contender.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak doesn’t see the virtue in tanking the season for a lottery pick.

“The ping-pong lottery thing, even if you have the very worst team in the NBA, you’re not guaranteed to get the first pick,” Kupchak said Thursday to Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio. “I’m not sure getting into the lottery and ending up with 10, 11, 12, 13 or 14 is going to give us a top one or two pick in the draft.”

“We still may end up drafting 12, 13 or 14, which is not a great place to draft if you just look back on drafts in this league,” he continued.


Instead, Kupchak believes the team’s financial flexibility, starting in the summer of 2014, should enable the Lakers to quickly rebuild.

The 2014 free-agent wish list could include: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay, Danny Granger, Luol Deng and Marcin Gortat. Restricted free agents could include Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe.

“We’ll have a lot of financial resources a year from now,” Kupchak said. “I don’t know if we’ll get a star player to leave his home team to come here like Dwight [Howard] did to go to Houston. He took a huge financial hit just to do that.”

Howard joined the Rockets as a free agent, agreeing a four-year, $88-million contract over the Lakers’ five-year, $118-million offer.

“We have a pick next year, which is going to be a very good draft. We’re very comfortable with the flexibility,” said Kupchak. “It just doesn’t mean you get free agents you can take players [via trade]. There are a lot of things you can do with cap room.”

How will 2014 free agents Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol fit into the team’s future?

“It’s a cyclical business we’re in, nothing lasts forever,” said Kupchak. ‘“We’re hopeful that Pau and Kobe can continue to play and we’ll have options to rebuild the team.”

The Lakers are still adjusting without longtime owner Jerry Buss, who passed away in February due to complications from cancer.

“You have to give to the organization time to work out a new way of working together,” Kupchak said. “Dr. Buss passed away in the spring; you can’t expect things to go smoothly from the get-go.”

Buss left his majority ownership stake to his six children with Jim Buss in charge of basketball operations and Jeanie Buss running the team’s business operations.

“There’s a period of mourning that needs to take place. I have complete confidence in all the kids, in particular the ones I work most closely with, which is Jeanie and Jimmy,” Kupchak said. “This is going to be a fine, well-operated franchise moving forward.”


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