The NBA opened its annual draft combine in Chicago on Thursday.
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak was on hand to observe and meet with a number of prospects for June’s NBA draft, armed with a rare lottery pick.
“We have not been in [the lottery] very often,” said Kupchak in a video interview with ESPN. “The last time we were in it, we drafted Andrew Bynum [with the 10th overall pick in 2005].”
The Lakers (27-55) finished the season with the sixth-worst record in the league. This coming Tuesday, the NBA will hold the draft lottery. The Lakers have a 21.5% chance of climbing to a top-three pick.
“We’re hopeful that we jump up in the lottery. My understanding is we can get one, two or three — or we can drop from six to seven, eight or nine,” said Kupchak. So a lot of it depends on the fortunes or misfortunes of Tuesday.”
The Lakers are most likely to pick at six (43.9%) or seven (30.5%) with long odds of dropping to eight (4.0%) or nine (0.1%).
The path the Lakers take in rebuilding and selecting a head coach will start once they know their position.
“A high pick is valuable,” said Kupchak. You can select a player if there’s a player there that you like, or you can look to move the pick and improve your team.”
The top three picks in the draft are projected to be Andrew Wiggins (Kansas), Jabari Parker (Duke) and Joel Embiid (Kansas).
The Lakers might have interest in trying to acquire a player like Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves, in exchange for their first-round pick.
Meanwhile, the Lakers still need a head coach after Mike D’Antoni’s recent resignation. The team would like to hire a replacement before the June 26 draft.
“I think that would be a goal, but not necessarily something that has to happen,” said Kupchak. “We haven’t really had any formal interviews.”
The list of coaching possibilities is long and might include Kevin Ollie, Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy, Byron Scott, Roy Williams, John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, Mike Dunleavy, Billy Donovan, Lionel Hollins, Ettore Messina, George Karl, Kurt Rambis and Derek Fisher.
Kupchak stressed that the draft lottery is the first step for the Lakers. He also noted that he expects All-Star Kobe Bryant will be ready to play by opening night.
“He was probably ready to go a month ago, [but] our season ended early,” said Kupchak. “He’s been working out every day at our facility. He looks good.”
Bryant suffered a knee injury Dec. 17 that knocked him out for the rest of the season. He managed to play in just six games after sitting out the start of the year while recovering from Achilles’ tendon surgery.
Kupchak downplayed that Bryant would have much say in the team’s coaching hire.
“He really won’t weigh in on something like that,” he said. “I’m not even sure we’ll talk to him prior to interviews.”