The Los Angeles Lakers’ 2018 NBA Draft played out much different than many, fans of the team or not, expected it to.
After trading for an additional second-round pick on Wednesday night, most expected the team to make a move in the trade market, potentially trading for Kawhi Leonard or dumping Luol Deng’s contract to clear up cap space.
Instead, the team drafted three prospects with two of those coming out of left field. With the 25th pick and the lone first-rounder, the Lakers drafted Moritz Wagner, a big man out of Michigan.
Few expected the Lakers to go after another big man and the reaction to the pick, as a result, has been mixed.
From The Ringer:
Wagner made himself a lot of money in the NCAA tournament, when he powered Michigan to the national championship game. He’s a sweet-shooting big man who might be an interesting complement to some of the perimeter star power that has been rumored to be headed to the Lakers this summer. Unfortunately, though, it’s hard to see how Wagner will be able to stay on the floor on defense in the playoffs, which is a pressing concern for a team in its position. And the playoffs is absolutely the floor should the Lakers’ offseason plan work out.
From The Athletic:
The key to Wagner sticking in the NBA will be that he either needs to become an absolute 40-percent shooter from distance, or needs to become a much better defender than what he was in college. It’s worth noting he took a leap there between his sophomore and junior seasons, but he needs to take one more to get to the level where Lakers’ fans should feel confident with him on the floor. It’s also worth noting that if the Lakers keep Julius Randle around as their 5 of the future, Wagner provides an interesting complement to him off the bench due to them being very different players. But I probably would not have used this pick on Wagner, and instead would have grabbed one of the combo guards such as De’Anthony Melton, Khyri Thomas or Jacob Evans.
From CBS Sports:
Wagner has a lot of strengths. He’s a good offensive player who plays hard and can shoot as a stretch-center. He’s a creative scorer. But can he overcome his defensive disadvantages? Robert Williams has the defensive side covered, and he was the better pick here. He’s becoming a real steal now. Grade: C+
From Sporting News:
The Lakers’ frontcourt gets a modern upgrade here at No. 25. Wagner is a 6-11 center who shot 38.5 percent from behind the arc during his time at Michigan. The big man is comfortable shooting out of pick-and-pops and off movement from down screens. This is probably a bit high for him in terms of absolute talent level, but the fit is quite good from an offensive perspective.
Defensively, that’s another question. Wagner doesn’t provide much resistance on that end outside of hitting the defensive boards. He’ll struggle to battle stronger post players and keep up with quick guards on the perimeter.
From Sports Illustrated:
The Lakers could have gone in a number of directions given the available talent at this spot. Wagner has fans around the league and should be able to provide shooting and some rotational value down the line, but his defensive struggles could prove concerning on an L.A. roster that—presently, at least—lacks a defensive edge. Wagner is a solid player who should give them a return, but there were better options on the board from my vantage point. Grade: C+
From USA Today:
A prototypical stretch-four, Wagner plays with a good motor who can hit from outside. Fiery at times, he won’t mind the spotlight in Los Angeles. (C)
From the Washington Post:
The Lakers have a big summer ahead of them, and it began with them drafting Michigan star Mo Wagner with the 25th pick. A skilled, scoring big man, Wagner should be able to be a productive offensive player. His ceiling, like so many bigs in this draft, will be determined by his defense. — Tim Bontemps
In the second round, the Lakers turned some heads with the selection of Isaac Bonga out of Germany with the 39th pick, a move that again was met with mixed reactions as Bonga projects to be a long-term project.
From Sporting News:
A toolsy prospect with a plus feel for the game, Bonga has a long way to go before being ready to contribute in the NBA. It’s likely he’ll be stashed overseas for at least a year.
The 6-9 forward shows nice play-making instincts, though, which could be worth something if his jumper and/or athleticism ever develop.
Lastly, the Lakers wrapped it up with the selection of a sharp-shooting wing player in Svi Mykhailiuk from Kansas at No. 47.
Mykhailiuk is an elite jump shooter who is still only 20 years old despite graduating from Kansas in the spring. He is capable of shooting accurately off movement and occasionally off the bounce.
With a negative wingspan, Mykhailiuk likely won’t ever contribute positive value defensively, and his lack of a floor game on offense is a worry. But there’s equity in his shooting here.
Overall, the Lakers’ draft has been regarded as a slightly above average draft. The overwhelming thought is the Lakers left some players on the table that were more highly regarded.
They added PF Moritz Wagner (25), SF Isaac Bonga (39) and a SG named Svlatoslav Mykhailu at 47. For the sake of my Rotoworld boys and I, I hope we don’t have to type No. 47’s name very often. And with the potential of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George all heading to LaLa Land, I doubt we’re blurbing any of these guys on the regular any time soon.
There is no shortage of great young talent on the Lakers, and they injected more energy into that young core with Wagner, whose skill already projects to translate well into the NBA. Though he lacks some athleticism and isn’t a great rebounder, he’s fundamentally sound, passes well and can shoot with a little space.
From Bleacher Report‘s Andy Bailey:
Brook Lopez will be a free agent this summer. And with the Lakers trying to preserve as much cap space as possible for a run at multiple free agents, maybe Moritz Wagner can replicate a bit of Lopez’s shooting on a significantly smaller contract.
After that, the Lakers landed a possible draft-and-stash candidate in Isaac Bonga and another shooter in Svi Mykhailiuk.
And Bleacher Report‘s Zach Buckley
Moritz Wagner (Pick No. 25), Isaac Bonga (Pick No. 39, traded from Philadelphia), Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Pick No. 47)
With Brook Lopez bound for free agency, the Lakers had an opening for a floor-spacing 5.
They’re hoping Wagner can fill it.
He seemingly has the stroke. He totaled 108 threes on 39.4 percent shooting over the past two seasons at Michigan.
But Wagner must be elite from distance, because the rest of his skill set underwhelms. He took a step forward as a rebounder and still corralled just 7.1 per game. He never averaged one assist. He’s exploitable at every level on defense.
That is a bunch of warts—probably too many to justify a first-round pick, especially with the talent still available.
Bonga is a potential point-forward and draft-and-stash candidate. Mykhailiuk could help with L.A.’s shooting deficiencies, but only if he proves capable of defending at this level.
All in all, it appears the general consensus is that the Lakers landed a contributor in the second round in Mykhailiuk, one of the better draft-and-stash candidates in Bonga and potentially reached for Wagner in round one.
But given the recent string of success from the scouting department, it’s fair to give the team the benefit of the doubt.