The Los Angeles Lakers have earned a reputation as one of the better drafting teams in the NBA, particularly due to their proficiency at drafting players who stick in the league late in each draft. They have already had such success with the likes of Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart.
This year, the team made a trade to get an extra second round pick and with their lottery pick headed to Philadelphia, all three of its selections occurred from late in the first round onward.
Fans and draft analysts remain unsure about this Lakers draft class with Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk all coming into the league with potential but noticeable limitations. Summer League did a lot to qualm some of this suspicions, however, especially as it pertained to Mykhailiuk who, apart from the sophomore Hart, was the star of the show in Las Vegas.
As it turns out, the Lakers were pretty high on Mykhailiuk despite his pedestrian draft slot. The team drafted the 21-year-old with the 47th overall pick but according to Lakers Director of Scouting and Assistant General Manager Jesse Buss, they were not sure he would last that long (via Lakers.com’s Mike Trudell):
Terrified. We felt like he was basically a first round talent. We were surprised he was there at 39, and much more surprised he was there at 47.
Buss had plenty more to say about the Kansas product:
He’s always been a favorite of my department for the past several years. He really came on our radar when he participated in the Hoops Summit four years ago. Then he went to Kansas, a big-time program, and we watched his growth. He didn’t play a big role his first two seasons at Kansas, but in his junior year, he started and was a big part of that team. He tested the Draft waters – we interviewed him – and we told him he could probably get drafted as a shooter, but he hadn’t had a chance to expand and show all the nuances of his game. I felt like when he came back for his senior year he exploded onto the scene. He was a more confident player. He put on about 10 or 15 pounds of muscle, which was completely noticeable between the interviews at the Combine. He’s a guy that’s always been one of the best shooters in college basketball and one of the top shooters in this Draft. We definitely think he had more to his game than just being a sharpshooter, and he showed that at Kansas last year. He’s underrated as an athlete. He has great size for his position. He’s underrated as a defender. One thing people don’t talk about is his assist numbers were the biggest jump for him from his junior to senior year. His playmaking ability really improved. We felt there’s a player with more room to grow given his age*, and it’s not very often you come across a prospect like that.
It begs the question why the Lakers did not snatch Mykhailiuk up with the 39th overall pick but perhaps they felt strongly about Bonga’s potential despite his raw talent.
Svi is already a fan favorite due to his play in Vegas but it sure seems like he’s one of the organization’s favorite new pieces as well.