In recent years, the Los Angeles Lakers have proven to be quite adept at finding talented players late in the NBA Draft. While they are still searching for a true superstar, players such Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Ivica Zubac, Josh Hart, and Kyle Kuzma were all added with late picks and helped the rebuilding process in one way or another.
One thing that all of these players have in common, with the exception of Zubac, is that they were at the older end of the spectrum of draft prospects when they were draft. That generally flies in the face of conventional wisdom.
Many teams prefer to select younger players, particularly with high selections, based on the idea that their upside will be higher as a result. But Lakers assistant general manager and scouting director Jesse Buss explained to Mike Trudell that younger doesn’t necessarily mean better:
“A lot of times, I believe fans of basketball get infatuated with younger players, typically freshman that are 18 or 19. ‘Upside’ is the big word. How much better can this guy get? And it’s a fair argument, because a lot of times, you’re not looking at a guy who’s really perfected his craft or has really developed. In terms of juniors like Kuzma and seniors like Josh, they’re a little more polished and you know what you’re getting usually, but at the same time, there has been a lot of growth over the year with teams who have drafted juniors and seniors that have gotten better. I think Golden State proved that. These guys weren’t just finished (developing) once they were drafted and that’s as good as they were going to get. Clearly, a lot of those guys got a lot better. You’ve seen it with a lot of teams who have drafted guys that are upperclassmen and had success with them. And for Josh and Kyle to come in right away and show what they did, it’s a sign of encouragement.”
Buss added that selecting an older player doesn’t necessarily mean that their ceiling is lower, which certainly holds true for a versatile player like Kuzma.
By selecting college juniors and seniors, the Lakers have managed to find players who were better prepared to contribute immediately. The bottom line is that a player’s own drive and work ethic will go a long way towards determining how successful they are in the league.
It’s the desire to get better each and every day that truly matters, so while age is certainly a factor, it’s far from the only thing to consider when searching for talent in the draft.
The Lakers have the 25th and 47th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft, giving Buss and his scouting department an opportunity to once again find a diamond in the rough.
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