The Los Angeles Lakers were the big winners of Tuesday night’s NBA Draft lottery.

Yes, the New Orleans Pelicans came away with the No. 1 overall pick and the chance to select Duke phenom Zion Williamson in June’s NBA Draft. But the Lakers should be counting their lucky stars that it wasn’t them.

Los Angeles did move up to No. 4 in the draft, which was a nice plus. But the fact that they didn’t have the circus that will be Zion’s rookie season coupled with the circus that is everything that surrounds LeBron James is a good thing for the Lakers.

Throw in the fact that New Orleans will now be motivated to keep Anthony Davis, the player that the Lakers almost blew up their entire team for at the trade deadline last season, and there could actually be some stability in Lakerland come training camp.

Lots Of Potential

People seem to forget how good the Lakers were looking last season before injuries hit. Anyone remember Christmas Day, when the Lakers went up to Oakland to face that juggernaut we’re now seeing in the Warriors? They were supposed to get blown out, right?

Instead, they took it to Golden State from the start, winning 127-101 despite losing James in the third quarter to a groin injury. The Lakers were healthy going into that contest, and they showed all their potential in taking it to the two-time defending champions.

Unfortunately, that was the last time the Lakers would be fully healthy all season. James missed 17 games, and in the interim, Lonzo Ball went down with an ankle injury that kept him out the rest of the season. The game that Ball was injured in was another example of how good the Lakers can be, as they fell in overtime to the Rockets at Houston, 138-134, despite not having James for the entire game and Ball for most of it.

After the win over the Warriors, the Lakers were 20-14, just 2.5 games behind Golden State in the Pacific Division. They ended up going 17-31 the rest of the way after injuries derailed them.

Having Ball back healthy will only help James in that he won’t have to handle the ball as much. Throw in Brandon Ingram’s growing confidence to be a scorer and playmaker, and James may not have to work as hard as he has in the past.

The Lakers were ready to give up on their young core of Ball, Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart. But just adding a couple of pieces to that group could put the Lakers right back into contention.

Summer Moves

The first move for the Lakers this offseason? Talk to former Laker Mychal Thompson about whether his son would like to play in LA. Klay Thompson would be a perfect fit for Los Angeles. The Lakers need a consistent shooter to draw attention from James and others when they drive to the basket.
Throw in Thompson’s ability to defend, and he should be the No. 1 target for Jeannie Buss, Rob Pelinka and whoever else is running this team.

Going after big-name free agents is nice, but getting players that fit what you have is better. Would Kawhi Leonard thrive in the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles? Hard to say. Would Jimmy Butler fit well with James and the younger Lakers? Very hard to say.

But getting another attention-grabbing player that may or may not fit in what your team is doing isn’t going to help make this team better. Just as trading away all your young, developing players for Anthony Davis isn’t either.

The Lakers need to focus on what they have and adding to it. Whether that’s finding a consistent shooter with the No. 4 pick (or trading out of that slot to get in better position to find a young shooter). Or getting one of the best shooters in the game in Thompson. Or just finding some more role players that can be consistent in their contributions.

Forget matching the star power of Golden State. Because when it comes down to it, the Warriors players weren’t stars until they actually did it in on the court. Los Angeles needs to focus on building a franchise that will be in it for the long haul, not just the three years LeBron has left on his contract.