As one of the most successful teams in NBA history, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves at the back half of the draft more often than not. Still, the Lakers have found ways to draft strong talent with the picks they are given throughout the years. Between every Lakers news bit, honestly, you can find a Lakers NBA Draft steal.
The NBA Draft is a mixed bag for most teams and the Lakers are no exception. However, that doesn’t mean they haven’t found their fair share of draft steals. I will not be including players that were traded to Los Angeles on draft night so Kobe Bryant will not be on this list as he was technically drafted by the Charlotte Hornets.
5. Derek Fisher
Fisher never put up All-Star numbers in 18 NBA seasons but his importance to the late 90s and 2000s cannot go unnoticed.
The 24th pick of the 1996 NBA Draft out of small-school Arkansas Little-Rock, Fisher served as the Lakers starting point guard alongside Kobe Bryant for five of the Lakers championships. He put up modest stats of 7.9 points and 2.9 assists per game in his career with the team but his leadership and pension for making big shots far outpace his late-first-round draft position.
4. Nick Van Exel
Any time you can draft an All-Star with the 37th pick of the draft, you know you’re doing something right. That was the case with Cincinnati point guard Nick Van Exel who the Lakers drafted in the second round in 1993. It didn’t make Lakers news at the time, but it turned out to be a huge deal.
Van Exel only played five seasons for Los Angeles before being shipped off to Denver but in those five seasons, the 6-foot-1 guard averaged 14.9 points, 7.3 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game while shooting 36.4 percent from deep and making the All-Star Game in 1998.
3. A.C. Green
Much like Fisher, Green didn’t put up gaudy numbers throughout his career. However, the 23rd pick of 1985 draft was an integral part of three Laker championships and was a consistent force in the frontcourt.
Green has one All-Star appearance and one All-NBA Defensive Team selection to his name but perhaps his greatest accomplishment is missing only three games throughout his 16 year NBA career, he only missed three total (out of 1,281) games. Only nine of those 16 seasons were with the Lakers but it’s impressive nonetheless.
2. Clyde Lovellette
A possible unknown for Lakers fans today, Lovellette was the ninth overall pick for the Minneapolis Lakers in the 1952 draft. Today, the ninth pick may not seem like a draft steal but when you consider the number of teams in the league at the time, Lovellette being the last pick of the first round changes the perspective a bit.
A big 6-foot-9 center out of the University of Kansas, Lovellette only played four seasons with the Lakers. However, in his last two seasons in particular, he was a legitimate star averaging over 20 points and 13 rebounds per game in both seasons.
1. Michael Cooper
One of the best defensive players of the 80s was selected by Los Angeles in the third round (60th overall) back in 1978. The perfect sixth man for the Showtime Lakers, Green won five championships with LA, was named to the All-Defensive Team eight times and was named league Defensive Player of the year in 1987.
The 6-foot-5 shooting guard played all 12 of his NBA seasons with the Lakers and despite modest scoring numbers, is the biggest draft steal in team history. Now put that in your Lakers news and smoke it.