10 best draft picks in Lakers history, ranked

Mary Raleigh
15/09/2023

From Brandon Ingram to Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson, let’s count down the Lakers’ 10 best draft picks of all-time.Lakers: 10 greatest players in franchise history, ranked

The Los Angeles Lakers are the most historic franchise in all the NBA. One could make arguments for the Boston Celtics or Chicago Bulls, but no franchise has enjoyed as much sustained success as the Lakers. Dating back to the league’s onset in the 1940s, there have been only two decades in which Los Angeles failed to win a championship: The 1960s and 1990s. The Lakers even made at least one NBA Finals appearance during those timeframes, too.

Los Angeles’ success has been driven by some of the greatest players in history suiting up for the purple and gold. Many of those legends have been acquired via trade or free agency, such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But the Lakers have a great track record drafting players as well.10 Greatest Players in Los Angeles Lakers Franchise History

Almost all of the franchise’s top picks have already been inducted to the Hall of Fame, will be in the future or boast a legitimate case for Springfield. The standard is high with everyone involving Los Angeles—and that includes cracking the list of of its top-10 draft picks.

This countdown will include players whose rights the Lakers acquired on draft night. You’ll find out way later on. Without further ado, let’s commence with a ranking of the Lakers’ 10 best draft picks in franchise history.

10. Brandon Ingram (No. 2 overall, 2016)Duke's Brandon Ingram Taken At #2 By The Los Angeles Lakers In 2016 NBA  Draft - Duke Basketball Report

The Lakers have a long, extensive history of drafting very well, including over the last decade. From 2014 on, they have nailed just about every single draft pick they’ve had or acquired, including Ingram at No. 2 overall in 2016.

Ingram showed flashes of the All-Star he grew into with the New Orleans Pelicans while in Los Angeles. But after the Lakers signed James as a free agent in the summer of 2018, their priorities shifted from continuing to build around a talented, plucky young core to pushing their chips all-in for another championship. They just did just that when they traded Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and multiple first-round picks to New Orleans in exchange for Davis.Report: Lakers will sign No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram on Tuesday - NBC Sports

The trade worked for all parties involved. Davis wanted out, he got where he wanted to go and helped the Lakers win a title. The Pelicans got a ton of young players and picks to accelerate their rebuild, and Ingram eventually developed into an All-Star, saving some of his best moments for the brightest stages.

Against the heavily favored Phoenix Suns in the 2022 playoffs, Ingram averaged 27 points, six rebounds and six assists on solid 52.1% effective field goal percentage, nearly leading New Orleans to an upset.

Still just 26, Ingram has the potential to climb this list.

9. Eddie Jones (No. 10 overall, 1994)

Eddie Jones Trading Cards: Values, Tracking & Hot Deals | Cardbase

One of the most underrated players of his era, Jones was cold. He’s one of those players whose varied offensive prowess and unique athleticism would’ve fit this current NBA era perfectly.

Jones only averaged more than 20 points per game in just one of his 14 seasons, but he averaged at least 16.9 points in seven of eight seasons starting beginning in 1996-97. He was a very solid shooter, hitting 37.3% from deep for his career on 4.3 attempts per game—high volume at the time. He also could rattle the rim, unafraid to try to put anyone on a poster.

Jones racked up plenty of accolades, too. He earned Third Team All-NBA honors with the Hornets in 2000, also being named to three All-Defense Teams and playing in three All-Star Games, two with the Lakers. Was Jones a great player? Probably not. But he was undoubtedly a really, really good one.Eddie Jones Feature - A Basketball Jones - BasketballBuzz

8. Marc Gasol (No. 48 overall, second round, 2007)

Gasol’s one year as a Laker didn’t go very smoothly. He played well after joining the team in 2020-21, but outside noise got to him and the organization. Thinking they needed a more athletic big alongside Anthony Davis, the Lakers signed Andre Drummond after he was bought out and gave him Gasol’s starting spot even though the Spanish star was the better fit and overall player. It was a shame.Marc Gasol is the third-most important player on the Lakers - Silver Screen  and Roll

But Gasol didn’t make his hay as a Laker. He rose to prominence with the Memphis Grizzlies, playing in three All-Star Games, making two All-NBA teams and winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. Gasol also won a championship in 2018-2019 with the Toronto Raptors following a midseason trade from Memphis. Gasol had a great career, one that should net him a spot in the Hall of Fame.

Gasol initially left the Lakers shortly after he was drafted in 2007, when he was part of the package sent to Memphis in exchange for his brother, Pau Gasol. That move helped the Lakers win two more championships. Pau just entered the Hall of Fame and his jersey number hangs in the rafters of Crypto.com Arena (bring back the Staples Center, please). That’s enough to get Gasol up to eighth on this list.

7. Michael Cooper (No. 60 overall, third round, 1978)

The year before the Lakers drafted Magic Johnson, they snagged a shooting guard from the University of New Mexico in the third round with the 60th overall pick of the 1978 NBA Draft. That was Cooper, who grew to become Johnson’s right-hand man and backcourt partner. Coop wasn’t much of a scorer; there were only two seasons in his career where he averaged more than 10 points per game.All-time Lakers Top 20 Greatest Lakers Of All-Time: No. 18, Michael Cooper

But the Lakers didn’t need him to do that, and neither did he. Where Cooper excelled was defense and spreading the floor. “Coop” shot about 35.7% from three during his career, making him a relative marksman in the 1980s. He made eight All-Defense teams, even winning Defensive Player of the Year in 1987.

Cooper was a big part of a dynasty that won five championships. He definitely deserves a spot in this top-10.

6. Gail Goodrich (territorial pick, 1965)

Goodrich played 14 seasons in the NBA. He averaged at least 20 points per game in six of those seasons and had another season where he averaged 19.5 points per game. Goodrich was a five-time All-Star. He made an All-NBA team in 1974. He won a championship with Los Angeles in 1972. He’s in the Hall of Fame.Gail Goodrich - NBA Legends | NBA Blast

For just about any other franchise, Goodrich would surely sit in the top-five on its ranking of all-time draft picks. He’s sixth on the Lakers’ storied list, though—not too shabby.

5. James Worthy (No. 1 overall, 1982)

Spoiler alert for anyone watching Winning Time on HBO right now: The Lakers won the championship in 1982. They also got the No. 1 pick in the 1982 draft. What? Yes, it happened thanks to a trade made in 1979 when Los Angeles sent Don Ford to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for a 1982 first-rounder. The Cavs finished with the worst record in the NBA that season, giving the Lakers the opportunity to select Worthy with the top pick in the draft.How did the Lakers get James Worthy? Exploring how the Lakers drafted him  in 1982

Worthy was an All-Star seven times and All-NBA selection twice across his 12 NBA seasons. He won three championships with Johnson, Cooper and company, also taking home Finals MVP honors in 1988. Worthy averaged over 21 points per game for his career in the postseason, earning the moniker “Big Game James.” He was elected to the Hall of Fame and honored as one of the NBA’s 75 greatest players ever in 2021.

Worthy is a Lakers legend. It’s frustrating he can’t rank any higher than fifth here, but such is life with Los Angeles.

4. Elgin Baylor (No. 1 overall, 1958)

Before there was LeBron James, there was Kobe Bryant. Before Kobe, there was Michael Jordan. Before MJ, there was Julius Erving. Before Dr. J, there was Elgin Baylor.Elgin Baylor, Lakers legend and former Clippers executive, dies at 86 - Los  Angeles Times

Baylor’s numbers make no sense. The guy averaged 27.4 points per game and 13.5 rebounds per game for his career as a 6-5 wing. He had some truly jaw-dropping seasons, too. Baylor played 14 seasons in the NBA. He was an All-Star in 11 of them, making First Team All-NBA 10 times.

Technically, he did win an NBA championship after he played nine games for the 1971-72 Lakers title team, but he retired just nine games into that season. Immediately after Baylor hung it up, the Lakers won 32 consecutive games, a mark that remains an NBA record. Baylor still received a championship, though, one he truly deserved.

For just about any other franchise, he’d be their undisputed best player ever. He was that good.

3. Jerry West (No. 2 overall, 1960)

Jerry West is another all-time great. Baylor’s teammate was a truly phenomenal scorer and creator for others.

This Day In Lakers History: Jerry West Caps Off 1969-70 Season With NBA  Scoring Title

For his career, West averaged 27 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game on a 55% true shooting,. To put that in context, Luka Doncic put together a season averaging 27.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, and eight assists per game with a 58.7% true shooting percentage in the 2020-21 season. Jerry West was doing that in the 1960s without the aid of the three-point shot. He was a modern guard playing in the NBA 60 years ago.

West’s spot in Lakers lore sometimes gets overlooked due to how long ago he played. The two players in front of him on this list help dim West’s star, too. That’s natural.Jerry West - Wikipedia

But West was incredible. He played played 14 seasons, making 14 All-Star Games. He was named All-NBA 12 times, earning 10 First Team selections. He’s still the only player ever to win Finals MVP when his team lost the NBA Finals. Sure, he did go 1-9 in the NBA Finals, but West at least got one championship. Hewon eight rings as an executive with the Lakers, too, and he’s the logo of the NBA.

West is one of the top-25 players in NBA history. He deserves much more love, even if he can’t crack the top-two.

2. Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson (No. 1 overall, 1979)

Johnson is probably number one on most lists of the greatest Lakers ever. He played 13 seasons in the NBA after the Lakers selected him number one overall in 1979, kickstarting their eventual dynasty.

Johnson made First Team All-NBA nine times, all consecutively from 1983 to 1991. He was Second Team All-NBA in 1982, and could’ve had a couple more First Team selections if he wasn’t forced to retire after a positive HIV diagnosis early in 1991-92. Other than his brief comeback campaign in  1995-96, the only other year Johnson wasn’t named to an All-NBA team was his rookie season. But he won a championship and Finals MVP that year, so it still works out.Mr. Showtime: The Legend of Earvin 'Magic' Johnson's Jerseys

Johnson won five championships and was named Finals MVP three times. He won as many regular season MVPs, tied for the fourth-most ever. Despite Stephen Curry’s push for the distinction, it’s Johnson who still holds the torch as basketball’s greatest point guard.

Johnson is one of the five best players to ever pick up a basketball. Nothing more needs to be said.

1. Kobe Bryant (No. 13 overall, 1996)

Despite some contentions otherwise, so is this.

Bryant was acquired in a draft day trade with the Charlotte Hornets in 1996. The Lakers sent out Vlade Divac in return for the No. 13 overall pick, which the Hornets used to select Bryant for the purple and gold.

Kobe Bryant's Predraft Workout Has Become Stuff of Lakers, and NBA, Legend  | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors | Bleacher ReportThe case for Bryant to be the greatest Laker ever and greatest Laker draft pick ever is mostly one of longevity. Johnson’s peak was greater, but Bryant played more seasons, notching 20 to Johnson’s 13. Granted, some of those seasons were marred by injury, but Bryant played 440 more regular season games and 15,340 more regular season minutes than Johnson. And Bryant’s accolades are just as sparkling.

Like Magic, Kobe won five titles. Fifteen of his 20 seasons saw him named to an All-NBA team, only missing on the honor his first two years and after tearing his Achilles in 2013. He was named to an All-Defensive team in 12 of his 20 seasons. He has two finals MVPs and won five total championships with two totally different teams. He helped revitalize Team USA with gold medals in 2008 and 2012 after they won bronze in 2004. He is a cultural and generational icon, just like Magic.Kobe Bryant's NBA career in records as LA Lakers star announces his  retirement - BBC News

Whether Bryant or Johnson is at the top of this list or any other counting down the greatest Lakers ever, who cares? It’s a toss-up. Both are top-five players of all-time. Longevity broke this tie in Bryant’s favor, however.

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