The Los Angeles Lakers will have one of the top picks in the 2014 NBA Draft. As the organization examines this year’s class, one prospect has his own sights set on L.A.
Dante Exum is rated by most experts as one of the top players in the draft. While he can’t control which team drafts him, the guard hasn’t been shy about sharing where he hopes to land. Exum has made it known that his preferable destination is with the Lakers.
There’s a decent chance Exum will get his wish. The Australian basketball player can play both guard positions, though he could particularly help out the Lakers at point guard. Steve Nash has been a disappointment, and Los Angeles hasn’t had an All-Star point guard in 16 years. With seven games left, the Lakers have the No.6 seed in the lottery, which puts them right around where the 18-year-old is projected to be drafted. Pairing Exum in the backcourt with Kobe Bryant could be the Lakers’ best option.
Even if the Lakers get an unlucky draw in the lottery and fall to the middle of the first round, they still might be able to land the highly touted young star. According to one NBA general manager, Exum's comments have some concerned about his willingness to play for another team.
“When you hear some of what he says, it does make you wonder how the process is going to go as far as workouts and that sort of thing,” a GM told Sporting News in February. “We have seen this story before, of course. I am not sure a player can have that kind of control, though.”
As the draft approaches, Exum hasn’t declared that he would only play for the Lakers. However, it’s not unheard of for prospects to demand a trade, even before the start of their rookie season.
In 1999, the then-Vancouver Grizzlies were forced to trade No.2 overall pick Steve Francis, who didn’t want to start his career with the franchise. Ricky Rubio was drafted fifth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2009, but played two more years in Spain, as he was reportedly uninterested in playing for the club.
The Lakers were involved in a similar situation in 1996. The then-New Jersey Nets passed on Bryant, who told the origination that he didn’t want to play for them. L.A. acquired the future Hall of Famer in a trade with the Charlotte Hornets, who took Bryant at No.13.
Despite Exum’s love for Los Angeles, there are teams that won’t be afraid to draft him. Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated reports that two executives from lottery teams have said they’d take Exum, regardless of what he says about the Lakers.
L.A. will be looking at other top prospects. If they land a top three pick, the odds of Exum joining the Lakers would decrease significantly. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid have separated themselves from the rest of the class. If Los Angeles has a chance to take any of them, they aren’t likely to pass up the opportunity.