Surprisingly, even successful teams such as the Lakers made mistakes that harmed their success, potentially costing them titles. Despite their 17 championships, the Lakers experienced losses as a result of personnel and front-office decisions.
It’s important to remember that these choices seemed good initially, but they didn’t work out for the team in the end.
Worst draft mistakes in Lakers history
1970 NBA Draft
Los Angeles Lakers Selected: Jim McMillian, 13th Overall Pick
Better Available Pick: Tiny Archibald (19th Overall Pick)
Back in 1969-70, the Lakers chose Jim McMillian, a good small forward. He played well and won a championship, but they traded him for Elmore Smith. They could have picked Tiny Archibald, who became a star and won championships with the Celtics. It turned out okay for both teams, but Archibald could have been great for the Lakers.
1976 NBA Draft
Los Angeles Lakers Selected: Earl Tatum, 21st Overall Pick
Better Available Pick: Alex English (23rd Overall Pick)
Before the 1976 season, the Lakers chose Earl Tatum, but he didn’t perform well and was traded. They could have picked Alex English, who was a scoring star. The Lakers still became champions later, but English could have made them even stronger sooner.
1977 NBA Draft
Los Angeles Lakers Selected: Kenny Carr, 6th Overall Pick
Better Available Pick: Bernard King (7th Overall Pick)
After missing out on Alex English, the Lakers chose Kenny Carr, who disappointed them. They passed on Bernard King, who became a prolific scorer and star. King could have been a Lakers legend but found success elsewhere as one of the best small forwards in NBA history.
2015 NBA Draft
Los Angeles Lakers Selected: D’Angelo Russell, 2nd Overall Pick
Better Available Pick: Devin Booker (13th Overall Pick)
The Lakers missed out on Devin Booker in the 2015 draft. They chose D’Angelo Russell instead, who was good but not as great as Booker, a top shooting guard. Booker became a star and a consistent scorer, while Russell didn’t reach the same level.
2017 NBA Draft
Los Angeles Lakers Selected: Lonzo Ball, 2nd Overall Pick
Better Available Pick: Jayson Tatum (3rd Overall Pick)
The Lakers chose Lonzo Ball over Jayson Tatum in the draft. Ball struggled and dealt with injuries, while Tatum became a star for the Celtics with MVP potential. Tatum and LeBron James could have been an incredible duo for the Lakers.
Worst trades in Lakers history
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Spencer Haywood
Utah Jazz Receive: Adrian Dantley
The Lakers made a bad trade, losing Adrian Dantley who became a star, and getting Spencer Haywood, who didn’t contribute much due to substance abuse issues. However, they recovered and won four more NBA titles by 1988.
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Tony Battie, Tyronn Lue
Denver Nuggets Receive: Nick Van Exel
The Lakers traded Nick Van Exel, who was a spark for the team, for little in return. They still won three NBA championships, but Van Exel became a 20.0 PPG scorer in Denver, making the trade seem unnecessary.
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, 2006 First-Round Draft Pick, 2007 Second-Round Draft Pick
Miami Heat Receive: Shaquille O’Neal
The Lakers traded Shaquille O’Neal to Miami for three role players and draft picks. Shaq won another championship, while the Lakers struggled. The return was decent with Caron Butler and Lamar Odom, but they could have gotten more for a player like Shaq.
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Kwame Brown, Laron Profit
Washington Wizards Receive: Caron Butler, Chucky Atkins
The Lakers traded Caron Butler for Kwame Brown, which didn’t work out well. Butler became an All-Star and consistent scorer, while Brown struggled in his time with the Lakers. However, the Lakers later traded Brown for Pau Gasol, which turned out to be a good move.
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Dwight Howard, Earl Clark, Chris Duhon
The Orlando Magic Receive: Aaron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Christian Eyenga, Josh McRoberts, Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless, 2013 Second-Round Draft Pick, 2014 First-Round Draft Pick, 2017 Second-Round Draft Pick, 2018 First-Round Draft Pick
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson
Denver Nuggets Receive: Andre Iguodala
The Lakers traded for Dwight Howard, a top player, but it turned into a disaster. He struggled with injuries and clashed with Kobe Bryant. The team made the playoffs but didn’t succeed, and Howard left after one year. It was one of the worst failed superteams in NBA history.
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Russell Westbrook, 2023 Second-Round Draft Pick, 2024 Second-Round Draft Pick, 2028 Second-Round Draft Pick
Washington Wizards Receive: Spencer Dinwiddie, Aaron Holiday, Isaiah Todd, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, 2021 First-Round Pick
Indiana Pacers Receive: Isaiah Jackson
Brooklyn Nets Receive: Nikola Milutinov, 2024 Second-Round Draft Pick, 2025 Second-Round Draft Pick
San Antonio Spurs Receive: Chandler Hutchison, 2022 Second-Round Draft Pick
The Lakers traded for Russell Westbrook in 2021 to form a superteam with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. However, the fit didn’t work, and they faced issues and criticism. Eventually, Westbrook was traded, and the Lakers found success without him, reaching the Conference Finals in 2023.