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When I first took over this draft in 1992, Gidi Avrahami (an old r.s.bb'er) was the co-Commissioner.  Gidi returns as a GM this time for the former three-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and selects.

Kendrick Perkins, C, 6'10", Ozen HS (Beaumont TX)

 Los Angeles Lakers 2003 Draft Report

Gidi Avrahami

<gidi AT alumni DOT stanford DOT org>


The Pick: with the 24th pick of the 2003 draft, the Los Angeles Lakers select… Kendrick Perkins, a high-school player from Texas.  He’s listed as 6-10, 290 and I predict that he will prove to be the next Amare Stoudamire.  Or your money back.


At A Glance:

The Los Angeles Lakers are at an interesting crossroads this off-season, and GM Mitch Kupchak will get a chance to finally earn his stripes—or else.

Before this season it was the magic of 3:  three years, the big three (Phil Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant), the three vertices of the triangle offense, a few big three-pointers by Robert Horry and three consecutive championships.  The Lakers won with power, with style and with luck.  But this season they didn’t have enough of these, and they will need to go through some serious retooling.  Obviously, 27 teams in the NBA are still looking up to the Lakers with envy, but going one more year without a championship will be considered a failure.


Roster Analysis:



Shaquille O'Neal   23.6            3 

Kobe Bryant        12.4            1 (p)

Robert Horry        5.3            0 (t)

Devean George       4.5            2 (p)

Rick Fox            3.9            2

Tracy Murray        3.7            0

Derek Fisher        3.0            3

Samaki Walker       1.5            0

Slava Medvedenko    1.4            1

Brian Shaw          1.0            0

Kareem Rush         1.0            2 (t)

Mark Madsen         0.8            1 (t)

Jannero Pargo       0.3            1


(p) Player option (t) Team option



Center: Shaquille O’Neal (27.5ppg, 11.1rpg, 2.4bpg, 57%FG, career best 62% FT) is the correctly self-described Most Dominant Ever; but this season he just wasn’t all there. With a very-late-summer toe operation, being overweight and a few personal dramas, his dominance was limited and the team was out of balance all year.  Undoubtedly he has 3-5 more years at the highest level, but he has to start taking his off-seasons a bit more seriously.  (When you’re making about 2 million a month, your August should be just as serious as April).

The Lakers haven’t had a real backup C since Elden Campbell in 1999.  They started this season with a “street free agent,” Soumaila Samake, but he was quickly back on the street.  A good PF (see below) who can play 10-15 minutes at C is one of their biggest priorities.


Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant’s season stats (30ppg, 6.9rpg, 5.9apg, 38% 3PT – all career bests) don’t even tell the whole story.  When he was asked to enable his teammates, he got triple-doubles;  when the team lacked scoring, he went on a crazed February binge, scoring 40+ on a nightly basis.  In between he set a few single-game records for 3-point shooting.  And did I mention spectacular dunks?  He must be the best player ever who was not the main player on his own team (if you catch my drift).  But now the Lakers must worry  that  Kobe has only one year left on his contract before he can opt out.  It seems unlikely that he’ll go elsewhere, but he may need to be convinced that there are a few more championships for him with this team in the near future.  

The other SG’s on this team are on opposite sides of the age spectrum: 15-year veteran Brian Shaw (12.7mpg, 17.9 in the playoffs) has been a stabilizing influence, and occasional 3-pt sharpshooter, during the championships – but he may have played his last for the Lakers. Rookie Kareem Rush (11.5mpg, 7.1 playoffs) received some play time, which is surprising for coach Jackson, but he has yet to really establish himself.  Still, a pure SG is a low priority for this off-season.


Small Forward: Wiley veteran Rick Fox (9.0ppg, 4.2rpg) has had a bad year: it started with a suspension and ended with a foot injury during the first round of the playoff, which may sideline him deep into next season.  The heir apparent for this position is Devean George (6.9ppg, 4.0rpg),  who signed a rather big contract last summer but has failed to live up to expectations; this can be partly blamed on injuries at the start and end of the season, but excuses don’t make rings.  The scuttlebutt is that Scottie Pippen may be brought in now that he’s a free agent from Portland, but Paul Allen, the Blazers owner, could thwart that move with his big fat checkbook.  Plus, Pippen is 37 years old – quite older than Fox.  If anything, expect Kobe Bryant to log more minutes at this position.

Perhaps I should also mention 13th man Tracy Murray (6.4mpg, 2.0ppg), but he wasn’t even on the playoff roster, is a free agent, and is gone like a train.


Point Guard: everybody loves Derek Fisher (10.5ppg, 3.6apg, 40% 3PT).  We love his grittiness, his crucial three pointers, how he hits the floor and takes charges.  We also love to hate him: his slowness, his inability to guard playoff-caliber NBA guards, and his limited offensive arsenal.  That Fisher is even on the roster, let alone starting, is a bit of a miracle (or, if you wish, proof of talent-poverty).  I mean, in Phil Jackson’s system he usually prefers to play two SG’s rather than a “traditional” PG – with players like Ron Harper and Brian Shaw along side the Jordan/Kobe “lead” guard.  Instead, we have Fisher and rookie Jannero Pargo (11.7mpg, 2.1ppg), another unlikely man on the roster. As a result Fisher looks like prime candidate to be packaged in a trade.

The Los Angeles Times claims that free agent Gary Payton is a serious possibility, and also mentions former Laker Tyrone Lue, who spent the last two years in Washington and is now a FA again.  Fact or fiction, this is definitely a position that needs upgrading.


Power Forward: and now we hit the lower depths of Lakerdom. Over the last three years the Lakers PF position had gone from veteran stalwarts Horace Grant and A.C. Green to Samake Walker and then to Mark Madsen and Slava Medvedenko. The lack of quality at this position is made worse by the complete absence of a backup center, and is in stark contrast to the other Western Conference 4’s – Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber, Rasheed Wallace, Karl Malone, Elton Brand  Aye carramba!

Nominal backup Robert Horry (29.3mpg, 6.5ppg, 6.4rpg) was a cornerstone of the 3 championship teams, but has really deteriorated this year.  Always known for a “sleepy” disposition who nevertheless woke up in the playoffs to play smart (if not physical) defense and hit big, huge and humongous 3’s, Horry simply didn’t deliver this time; the open 3 that he missed at the end of game 5 in San Antonio summed up the end of both his and the team’s magical ride.  The Lakers will likely not pick up the option on Horry’s contract, making him a free agent – who just might come back at a reduced salary and role.

Also entering free agency will be Walker and Madsen.  Samake Walker (4.4ppg, 4.5rpg) lost his starting position this year and then fell out of the rotation, so he must be considered a bust.  By the way, did you know that he was the 9th pick in the 1996 draft?  Yes, that’s four spots ahead of Kobe.

Mark Madsen (3.2ppg, 2.9rpg) may yet come back but he simply doesn’t have the size or talent to even be a 7th or 8th man on this team – nor should he get that kind of money.  As you may guess from my email address, Madsen is dear to my heart, but common sense says he should be playing in the Spanish League next year.

And then there’s Stanislav “Slava” Medvedenko (4.4ppg  2.4rpg), who has two D’s in his name and none in his game.  He is still signed for one more year, but it’s beginning to look doubtful that he’ll ever develop into a serious NBA player.   Do you think there’s a team out there who’d trade a second-round pick in 2008 for Slava’s jump shot?

In a unique convergence, this summer will see quite a few decent power forwards hitting the free agent market, from Tim Duncan (as if) to Karl Malone,  P.J. Brown,  Elton Brand,  Juwan Howard,  Keon Clark, Tyrone Hill and even Derrick Coleman.  But they will all take a lot of money, which owner Jerry Buss has been reluctant to spend these last few years (more on that below). 

Make no mistake, the FA PF that the Lakers sign this off-season will be crucial for the next few seasons, and maybe the rest of the decade: a successful choice could put us back in multi-championship mode, but a bad one could lead to a quick disintegration, long-term salary-cap hell, and worst of all, the early retirement of O’Neal and/or defection of Bryant.

Coach: Phil Jackson (9 championships) has one more year left on his contract and, in spite of two scary medical episodes – or maybe thanks to the angioplasty – seems to feel good about himself and intends to come back.  Whether he stays beyond 2004 may depend on the roster and the opportunities to win soon, as Jackson famously prefers to win championships rather than to push a mediocre team into the second round of the playoffs.  Triangle guru Tex Winter is in his eighties but apparently still enjoys a bit of coaching, though not the travel.  Jim Cleamons has deputized quite ably for Jackson during the medical absences and is not in a hurry to take any open head coaching jobs (he’s had all he could stomach with Dallas 7 years ago) so he will be a leading candidate to take over if and when PJ steps down.  Kurt Rambis has had a disastrous spell as head coach in ’99 but it doesn’t look like there’s any leftover bad vibe from that era between him and Shaq and Kobe. 

The point I’m trying to make is that between Cleamons, Rambis and Frank Hamblen, there shouldn’t be a problem with coaching continuity even if Jackson retires after the next season.


Front office and GM: Owner Jerry Buss used to throw money, judiciously, in order to win championships.  But lately he has preached “fiscal responsibility” and refused to compete with funny-money owners like Allen and Dallas’ Marc Cuban.  So over the last three years the Lakers avoided expensive signings, or even semi-expensive ones.  For example, they didn’t even bid for Jimmy Jackson, who did very well in Sacramento and fits the “big versatile guard” mold that Phil Jackson favors.  As a result there’s not much data on which to judge GM Mitch Kupchak.  I mean, you stand pat for two off-seasons, and the team wins one championship.  Does that make you good or bad?

According to some LA publications, Buss will agree to spend some money this time around, and as I mentioned, the Lakers are likely to pursue some of the solid veteran free agents out there.  They will also need to think hard about re-signing some of their own, and to strategize about the future of Jackson, Bryant and Shaq.


Draft history:


1989: #26. Vlade Divac — a brilliant pick, at a time when good euros were uncommon.

1990: #27. Elden Campbell — lethargic but effective starter for 6-7 years, still playing.

1990: #51. Tony Smith — marginal player but did play a few seasons.

1991: #52. Anthony Jones — didn't catch on.

1992: #15. Anthony Peeler — still playing, still scoring.

1992: #36. Duane Cooper  barely played.

1993: #12. George Lynch — a solid 6th or 7th man for many years & many teams.

 .… #37. Nick Van Exel — one of the best second round picks ever.

1994: #10. Eddie Jones — second coming of Michael Cooper, I wish we still had him.

1995: #37. Frankie King — barely played.

1996: #13. Kobe Bryant — (from Charlotte, deal was done on draft day) mega superstar.

 .… #24. Derek Fisher — solid player, championship contributor.

1997: #52. DeJuan Wheat — de-who? de-what?

 .… #54. Paul Rogers — never made a roster.

1998: #23. Tyronn Lue — (from Denver) nice little player, but not a starter.

 …. #26. Sam Jacobson — barely played

 .… #31. Ruben Patterson — solid swingman, for other teams. Law & Order perp.

1999: #23. Devean George — slowly developing into a starter.

 …. #30. John Celestand — barely played.

2000: #29. Mark Madsen — somewhere between Travis Knight and Kurt Rambis.

 .… #54. Cory Hightower — is in the USBL now, if at all.

2002: #20. Kareem Rush — (from Toronto) played a bit as a rookie.


In the 8 drafts from 1989 to 1996, without any single-digit picks, the Lakers found 8 NBA starters, some okay and some brilliant, and only four duds.  Eventually, most of these players were packaged and shipped to enable the signing of Shaq, the trade for Kobe and other components of the championship teams (Horry, Glen Rice...)  That’s some pretty great work and a source for great optimism in Memphis, which is where our former GM Jerry West  is now pulling the strings.  But over here we may look at the last six drafts (Kupchak was in charge for the last two) which barely produced 4 or 5 roster players—and sigh.


The 2003 Draft:

With free-agent signings and perhaps trades, the draft itself is not likely to be the focus of the Lakers’ off-season.  Nevertheless, this is an opportunity to get a young body into the rotation and hopefully, a future starter.  Now that the draft pool has so many high-school and unknown Europeans, it’s becoming even less predictable, and some very good players may be found outside of the lottery.  In recent years, such players as Zach Randolph (#19, 2001), Tayshaun Prince (#23, 2002), Andrei Kirilenko (#24, 1999), Jamaal Tinsley (#27, 2001), Tony Parker (#28, 2001) and Gilbert Arenas (#31, 2001) were available around the 24th.  The Lakers also have the 32nd pick, from Toronto (must have been the Lindsey Hunter/Tracy Murray/Kareem Rush swap).


My focus is on a power forward who can also play some center, has a physical presence, rebounds and blocks a few shots, and can score from inside 15-12 feet.  Yes, like the four chicks on HBO, I want it all!  The question is: do you go for a foreigner (stereotypically, they score but don’t defend), a high-schooler (unless his name is Amare Stoudamire, he probably won’t be productive in his first year or two) or a solid college player (more predictable, less upside)?  Oh well… with my luck, I’ll probably combine all three and get an immature youngster who cannot speak English and has already maxed out his talent…  but hope lives on.


The Candidates:

David West (6-8, 232): a senior from Xavier, he had a stellar career, aggressive and strong, but is he big enough? PICKED #20.

Nick Collison (6-9, 255): senior,  Kansas. Big and skilled, but can he get physical? This may become moot as it looks like he’ll go earlier. PICKED #18.

Mario Austin (6-8, 255): junior, Mississippi State.  Projected to the second round, he may be our pick at #32.

Brian Cook (6-10, 240): senior, Illinois.  Net scouts question his desire and attitude.  Maybe all he needs is Mark Madsen as roommate.

Charlie Villanueva (6-10,215):  HS from NJ.  Great talent who probably needs a lot of seasoning – and might yet go to college. WITHDREW.

Ndubi Ebi (6-9, 240): HS from TX, may still attend AZ.  It looks like his game is more SF than PF.

Kendrick Perkins (6-11, 290): high school player from Texas.  Seems to have a center’s game in an NBA PF body.  Can he learn new tricks?

Zaur Pachulia (6-10, 240): either 19 or 21 year old from Georgia (from the former USSR, not the Confederacy), who’s been playing in Turkey.  Apparently rather strong and agile, but unproven.

Zarko Cabarkapa (6-11, 220): 22 year old Serbo-Montonegrian, i.e., Yugoslav.  Very skilled, very long, but not physical.  Started for a good team, played with high-level competition. PICKED #17.

Sofoklis Schortsanitis (6-9, 275) 18-yr old from Greece (and Cameroon).  Big, powerful and still young.  Will need to keep learning the trade and may yet even grow another inch. PICKED #23.


The Pick:

Kendrick Perkins.  With much misgivings I decided to opt for a high-school kid, though in this instance he has the body of an adult (or two).  Obviously he’s very unpolished but we’re not going to count on him to start—just to learn the ropes, dedicate himself, and improve.