The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most renowned and accomplished franchises in NBA history, capturing a record 17 NBA championships and sporting some of the greatest players of all time. Of course, the 17th NBA title was added following the 2020 Finals when the Lakers took care of business against a rather injury-ridden Miami Heat side during the covid-shortened NBA season. But even before then, the Lakers have had tremendous success thanks to their all-time great players. Other than the Boston Celtics, the Lakers might have had the greatest collection of superstars in NBA history.
The likes of Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Jerry West have all won titles for the franchise and had some legendary moments in the NBA. Each of them is clearly one of the best Lakers players of all time, but where would they rank among the 10 best draft picks by the franchise, if they were actually chosen by the Lakers? There were also some other names that never actually got to play for the Lakers, and deserve credit for getting drafted by the legendary franchise nonetheless.
It is time to go back through history to discover the best draft selections by the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. There have been some excellent franchise selections, dating back to the 1950s and pushing forward until the late 2000s and early 2010s. The modern Lakers stars will immediately come to mind, but there might have been some names that could have gone forgotten. Without further ado, here are the 10 best draft picks in Lakers' history.
Derek Fisher - No. 24 Pick (1996 NBA Draft)
Los Angeles Lakers Statistics: 7.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.1 BPG
Derek Fisher has to be an honorable mention because even if he did not make an All-Star Team in his career, he was a winner and competitor at the point guard spot. He won 5 NBA titles as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers teams that featured Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, as he was their trusted point guard on both ends of the floor. In fact, he formed an all-time consistent partnership with Bryant for the Lakers.
Fisher was required to come up big in clutch moments, and he often did, as evidenced by his incredible shot with 0.4 seconds to go during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. But Fisher was clutch throughout his career, and one of the most important players in Lakers history based on his resume and consistency as a point guard presence alongside Kobe Bryant.
Norm Nixon - No. 22 Pick (1977 NBA Draft)
Los Angeles Lakers Statistics: 16.4 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 7.9 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.1 BPG
A 2-time All-Star and 2-time NBA champion with the Lakers, Norm Nixon has to be given credit for his consistent play as a member of the Lakers over his career. Nixon averaged a career 16.4 PPG and 7.9 APG with the Lakers, very solid numbers from a star guard who did his best to win titles with the franchise. Nixon made his first All-Star Team with the Lakers, posting 17.6 PPG, 8.0 APG, and 1.6 SPG during the 1982 season. Nixon clearly had the talent to get the job done, which he did often.
Nixon also made an All-Star Team during the 1985 season, posting 17.2 PPG and 8.8 APG in 81 games with the Los Angeles Clippers. Clearly, Nixon was good enough to play more seasons with the Lakers but he is still remembered for being one of their best players during the 1980s and deserved an honorable mention as one of the Lakers’ best draft picks.
Vern Mikkelsen - No. 11 Pick (1949 NBA Draft)
Minneapolis Lakers Statistics: 14.4 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.2 APG
Hall of Famer Vern Mikkelsen made a total of 6 All-Star Teams with the Minneapolis Lakers, posting career averages of 14.4 PG and 9.4 RPG while playing every season with the team that took him No. 11 overall in 1949. Mikkelsen was a consistent presence in the paint as a 6’7” power forward, mainly through his scoring and rebounding. Mikkelsen also made 4 All-NBA Second Teams in his Hall of Fame career.
Vern was a member of 4 championship teams in the 1950s and deserves credit for each of those gins. The man known as “The Great Dane” ended his career after ten seasons in the NBA in 1959, having played in 699 of a possible 704 regular-season games. Interestingly, Mikkelsen still holds the league record for career games fouling out with 127, which he did in only 631 games. Clearly, a player who wanted to compete at all costs, Vern Mikkelsen deserves an honorable mention for being one of the best players drafted by the Lakers.
10. Clyde Lovellette - No. 10 Pick (1952 NBA Draft)
Minneapolis Lakers Statistics: 17.2 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 1.6 APG
A 6’9” center who completed 4 seasons with the Minneapolis Lakers, Clyde Lovellette took off after his first season with the franchise. The center put up 8.2 PPG and 5.8 RPG in his first season, following it up with 3 straight seasons averaging over 18 PPG with the Lakers. Following his average first season, Lovellette would eventually make 2 straight All-Star Teams, the first coming in his last season with the Lakers and the second coming with the St. Louis Hawks.
The former No. 10 overall pick put up 21.5 PPG and 14.0 RPG with the Lakers in his first All-Star selection, followed by 20.8 PPG on 46.8% shooting in his second All-Star season. The center would go on to make 2 more All-Star Teams with the Hawks, posting 22.0 PPG on 45.3% shooting in his third All-Star season. His final season with the Hawks was a great one as well, dropping 20.9 PPG on 47.1% shooting from the field. Clearly, Lovellette was good enough to compete for the Lakers in the long-term as the franchise would have benefitted from the All-Star’s presence on both ends of the court.
9. Marc Gasol - No. 48 Pick (2007 NBA Draft)
Los Angeles Lakers Statistics: 5.0 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.1 BPG
Marc Gasol was taken by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2007 NBA Draft but actually did not start his rookie camping with them as he played in Spain in 2008. Once he returned to the NBA, he was packaged by the Lakers to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for his brother, Pau Gasol. Marc would go on to blossom into a defensive star in Memphis, making 3 All-Star Teams and 2 All-NBA teams while also winning the Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.
Marc would also be a part of the 2019 NBA champion Toronto Raptors squad led by Kawhi Leonard. Interestingly, the Spanish center would eventually play for one season with the Lakers, and it came in his final season at age 36. Marc barely had an impact in that year, but he certainly has to go down as one of the best players who never got to play for the Lakers despite getting drafted by the franchise.
8. A.C. Green - No. 23 Pick (1985 NBA Draft)
Los Angeles Lakers Statistics: 10.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.5 BPG
A.C. Green was known as the “Iron Man” because he was just inhumanely durable. He managed to play over 1,100 straight games in a row, something that no player has even come close to. This means that in over 14 straight seasons, Green never got a knock on his body or even had an illness strong enough to not let him get on the court. This is simply amazing because no player has shown this type of dedication and love for the game to go this long without missing a game. Of course, 9 of those seasons came with the Lakers franchise.
The power forward was a consistent scoring presence for the Lakers and managed to help the franchise win 3 NBA titles alongside Magic Johnson. Green only made one All-Star Team in the 1990 season by posting 12.9 PPG and 8.7 RPG, and also made the 1989 All-Defensive Team due to his mix of skill and size at 6’9” and 220 lbs.
7. Sam Jones - No. 59 Pick (1956 NBA Draft)
Los Angeles Lakers Statistics: N/A
Interestingly enough, Sam Jones has to go down in history as one of the best players to never play for the Lakers despite getting drafted by them. The talented scorer averaged 17.7 PPG as a member of the rival Boston Celtics and was the main driver of the excellent franchise during the 1960s, winning 10 NBA titles. With Jones at the shooting guard position, the Celtics were scoring a ton of points without the presence of the three-point shot and had a real leader in their hands alongside other all-time greats including Bill Russell.
One can only imagine what Sam Jones would have done for the 1960s Lakers because he was a legitimate 20 PPG scorer during his apex. But Jones was moved to Boston and never got a chance to play for the Purple and Gold, which is a shame for the Lakers because the shooting guard ended up making 5 All-Star Teams and 3 All-NBA Team appearances along with winning his 10 chips.
6. Gail Goodrich - No. 10 Pick (1965 NBA Draft)
Los Angeles Lakers Statistics: 19.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Gail Goodrich is one of the most respected Los Angeles Lakers stars in NBA history, because his resume was impressive, to say the least. Make no mistake about it, the Lakers very likely do not win the 1972 NBA championship without their offensive star playing a significant role on offense and defense. Goodrich could legitimately defend the best perimeter player on the opposing team when needed, and his leadership with the franchise is unquestionably great.
As a 6’1’’ combo guard, Gail Goodrich averaged 25.9 PPG during the 1972 season in which the Lakers won the title. He also ended his career with a solid average of 19.0 PPG as a member of the Lakers and made a total of 5 All-Star Teams. Along with his 1974 All-NBA Team appearance, Goodrich had a good enough resume to be respected although his impact was clear to those who followed the NBA during the 1960s and 1970s.
5. Michael Cooper - No. 60 Pick (1978 NBA Draft)
Los Angeles Lakers Statistics: 8.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Michael Cooper is one of the most underrated players in NBA history because of his unselfishness to be a defensive-first guard who did the dirty work with multiple championship teams. The 6’5” shooting guard was a true defensive star during the 1980s even though his numbers slightly pale in comparison to other players in other eras. But make no mistake, Cooper helped the Los Angeles Lakers win 5 championships while the guard also made 8 All-Defensive Teams and won the 1987 Defensive Player of the Year award.
The 5-time NBA champion never made an All-Star Team, only averaging at least 10 PPG twice in his career. But Cooper’s role during the championship seasons with the Lakers was not to be a scorer, but rather an elite defender who literally defended the opposing team’s best player on most occasions. Cooper’s track record as a perimeter defender with the Lakers is intact, which is why he is easily a top-5 player who was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers.
4. James Worthy - No. 1 Pick (1982 NBA Draft)
Los Angeles Lakers Statistics: 17.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Easily a top-50 player of all time, James Worthy was a Hall of Famer and a pure two-way wing who achieved an incredible 3 NBA titles and a Finals MVP award over his career. He averaged over 50% shooting over his career and was a consistent defender who was known to be a ferocious competitor. Nobody enjoyed playing against him and the Lakers, and for good reason, because his track record of greatness and achievements makes him a top-10 small forward ever.
Taken No. 1 overall in the 1982 NBA Draft ahead of the likes of Dominique Wilkins, the Lakers knew they had a star in their hands. Alongside Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Worthy formed one of the best Big Threes during the 1980s and 1990s. By simply looking at his resume, it was obvious that Worthy is one of the all-time greatest players who ever played for the Lakers.
3. Elgin Baylor - No. 1 Pick (1958 NBA Draft)
Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers Statistics: 27.4 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 4.3 APG
Quite possibly the greatest player to never win a championship ring, Elgin Baylor was a ridiculous talent during his career. Elgin ranks 3rd all-time in PPG average behind Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain and had the skills to be a two-way forward for most of his career. When discussing the top-20 players ever, Baylor’s name always comes up because his scoring acumen was to be respected. Baylor had seasons of posting 38.3 PPG, 34.8 PPG, and 34.0 PPG with the Lakers.
Even though Baylor never won an MVP or Finals MVP award, the Lakers most likely do not reach the heights they did during the 1960s without the presence of the All-Star. Baylor helped Jerry West reach the heights that he did, and is also one of the most underrated stars of NBA history considering he does not receive enough credit for making the original 50 Greatest Players Of All Time and eventually the NBA 75th Anniversary Team. But Baylor has the team success and record-breaking performances to take his stock to another level as a member of the Lakers, and he has to be the third-best player taken in the draft by Los Angeles.
2. Jerry West - No. 1 Pick (1960 NBA Draft)
Los Angeles Lakers Statistics: 27.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 6.7 APG, 2.6 SPG, 0.7 BPG
One of the most dominant guards in the history of the game, Jerry West is the NBA’s logo for the reason he put up ridiculous statistics as a member of the Lakers year after year. The superstar guard made the All-Star Team every season of his 14-year career and made a total of 12 All-NBA Teams. Not to mention, West won a scoring title, assist title, and a Finals MVP award despite being in a losing effort in the 1969 NBA Finals. He is the first and only player to ever achieve this accolade.
Jerry West was an incredible offensive player, dominating the court with a career average of 27.0 PPG. With the Lakers, West helped create the Lakers dynasty that would last a very long time during the 1960s and 1970s. Of course, West lost in the NBA Finals an incredible 8 times, but he did break through to win a championship during the 1972 season and solidify himself as one of the best to ever do it.
1. Magic Johnson - No. 1 Pick (1979 NBA Draft)
Los Angeles Lakers Statistics: 19.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 11.2 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.4 BPG
There is no doubt that Magic Johnson is the greatest pick in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers. He won 5 NBA championships, 3 MVP awards, and 3 Finals MVP awards with the franchise that took him No.1 overall in the 1979 NBA Draft. The point guard has reached heights nobody ever thought would be possible from a point guard, mainly because Johnson stood 6’9” and had one of the highest basketball IQs in NBA history. Before Magic came along, there was no way a player at the point guard spot could dominate the league for as long as he did. But Magic was immediately an all-time great player and is the man most synonymous with the Lakers alongside Kobe Bryant.
The point guard made 12 All-Star appearances, 10 All-NBA Team appearances, and made the All-Rookie Team. Of course, his rookie season was the stuff of legends because Magic actually won the NBA championship and had one of the greatest closeout performances in the Finals when he posted 42 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists while starting at the center position to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers and also win the Finals MVP awards. Magic was truly one of a kind.