With the 2020 NBA Draft officially scheduled for Wednesday, November 18th, the Last Word on Pro Basketball staff is here to break down the top draft picks in league history. Starting with the Los Angeles Lakers, let’s break down the top draft picks in Lakers’ team history. The Lakers draft history is full of hall of fame talent, however, the top-five order is up for debate.
Ranking the Best Draft Picks in Lakers History
Lakers Top Draft Picks #5 – Gail Goodrich
The Los Angeles Lakers selected Gail Goodrich 10th overall in the 1965 NBA Draft. The combo guard out of UCLA went on to spend nine years of his 14-year NBA career with the purple and gold.
Five all-star game appearances and a 1972 NBA Championship run later, Goodrich was inducted into the NBA’s Naismith Hall of Game in 1996. Goodrich, a fierce lefty-handed guard, possessed an innate ability to get to the free-throw line. The UCLA-product ranks top-100 all-time in both free throws made and free throws attempted.
Goodrich was an easy selection for Los Angeles in the 1965 NBA Draft. The 6-foot-1 guard dominated college basketball during his days at UCLA. He led the 1963-64 UCLA Bruins to a perfect 30-0 record, winning two national titles during his time with the Bruins. Add in a 78-11 three-year record, when Goodrich entered the NBA he held UCLA’s all-time scoring mark with 1,690 points. Of course, that mark has since been broken, but Goodrich remains a UCLA legend.
#4 – James Worthy
James Worthy is the Lakers’ most-recent No. 1-overall draft selection. The combo forward was selected 1st overall in the 1982 NBA Draft, a selection the Lakers garnered from a 1980 trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Worthy marks another Hall of Fame draft pick by Los Angeles.
Worthy spent the entirety of his 12-year NBA career with the Lakers. Throughout his illustrious career, Worthy was selected for seven All-Star Game appearances and won three NBA Championships.
The University of North Carolina product led the Lakers to seven NBA Finals appearances during his 12-year career. The 6-foot-9, 225-pounder made an immediate impact in the league. Worthy averaged double-figures scoring in each of his 12 seasons and at least 25 minutes of action in every season until his last.
In 1998, Worthy was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. In seven games, Worthy led the Lakers in scoring with 22 points per game. He added 7.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per contest shooting close to 50 percent from the field. Notably, this Lakers championship team featured Magic Johnson in his prime and a 40-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Lakers Top Draft Picks #3 – Elgin Baylor
The Lakers, then the Minneapolis Lakers, actually selected Elgin Baylor twice in the NBA Draft. First, he was drafted in the 14th round of the 1956 season. Baylor returned to school, marking one of the smartest decisions of his basketball career. He was then selected No. 1-overall, by the Lakers again, in the 1958 NBA Draft.
Baylor spent 14 seasons with both the Los Angeles and Minneapolis Lakers. It’s easy to describe his 14-year NBA career as unstoppable. The 6-foot-5 small forward earned 11 All-Star Game appearances and one NBA Championship in 1972.
The Seattle University product wasted no time adjusting to the league. Baylor won Rookie of the Year in 1958-59 following an All-Star year in which he averaged 24.9 points per game. A prolific scorer, he averaged at least 25 points per game in eight of his 14 seasons. In three of these seasons, Baylor averaged more than 30 points per game.
Baylor ranks top-30 all-time in both points and field goals. In 1960, he became the first player in league history to break the 70-point mark in a single game after he put up 71 against the New York Knicks.
This ferocious scorer was known for his dynamic tandem with the number two player on this list.
#2 – Jerry West
Jerry West was selected second overall by the Lakers in the 1960 NBA Draft. West is arguably the most impactful name on this list. After all, West is featured as the silhouette of the league’s current logo.
West spent 14 years with the Lakers, earning All-Star Game appearances in every single one of them. Regarded as one of the purest shooters in league history, West scored in double-figures in every year of his career. He averaged better-than 25 points per game in 11 seasons and better-than 30 points in four seasons. His career average of 27 points per game ranks the fifth-highest of all-time.
“The Logo” won one NBA Championship with Baylor in 1972, displaying incredible talent on both sides of the court. West also earned four selections to the All-NBA Defensive First Team.
Lakers Top Draft Picks #1 – Magic Johnson
The top draft pick on this list may forever be reserved for Magic Johnson. Regarded as the best point guard of all-time, Johnson was selected No. 1-overall by the Lakers in the 1979 NBA Draft. Standing at 6-foot-9, Johnson was a never-before-seen talent in the league. The big-bodied guard dazzled fans with his amazing passing displays and ability to add scoring and rebounding to the mix.
Johnson won five NBA titles with the “Showtime” Lakers, earning 12 All-Star Game appearances throughout his 13-year career. He won three finals MVP awards and three regular-season MVP awards. With such proven abilities to score, rebound, and assist baskets, Johnson was previously known as the “triple-double king.”
He led the league 10 different times in triple-double marks and ranks third all-time in career triple-doubles. Johnson is also the all-time leader in assists per game, averaging a remarkable 11.2 assists per game.
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