The Lakers delighted with the choice of Dalton Knecht – “Extraordinary” value

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – The Los Angeles Lakers selected Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht with the No. 17 pick in Wednesday’s NBA draft, the first consensus All-American drafted by Los Angeles since taking the Lonzo Ball #2 in 2017.

“In my mind, there is no way a player like this would be available for us to pick on draft night,” said Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager, Rob Pelinka. “Overall, I just couldn’t be happier.”

Knecht, 23, averaged 21.7 points on 49.9% shooting (39.7% from 3) during his lone season with the Volunteers after starting his collegiate career at Northeastern Junior College in Colorado, then played two seasons for Northern Colorado in the Big Sky Conference. The 6-foot-5, 212-pound wing led Tennessee to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament in March, scoring 37 points in an elimination loss to No. 1 seed Purdue.

The SEC Player of the Year was projected to go No. 6 to the Charlotte Hornets in ESPN’s mock draft released just before the first round, and Pelinka said the Lakers were shocked that Knecht was available after their internal selection committee ranked it in the top 10.

“If we had the 10th pick in the draft, we would have taken him,” Pelinka said. “So to get that value at 17 is really extraordinary.”

Knecht said his draft night reflected his basketball upbringing. As a high school senior, he did not respond to any Division I scholarship offers.

“Every time I touch a basketball or walk into a gym, I always feel like I have something to prove; and no matter where I am, it will always be there and I “I’ll have that chip on my shoulder to feel like I’ve been underestimated my whole life,” Knecht told reporters at New York’s Barclays Center after being drafted. “So it’s going to be something that I carry with me for the rest of my career.”

The Knecht selection marks the first major decision for the Lakers franchise since hiring JJ Redick as their new coach. Pelinka said Knecht’s abilities as a motion shooter remind him of Redick as a player.

Redick, according to Pelinka, immediately began drawing up plays for Knecht on the whiteboard in the Lakers’ draft room after the team called his selection for the league.

“It’s really exciting,” Knecht told reporters after being informed of Redick’s reaction. “At Tennessee, I watched a lot of JJ Redick with coach (Rick) Barnes and the way he moves and moves and is able to create space. So to hear that, it’s really exciting, and It’s going to be really special.”

Lakers star LeBron James praised Knecht while discussing the growing popularity of women’s college basketball in early April after Los Angeles played the Washington Wizards, days after Tennessee concluded its tournament run.

“We watched that Purdue-Tennessee game because of Zach Edey and Knecht,” James said at the time. “The players, depending on who they are, will attract attention in terms of viewership.”

Knecht said he almost didn’t believe what James was saying was real when he first saw the video.

“I remember that clip,” Knecht told reporters. “I woke up and got out of bed and thought this was fake because tons of people were texting me. I was just like, ‘There’s no way.’ And when I watched this video, it made me smile and my parents too, they called me right away and told me about it.

“So, it’s going to be special. And it’s going to be fun to share this field with both of them, (Anthony Davis) and Bron. Bron is one of the greatest. So, it’s going to be really special.”

While Pelinka is certainly happy with how the night went for his team, he admitted that Los Angeles had canvassed the league for trades before Wednesday, but to no avail. The Lakers had three first-round picks, including this year’s pick at No. 17, available for inclusion in any potential deal.

“We explored every possible improvement to improve our team,” Redick said. “I think if you ask all 30 general managers around the league, in general, trades have become more difficult because of the new CBA system. And so, there’s less access, I think, to making these big moves that may have been the case under the old system, but that didn’t stop us from trying to look at everything and find ways to put ourselves in a position to be better. But even that choice was his. alone, I feel like, gives us a big boost, and we’re excited about it.”

The second round of the draft will take place on Thursday. The Lakers have pick No. 55.

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