Lakers thrilled with Dalton Knecht pick – ‘Extraordinary’ value

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

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

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

The SEC player of the year was slated to go No. 6 to the Charlotte Hornets in ESPN’s mock draft published just before the first round, and Pelinka said the Lakers were shocked Knecht was available after their internal draft board ranked him in the top 10.

“If we would have 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 fall mirrored his basketball upbringing. As a high school senior, he did not field a single Division I scholarship offer.

“Every time I touch a basketball or walk into a gym, I always feel like I got something to prove; and it doesn’t matter where I’m at, it’s always going to be there and have that chip on my shoulder for feeling like I’ve been underrated my whole life,” Knecht told reporters at New York’s Barclays Center after being drafted. “So, it’s going to be something that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my career.”

The Knecht selection marks the first major decision for the Lakers franchise since JJ Redick was hired as its new coach. Pelinka said that Knecht’s abilities as a movement shooter reminds him of Redick as a player.

Redick, according to Pelinka, immediately started drawing up plays to run for Knecht on the whiteboard in the Lakers’ draft room after the team called in its pick to the league.

“That’s really exciting,” Knecht told reporters when informed of Redick’s reaction. “At Tennessee, I watched a lot of JJ Redick with Coach [Rick] Barnes and just the way he moves and paces himself and was able to create space. So, hearing that, it’s really exciting, and it’s going to be real special.”

Lakers star LeBron James gave Knecht a shoutout while discussing the growing popularity of women’s college basketball in early April after L.A. played at the Washington Wizards a few days after Tennessee’s tournament run had ended.

“We watched that Purdue-Tennessee game because of Zach Edey and Knecht,” James said at the time. “Players, depending on who they are, will drive the attention when it comes to viewership.”

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

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

“So, that’s just going to be special. And it’s going to be fun just to be sharing that court with both of them, [Anthony Davis] and Bron. Bron’s one of the greatest. So, it’s going to be real special.”

While Pelinka certainly was pleased with how the night went for his team, he admitted L.A. had canvassed the league for trades leading up to Wednesday, but to no avail. The Lakers had three first-round draft picks, including this year’s at No. 17, available to include in any potential deal.

“We explored every upgrade we could to make our team better,” Redick said. “I do think if you polled all 30 GMs across the league, just in general, trades have become more difficult because of the new CBA system. And so, there’s less access, I think, to making those big moves than maybe there was under the old system. But it didn’t keep us from trying to look at everything and ways to put ourselves in ways to be in position to be better. But even this pick alone I feel like gives us a big boost, and we’re excited about it.”

The second round of the draft will be held Thursday. The Lakers own pick No. 55.

First appeared on

Leave a Comment