Report: Rob Pelinka overruled Lakers draft scouts to pick Jalen Hood-Schifino

Peter Dewey
4 Min Read
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka overruled the team’s draft scouts to pick Jalen Hood-Schifino in the 2023 NBA Draft, according to Lakers Daily’s Anthony Irwin.

The Lakers reportedly were set on taking Kobe Bufkin in the 2023 NBA Draft, but he was selected before their pick by the Atlanta Hawks. The team’s eventual decision to take Hood-Schifino caused it to miss out on three players that have made an immediate impact in the 2023-24 season.

“Another particularly sour note with fans this season has been the success of prospects drafted immediately after Jalen Hood-Schifino,” Irwin wrote. “Jaime Jaquez Jr. has been great for the Miami Heat. Brandin Podziemski is an impact player for Golden State. Cam Whitmore is averaging double digits this season. All three were available to the Lakers when Hood-Schifino was selected.

“According to sources, the consensus pick was Kobe Bufkin. When he was selected 15th by the Atlanta Hawks, the Lakers had to scramble. Sources say the scouting department preferred Whitmore once Bufkin was off the board, but Pelinka and others higher up in the organization were concerned about his medical history. Pelinka, having seen Hood-Schifino play well in the Big Ten Conference Tournament, saw something special and made the final decision.”

So far, the Hood-Schifino pick hasn’t exactly panned out for the Lakers. The rookie guard has not cracked head coach Darvin Ham’s rotation, appearing in just 21 games this season.

He’s averaging 1.6 points, 0.6 rebounds and 0.4 assists in 5.2 minutes per game while shooting 22.2 percent from the field and 13.3 percent from beyond the arc.

With the Lakers looking to compete for a championship this season after they made the Western Conference Finals last season, Hood-Schifino has not been able to make an impact for the team.

With guard Gabe Vincent out for most of the 2023-24 season to date, the Lakers have gone with other options – eventually signing guard Spencer Dinwiddie in the buyout market – to improve their depth around Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell at the guard position.

Whitmore ended up falling to Houston with the No. 20 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. It seems like the Lakers weren’t the only team concerned with his medicals since he fell well out of the lottery.

The Houston Rockets wing has played well in his rookie season, averaging 12.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game across 38 contests. The Lakers do have a lot of options on the wing with their current roster, but it’s possible that Whitmore could have earned time over one of the veterans for Los Angeles had the team drafted him.

Instead, the Lakers have played Taurean Prince, Cam Reddish, Jarred Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimura on the wing this season. With Vanderbilt, Hachimura and Reddish all having a stretch where they each missed multiple games in a row during the 2023-24 season, it’s possible Whitmore could have had a chance to earn a role for Los Angeles.

There is still time for Hood-Schifino to become an impact player for the Lakers, but given the team’s timeline based around superstar LeBron James, it would have made more sense to draft a player that could have helped the Lakers this season.

For now, Lakers fans – and Pelinka – have to hope that the rookie guard can develop and become a rotation player at some point on his rookie deal.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.