A new era of basketball is beginning in LA—potentially.
Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak will attempt to assemble the best team possible this offseason. But whether that involves blowing up the Los Angeles Lakers’ core or building around it remains to be scene.
With Thursday’s NBA draft approaching rapidly, rumors are picking up speed.
Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld tweeted on Tuesday that LA won’t wait until the 60th overall pick to get involved on draft day.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets are each trying to acquire a first-round pick, according to league sources.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 27, 2012
Who would they use as trade bait? Well, Mark J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports tweeted on Wednesday that the Lakers are entertaining offers for Los Angeles’ favorite seven-foot white guy not named Chris Mihm.
The Lakers are very open to trade talk in regards to forward Pau Gasol, but nothing is imminent, according to two NBA sources.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) June 27, 2012
How far would they trade up? Well, Sam Amico of FOX Sports reported if the Cleveland Cavaliers leapfrogged the Washington Wizards to select Bradley Beal, LA is a possible trade-down partner for the Wiz at No. 3.
It would be a mistake to swap Gasol for a rookie, but if they do, here are the prospects that would be perfect fits for the Lakers.
3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
As furious as Kobe Bryant would be if the Lakers traded Gasol for a player that hadn’t played a second in the NBA, his anger would dissipate rather quickly if they select Kidd-Gilchrist. Bryant would absolutely love MKG’s work ethic, motor and flat-out passion for the game.
Kidd-Gilchrist is the second-best prospect in the 2012 draft class and would be an instant upgrade to the declining Metta World Peace. While it would be ideal for the Lakers to add a knockdown shooter at the three, MKG’s willingness to do all the little things that help teams win basketball games would make up for an inconsistent stroke.
2. Damian Lillard
I don’t want to label Lillard the “perfect” point guard to play alongside Kobe and Andrew Bynum, but he’s close. Los Angeles is a unique team in that they don’t necessarily need a playmaking floor general because Bryant and Bynum create offense for themselves—what they need is a point that is capable of putting the ball in the basket.
Lillard just so happens to be the most polished scorer in the entire draft.
Not only is he explosive enough to get to the rim at will, Lillard is a lights-out shooter from everywhere on the court. Last season, he averaged 24.5 points per game and shot 40.9 percent from downtown.
1. Thomas Robinson
If the Lakers aren’t confident in their ability to reel in a replacement at power forward like Kevin Garnett in free agency, their best bet to replace Gasol might just be to use the pick they traded him for on Robinson. And let’s just say with T-Rob in Purple and Gold, no one would ever accuse the Lakers’ starting four of being soft again.
Robinson almost single-handedly carried Kansas to a national championship, averaging 17.7 points and 11.9 boards per game. He isn’t nearly as skilled as Gasol, but Robinson would inject much-need athleticism into the Lakers’ frontcourt.
And like Kidd-Gilchrist, Kobe would love Robinson’s passion for the game.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.