The only pick the Los Angeles Lakers possess in the 2013 NBA draft is a second rounder, No. 49 overall.
With a pick that low, it’s clear the Lakers won’t be getting any franchise-altering talent to add to their team through the draft. In fact, given how weak the class of 2013 is, it’s doubtful whether L.A.’s selection can even crack its rotation.
Yet, with as many holes as there are on the roster, the Lakers must draft shrewdly to unearth a second-round gem who can contribute for them immediately.
Their most glaring need is on the wings. The Lakers have no wing depth to speak of, as Jodie Meeks is their only real wing off the bench (though Earl Clark can spot some minutes at the 3 as well).
Throw in the fact that starting shooting guard Kobe Bryant will be out to begin the season and the starting small forward is Metta World Peace, and you begin to realize how truly desperate L.A. is for wing help.
Under head coach Mike D’Antoni, the Lakers launch a ton of three-pointers. They were third in the league in threes taken last season.
But only two Lakers made at least 36.5 percent of their triples – and they both played point guard. In fact, L.A.’s top four three-point shooters, percentage-wise, were point guards.
That speaks to the need for shooting from the wing spots to space the court and keep defenses honest.
Also, without Bryant’s volume shooting, the Lakers won’t have anywhere to turn for perimeter scoring.
As good a shooter as Steve Nash is, he’s extremely reluctant to let fly. And giving World Peace free reign to jack up shots is never the answer.
So heading into Thursday night’s draft, the Lakers will be looking for shooting and/or scoring from either wing spot. Here are their top three options.
Deshaun Thomas led the Big Ten conference in scoring last season, at just under 20 points per game, so you know he can fill that need for the Lakers.
The reason Thomas isn’t as highly regarded as you would expect is his athleticism may not be up to par in the NBA and he’s a bit of a “tweener"—scouts aren’t sure if he’s better suited to play the 3 or the 4 at the next level.
Thomas is a good shooter as well, with range extending well past the three-point line. He wasn’t shy about shooting the long ball, attempting 5.6 threes per game, though he only connected on 34.4 percent of them.
On an NBA team, Thomas’ efficiency should spike back up to his 2011-12 level, when he achieved a 60 percent true shooting percentage. Thomas is excellent at working off the ball and getting to spots he is very comfortable scoring from.
Defensively is where Thomas’ main shortcomings lie. He may not possess the footspeed to guard very well on the perimeter (which would fit right in on the Lakers) and doesn’t quite have the size or rebounding ability to effectively defend power forwards.
He would be able to steal minutes at the 4 in small lineups, which are becoming more and more prevalent across the league. If he can improve his outside shot a bit more, his offense should more than make up for any defensive lapses.
Plain and simple, James Southerland is a long-range sniper.
The Syracuse product should be able to carve out an NBA career thanks to his top-notch jump shot. He’s got a quick and compact shooting motion that allows him to get off quality looks.
Nearly 60 percent of Southerland’s 10.5 nightly field-goal attempts came from behind the arc, and he converted just a shade under 40 percent of them. In addition to being a great catch-and-shoot player, Southerland is adept at shooting on the move as well, doing a good job of maintaining his balance on his jumper.
Southerland’s main drawback is his versatility—because he has none. He’s a one-dimensional player whose express purpose is to spread the court and knock down open jumpers.
If he matures into a good defender, his value rises, but thanks to Syracuse’s zone scheme, it’s difficult to get a handle on Southerland’s defensive abilities.
He does have excellent size, standing at 6’8” with a monstrous 7’1” wingspan. The hope is his physical attributes give him a leg up at being able to defend on the perimeter.
Illinois’ Brandon Paul is the closest thing to a Kobe Bryant replacement as the Lakers will find 50 picks into the draft.
Not to compare Paul’s game to Bryant’s (there is no comparison), but Paul is a volume shooter who can score in bunches. He has the ability to pick up some of the scoring slack in Bryant’s absence.
Paul is an explosive athlete whose strength is his capability in creating his own shot. He’s got a great burst and can get to the rim whenever he’s in the mood to attack the basket.
That capacity for penetrating to the hoop also gets him to the free-throw line a ton. Last year Paul averaged nearly six free-throw attempts per game, though his 73 percent conversion rate could use some work.
Alas, he needs to stay in that attack mindset more often, because when he falls in love with his jump shot (as he is wont to do) his efficiency tumbles off a cliff.
Too often Paul settles for three-pointers and tough off-the-dribble jumpers. He only hit 32 percent of his treys, yet insisted on launching nearly seven a game. Overall, he shot just 40 percent from the field.
Paul is a tad undersized for his position at 6’4” and comes off as indifferent at the defensive end. He has the length (6’10” wingspan) and athleticism to be an above-average perimeter defender, but must improve his focus on that side of the ball.
The 22-year-old’s game fits the mold of a sixth man who can come off the bench and pour in points a la J.R. Smith or Jamal Crawford. If he can improve his decision-making—particularly his shot selection—and his outside shot, Paul can be a valuable contributor for the Lakers next season.
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