Lakers Need To Pick Big in First Round

Michael Del MuroCorrespondent IJune 22, 2009

MIAMI - MARCH 22:  Forward Paul Harris #11 of the Syracuse Orange is dunked on by forward Jeff Pendergraph #4 of the Arizona State Sun Devils during the second round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the American Airlines Arena on March 22, 2009 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

Since 2000, the Lakers have either won or made it to the NBA Finals five times.

That means one thing when it comes to the NBA Draft—they'll be picking very late.

In each of those drafts, following a trip to the Finals, the Lakers have picked either a role player, a guy to ride the pine, or have moved the pick.

Expect the same thing this year.

There are no "future (fill in the position)" type players available that late.

In a draft not especially deep and with the second to last pick in the first round, the Lakers General Manager has basically admitted as much.

In comments during the Lakers' exit interviews, Kupchak said that he'd be open to trading one or two of the Lakers three picks, or drafting a foreign player and allowing him to stay overseas the next few seasons.

Since 2000, it can be argued that the Lakers' best pick was Marc Gasol, who, after the Lakers picked him in the second round, played a season in Spain before being traded for his brother Pau.

Add that to the fact that Kupchak's most difficult job will be in retaining forwards Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza.  Expect some inconsequential players to come to Los Angeles on Thursday.

The one need the Lakers do have, needs that might be filled by the draft, is that of a fourth power forward/center. The Josh Powell-D.J. Mbenga combination did not get it done this season.

And they may need to find a shooting guard who can push 2004 first round pick Sasha Vujacic for some playing time, assuming the team decides to let restricted free agent guard Shannon Brown leave for more money elsewhere.

Another position of concern is the point.

NBA Finals hero Derek Fisher will be 35 next season, and Jordan Farmar has shown flashes of being able to take over the starting role, but those flashes have come between long stretches of him being unable to make a simple entry pass to the post.

So, assuming the Lakers keep their first round pick, here are a few players they could make a play for:


Taj Gibson, USC, PF—He's a very strong rebounder and has improved his outside jumper. According to ESPN's Chad Ford, scouts were impressed by his inside-outside game.

Plus, he has an impressive 7-4 wingspan and 9-1 standing reach. Being a bit older than most underclassmen, he'll be 24 on draft day.  Gibson should be mature to step in and contribute for the Lakers.

However, he needs to hit the weight room. He's very thin for a guy almost 7' tall.

Chase Budinger, Arizona, SG/SF—Although a bit of a stretch to believe he'll fall to 29, he's much more athletic than Vujacic. Budinger has a 38.5-inch vertical and could be a good player to develop if he falls this low.

Good three-point shooter—shot 40 percent for the Wildcats last season.

Jeff Pendergraph, Arizona State, PF—Strong low-post player who was often overshadowed by probable top-five pick James Harden. Some mocks have him a second rounder, but it wouldn't surprise me to see his name called in the first round.

He put up 18 points and seven rebounds against USC's Gibson in the PAC-10 tourney earlier this year. He also had 14 and 11 and 16 and 12 games against projected lottery pick Jordan Hill out of Arizona.

Jonas Jerebko, Italy, SF—Both HoopsHype and DraftExpress have the Lakers drafting this Swedish-born player. He's big, 6'9", 220 lbs., and has been compared to Matt Harpring—physical defender and decent shooter.

He might be what Kupchak meant about drafting a foreigner.

Darren Collison, UCLA, PG—Many mocks, including Ford's at ESPN, have the Lakers drafting the local boy. He's a good defender, playmaker, and shooter.

However, he's small, 6'1" on his tip-toes, and doesn't even weigh 170.


My Take

Collison's upside isn't much more than Farmar's, so I don't see the Lakers going in that direction. 
In Game Three of the NBA Finals, Gasol, Odom, and Andrew Bynum all picked up two fouls early in the first quarter. The Lakers were forced to insert the seldom-used Powell and Mbenga.
My initial thought: They need another Ronny Turiaf.
At least in the first round, the Lakers should concentrate on bringing in a big body who can play decently in emergency minutes.
Both Gibson and Pendergraph fit the mold.
In the second round, expect the Lakers to take one or two foreign-born players, or trade both picks for future second rounders. 



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