Heading back to the NBA Draft Lottery for the first time in forever, the Los Angeles Lakers will be looking to add a valuable franchise cornerstone to a depleted roster.
It is hard to believe that a team boasting a starting five of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard just two seasons ago, gave heavy minutes to the likes of Kent Bazemore, Xavier Henry and Robert Sacre this year.
With Gasol’s future in limbo and major money tied up in Bryant for the next two seasons, the Lakers’ front office will have to pull off some serious magic if it hopes to turn the purple and gold into an NBA juggernaut.
Given the players set to become free agents and the recent resignation of coach Mike D’Antoni, the complexion of next year’s roster should look much different than this year’s.
Holding onto a lottery pick, Los Angeles will have its choice in one of the deepest drafts in league history.
What might Mitch Kupchak and Co. be looking for this June? What type of player will the Lakers be targeting?
Let’s take a look at some of the Los Angeles Lakers’ biggest draft needs.
With injuries decimating their lineup, the Lakers were forced to play many of their wings out of position as a nominal point guard.
With Xavier Henry to Nick Young, Los Angeles tried to overcompensate for injury losses to guys like Nash and Steve Blake. The Lakers eventually traded for backup Golden State Warriors point guard Bazemore and mined the D-League to acquire Kendall Marshall.
In today’s NBA, almost every elite team outside of the Miami Heat has a superstar point guard.
Point guard is quickly becoming the deepest position in the league. Increasingly, floor generals have become the best pick in many drafts.
Counting Tyreke Evans as a quasi-point guard, five of the last six Rookies of the Year have been point guards. These names include the Philadelphia 76ers’ Michael Carter-Williams, the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving and the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose.
Guards like Dante Exum from Australia, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis and UConn’s Shabazz Napier are all guys that should hear their names called in the first round.
One of them could end up on purple and gold.
With the uncertainty surrounding Gasol’s future, the Lakers might look to draft a crafty big man with infinite potential.
Over Gasol’s time in Hollywood, the big man helped lead the Lakers to back-to-back championships. His savvy post moves, cerebral court vision and soft touch made him a nightmare for opposing big men in the height of his career.
While Gasol butted heads with D’Antoni, he was a brilliant fit in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense.
With the NBA becoming faster and more athletic, Los Angeles could find a hyper-athletic wing to complement Bryant on the perimeter. Should the front office decide to go in this direction, then the Lakers should seek maximum flexibility, and look to draft a guy capable of playing either the three or the four.
Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Kentucky’s Julius Randle and Duke’s Jabari Parker are the obvious choices here. However, Indiana’s Noah Vonleh and Arizona’s Aaron Gordon could be viable options should Los Angeles commit to this type of player.
Always having at least one move up their sleeve, the Lakers could dangle a top pick in exchange for a disgruntled superstar looking to get out of his current situation.
Speculation abounds as to who that superstar might be, but even in a depleted state, the Lakers are a desirable franchise. Remember that just two seasons ago, Lakers’ brass orchestrated a deal that essentially gave up Andrew Bynum straight up for Howard.
That was the same summer that saw the Lakeshow give up a pile of draft picks for Nash. Although the pieces did not fit perfectly, the moves spoke volumes to the Lakers’ clever deal making.
The organization is no stranger to draft day trades.
In 1980, Los Angeles made a deal that materialized into the 1982 No. 1 overall pick James Worthy. In 1996, the Lakers traded Vlade Divac for the draft rights to Kobe Bryant.
Even under the questionable ownership of Jim Buss, the Lakers have one of the savviest front offices in the league. A blockbuster draft day trade would only be fitting for Los Angeles.