LA Lakers 2014 NBA Draft Board: Post Lottery Edition
It seemed like destiny.
The Los Angeles Lakers, one of the most decorated franchises in the history of sports, had just a 6.3 percent chance of winning the 2014 NBA draft lottery. However, after the team's worst finish in over 50 years, it really felt like a surefire bet that L.A. would somehow come away with a top-three pick to redeem their dreadful 27-55 record.
Well, it didn’t happen.
The Lakers will have the seventh overall selection when the NBA draft rolls around on June 26, which is disappointing for fans that had their sights set on studs like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid.
But while the Lakers will likely miss out on the cream of the crop, there will still be plenty of talent available when it’s their turn to pick. Read on for an updated look at the Lakers' big board.
5. Doug McDermott, SF/PF, Creighton
Vitals: 6'8", 218 pounds
Key 2013-14 Stats: 26.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG
After finishing with the league's 21st-ranked offense in 2013-14, the Lakers need someone who can make things happen with the ball.
Doug McDermott, the fifth-leading scorer in the history of the NCAA, could be the answer.
The Creighton standout led the nation in scoring on 52 percent shooting. He was also honored as the recipient of the John R. Wooden Award and was recognized as the Associated Press’ player of the year.
McDermott isn’t a great defender or passer, but his ability to put the ball in the basket will translate well to the NBA game. The only concern is in regards to his size, but McDermott has proven over the course of his four years in college that he is a skilled rebounder on both ends.
He might not be the superstar that he was in college, but McDermott is going to be a solid pro that the Lakers would be glad to have if the other prospects on their board get snatched up early.
4. Noah Vonleh, PF/C, Indiana
Vitals: 6'10", 247 pounds
Key 2013-14 Stats: 11.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.4 BPG
B/R lead writer Kevin Ding said after the lottery that “[Los Angeles] really likes Vonleh.” He also added that Vonleh is “a guy that the Lakers are already infatuated with, and if he’s there at number seven, I think he’s their guy.”
Vonleh, who averaged about 11 points and nine boards per game in his freshmen campaign, is a stud athlete, and though he’s listed as a power forward, he possesses about the same wingspan as Embiid, per DraftExpress.com.
Pair the 18-year-old’s versatility on both ends of the floor with his ton of upside, and it's easy to see how he would be a tremendous fit for the rebuilding Lakers—now and even more so down the line.
3. Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Vitals: 6'3", 227 pounds
Key 2013-14 Stats: 18.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.8 APG, 2.9 SPG
Marcus Smart has the potential to be a star, and if the beast of a point guard is on the board when the Lakers are set to pick, they’d be wise to snag the sophomore from Oklahoma State.
L.A. caught lightning in a bottle when they picked up Kendall Marshall last year, but the former UNC Tar Heel is much more of a distributor than a scorer. Smart, who averaged 18 points per game last year, would serve as the perfect complement to Marshall and would help L.A. form a solid 1-2 punch at point guard.
A hard-nosed defender with insane athleticism, Smart would be able to make an immediate impact in Los Angeles.
His jumper is a work in progress, but Smart has an extremely high ceiling, and he would help the Lakers next year and beyond.
2. Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Vitals: 6'9", 250 pounds
Key 2013-14 Stats: 15.0 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 1.4 APG
In his post-lottery mock draft, B/R’s Jonathan Wasserman has the Lakers selecting Kentucky’s Julius Randle. And if Wasserman’s prediction rings true, Los Angeles fans should be doing backflips when they hear Randle’s name on draft night.
Randle helped lead a fledgling Wildcats team all the way to the NCAA title game this year, and he proved along the way that he’s an NBA-ready freak.
Matt Moore of CBS Sports also pinned Randle as a future Laker, noting that it’d be a “great situation” for him and also that “Kobe will love his killer attitude.”
If Randle is available at No. 7, and there's a decent chance that he will be, the Lakers should pounce on him. This kid is a future star.
1. Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia
Vitals: 6'6", 196 pounds
Key Stats: 18.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.8 APG (2013 FIBA U19 Championship)
This is a complete Hail Mary, but there’s a chance that Australian superstar Dante Exum slips to the Lakers.
If he can somehow, someway slide past the Orlando Magic—the only team picking before L.A. in desperate need of a point guard—Los Angeles will have a shot at landing Exum.
On the surface, everything checks out—he's a legit 6'6" with explosive athleticism, a point guard's handle and a 2-guard's scoring attack. Exum told me at the draft he wants to play point guard, a position that he can shine in as a mismatch when you consider his size, explosiveness and skill set.
Exum told B/R's Jared Zwerling in April that he thinks going to the Lakers would be “his best option.” He raved about what it would mean to him to have Bryant as his mentor, and according to Mark Heisler of Forbes, Exum may do all he can to get to Los Angeles:
However, there’s widespread suspicion that Exum’s agent, Rob Pelinka, who’s also Kobe Bryant’s agent, may not let the Australian point guard work out for anyone but the Lakers. Exum, who has been in Southern California, working out, attending Laker games and meeting the guys, called them his “best option,” although he backed off that last week in Chicago.
While he’s sure to be coveted by other teams, the Australian phenom has made his intentions clear. It’s no sure bet that it’ll happen, but Exum to the Lakers is a match made in heaven.
Can the Lakers Use the Pick to Trade for Kevin Love?
I’ll get straight to the point here: no.
Had the Lakers landed a top-three pick, which they actually had a 21.5 percent chance of doing, using it to trade for Kevin Love would have been a legitimate option. But the Minnesota Timberwolves would be insane to deal Love for the seventh overall pick—though they’d be equally delusional if they didn’t pull the trigger on some sort of deal in exchange for the superstar forward who clearly wants out.
However, T’Wolves owner Glen Taylor told Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press that “it’s not in our plan” to trade Love before he hits free agency next summer. If the Wolves decide to hang onto Love, the Lakers can simply try and sign him when he becomes a free agent in July of 2015.
In January, one NBA executive told Ken Berger of CBS Sports that "[Minnesota] should trade him. No one thinks he's staying. Everyone knows he wants to go to the Lakers."
By making the right move on draft night—hopefully landing either Randle or Exum—the Lakers will have an established foundation, along with the Mamba, in place before they potentially attempt to sign Love as a free agent next year.
L.A.’s 2014 draft pick, whoever it is, will be a crucial factor in the Lakers' inevitable return to glory.