5 Draft Prospects Guaranteed to Interest the LA Lakers
After a season that can only be described as an unmitigated disaster, the Los Angeles Lakers entered the NBA draft lottery looking to catch a much-needed break. The basketball gods had other things in mind, however, as their tumultuous season took a turn for the worse.
It wasn’t a basketball that crushed the Lakers this time, though. Those dreaded pingpong balls bounced, bounced and bounced some more, and when it was all said and done, the Lakers didn’t leave with a coveted top-three pick in this talented draft. They didn’t even leave with the sixth pick that their decrepit play had rewarded them with.
No, they actually dropped a spot, as the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled a rabbit out of their hat and leaped up to the No. 1 spot. On a quick tangent, would someone please tell Bill Simmons that God doesn’t hate Cleveland? He tries to help, he really does. It’s not his fault Cleveland can’t capitalize on his gifts.
Anyway, back to the Lakers.
The most crushing thing the lottery wrought was the demise of the Kevin Love era, err dream, in Los Angeles. It was a stretch to begin with, as the Lakers are devoid of talent in which to package, but without a top-three pick, the harsh reality has set in: There will be no Love-fest in Hollywood next season.
Don’t fret, though, Los Angeles, because the beauty of life is that even in the worst of times, there is always a silver lining. That holds true here. While this draft might not be stacked with as many game-changers as previously thought, there is still some serious talent to be had, even with the seventh pick.
With the Lakers having holes in nearly every area, it won’t be about filling a need. The onus will be on drafting the best player that falls to them. While Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid are sure to go in the top three, in some order, the rest of the draft is in absolute limbo.
We’ll try to make sense of the chaos that is sure to ensue, and in the process, flush out the prospects that would entertain the golden boys the most.
All stats and measurements courtesy of DraftExpress.com.
The Lakers would love to add Exum to their squad. So would every team drafting before them, though. The chances of him sliding this far are slim to none. Adding the talented Australian is not in the cards for Los Angeles.
Nic Stauskas is a dynamic offensive player, and he proved that throughout his tenure in Michigan. Unfortunately for Stauskas, however, he entered an extremely talented class. Leapfrogging the names above him is unlikely. Still, watching him in the purple and gold would have been a treat, especially with Kobe Bryant’s future in question.
Drafting the kid out of UCLA has all the makings of a Hollywood story, and his impressive outing at the NBA Draft Combine raised his draft stock considerably. As with Stauskas, though, the talent in front of him is just too big to ignore. While his shooting ability is unquestioned, his off-the-dribble game leaves a lot to be desired.
Dario Saric possesses a breathtaking game, as few men of his size can handle the ball and score as fluidly as him. Many scouts question, however, if his European game can translate to the NBA. The Lakers are in no position to gamble right now, especially with there being no guarantee that he would make the leap from Europe this season. Too many questions, not enough answers. The Lakers will pass here.
5. Noah Vonleh
Noah Vonleh wowed scouts at the NBA Draft Combine, as his ability to space the floor and his off-the-charts measurements (7’4” wingspan??) had everyone salivating.
Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding has already stated that the Lakers are extremely high on Vonleh and would most likely draft him should he fall to them at the seventh selection. Why, then, does he check in at just fifth? He most likely won’t be around when the Lakers’ pick comes around.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, the rest of the NBA also saw what Vonleh could do, and as a result, the chances of him slipping by the Utah Jazz or Boston Celtics are slim. Still, like the Lakers, those teams also have serious holes, and should they decide to fill them at other positions, Vonleh would be a nice addition to the roster.
The age of the stretch 4 has officially begun in the NBA, and Vonleh fits that role perfectly. He shot an absurd 48.5 percent from the three-point line in college, and while the NBA three is obviously a bit further, the transition should go off without a hitch. Throw in his elite rebounding ability—9.5 per game in just 25.5 minutes of action—and he’s an easy choice.
With Pau Gasol getting up there in age—an old 33— and set to enter free agency, the need to replenish the frontcourt is of the upmost importance. Vonleh would be a nice piece to start the rebuild with.
4. Doug McDermott
Before the draft combine, the thought of Doug McDermott going this high was unthinkable. Many questioned his athleticism and whether or not his elite scoring could transition to the NBA.
While some of his measurements didn’t help—he clocked in at just 6’6” without shoes—he held his own against the other prospects and posted an impressive 36.5-inch vertical. At the end of the day, his shooting and elite scoring potential make him a sensible pick.
With the Lakers experiencing their biggest rut in years, a splashy, big-name pick like McDermott would set the city on fire. Outside of Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, there is no more marketable prospect in the draft than Doug “McBuckets.”
Still, it all comes down to whether or not McDermott can play, and if you ask ESPN’s Scoop Jackson, he’s proven that and then some:
When he is open, his shot is like watching a pool shark shoot on empty red felt. After I watched in person Parker, Wiggins, Embiid, Randle, Gordon and others who are projected to be drafted ahead of McDermott this season, it seemed evident that McDermott is that much better and far more consistent and efficient than anyone else playing basketball at this level.
His game speaks for itself. Guys that average 26.7 points per game don’t grow on trees, and finishing as the fifth-best scorer in the history of the NCAA has to count for something. He’s the best pure scorer in the draft, and scoring is something the Lakers desperately need.
This pick would kill two birds with one stone, as the Lakers would fill an enormous need while simultaneously bringing in the big name they so desperately desire.
3. Aaron Gordon
Aaron Gordon is a physical specimen, there’s no denying that. He’s also an unpolished prospect, however, and that could be his downfall in the draft.
While Gordon would be able to step in right away and provide defense and transition scoring, the lack of competent guard play outside of Kobe Bryant would make him nonexistent in the half-court game. Athletes like Gordon don’t grow on trees, though, and with the offensive-minded Mike D’Antoni now gone, his replacement will surely put a premium on defense.
Gordon can anchor that unit now, as his terrific leaping ability and 7’0” wingspan will wreak havoc on anyone that enters the lane. That is what is so enticing about Gordon. Despite a shot that needs work and an offensive arsenal that is still bare, he’s still guaranteed to be swooped up early.
Post moves and shooting are things that can be learned; Blake Griffin is a testament to that. It’s the elite athleticism that is unique to Gordon, and that is something that cannot be taught, and that is why the Lakers will give him a long, hard look should he fall to them at this spot.
Gordon has been compared to both Shawn Marion and Kenneth Faried by draft scouts and by Bleacher Report’s Daniel O’Brien here, and those comparisons might not be all that farfetched. While his shooting stroke would have to improve considerably to live up to the Marion hype, he possesses all the raw tools to be every bit the terror that Faried has become.
Gordon makes a lot of sense for the Lakers here and should he slip, he very well could be sporting purple and gold next season.
2. Julius Randle
A lot of what was said about Vonleh applies to Julius Randle in that there are no guarantees that he’ll be around at this spot. Should he fall, however, the value of getting him this late would be astronomical.
Randle is a double-double machine waiting to happen when he debuts in the NBA, a man with All-Star talent and 20-10 potential. ESPN’s Chad Ford (subscription required) has Randle pegged to the Lakers at this spot if they don’t make a trade, noting that he would fill a big need and is NBA-ready:
If they keep the pick, they'll want a player who can come in and contribute from the start. Randle, along with Parker, might be the most NBA-ready freshman in the draft. With the Lakers' entire front line heading into free agency this summer (including Pau Gasol, Chris Kaman and Jordan Hill), L.A. is going to have a lot of needs up front.
Randle has proved himself to be an elite rebounder in the college ranks, gobbling up over 10 per game, and his polished post play would compensate for the loss of Gasol. Drafting a player that can contribute right away is vital for the Lakers, and they would have that in Randle.
While his defense leaves a lot to be desired, his upside is just too high to pass up. Should he slide, expect his name to be called here.
1. Marcus Smart
The Lakers had visions of grandeur when they persuaded Steve Nash to join their ranks. After years of NBA service, however, Nash was just too broken down to truly contribute. That has left a gaping hole at point guard, and while Kendall Marshall and Jordan Farmar valiantly tried to pick up the load, neither is the long-term solution.
Marcus Smart is the answer to the questions Nash has left in his wake, an immensely talented guard ready to compete from day one. Smart is 6’4”, 225 pounds, and he sports a 6’9” wingspan, unbelievable measurements for a point guard. His size and quickness made him an elite defender in the college ranks; his 2.9 steals per game were a testament to that.
Smart was also a tremendous rebounder for his position, grabbing nearly six per contest. Few can match his overall game. It’s his personality, however, that makes him a perfect fit. Smart is a fiery competitor on the court, a trait valued by Kobe Bryant. Pairing those two together would bring back the intensity that was notably missing this season.
Smart is a natural leader, a trait that Bleacher Report’s Daniel O’Brien covered here, and that is something that many of the other supposed lottery picks cannot yet claim.
Many questioned Smart’s decision to forgo the NBA draft last season, as he was a lock to be a top-three pick. Smart’s draft stock loss, however, could very well be the Lakers’ gain.
With Nash likely done, Gasol presumably gone and Kobe on his last legs, the Lakers have entered a transition period. Smart is the perfect man to lead them into the new era.