Best Potential Options for Los Angeles Lakers with No. 7 2014 Draft Pick

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2014

Best Potential Options for Los Angeles Lakers with No. 7 2014 Draft Pick

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    Fans of the Los Angeles Lakers fans needn't worry. Their draft-night hopes have not been completely flattened. 

    Luck wasn't on the Lakers' side at the NBA draft lottery. Instead of shooting up the draft board and into the top three, they dropped one spot to No. 7, prompting fans and team brass to bid premature farewells to Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and even Dante Exum. 

    Many saw Los Angeles' lottery-night excursion to be a failure, a disappointment. And it was. All along, the hope was something amazing would happen. Odds, smodds. The Lakers could win the lottery, or at the very least vault into the top three. 

    Sadly, they didn't. Which stinks. Yet all hope isn't lost. Which is awesome. 

    Draft classes don't get much deeper than this one. Not since 2003, anyway. Values can be had throughout the lottery, not just in the top three or five. The Lakers are in position to snatch one of those impact players if they retain their pick, something they're likely to do.

    Selecting seventh gives them more than enough opportunity to land someone special. History is littered with success stories from those picked seventh. Ask Stephen Curry. Or Luol Deng. Greg Monroe will tell you too, as will many others. 

    Thrown outside the top three, it's all about drafting for fit and need now, about finding the right player to advance rebuilding efforts. They can still do that, all while continuing to hope that Luck will decide to be a Laker on draft night.

Dario Saric, Croatia, PF

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    Draft reaches can be fun.

    Dario Saric could be one of those entertaining reaches. Most mock drafts have him going outside the top 10. Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman has him going 11th to the Denver Nuggets, and ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required) has the Orlando Magic taking him at No. 12. 

    Here's the thing: The Lakers are in a position to take this kind of risk. They didn't snag a top-three pick. There is no pressure to flip this selection for a superstar, or nab the next franchise savior. As one front-office executive told ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin, they're in a position that allows them to "not give a s--t about hype."

    At 6'10", Saric is an amalgam of Los Angeles' front line from last season. He can rebound like Jordan Hill, score on the block like Pau Gasol, shoot like Ryan Kelly and put the ball on the floor like, well, no tower the Lakers had.

    The caveat is whether Saric decides to make the NBA jump right away. General manager Mitch Kupchak isn't going to roll the dice on a draft-night reach he'll have to stash overseas for a few years. 

    But with the entire Lakers front line hitting free agency this summer, and the league alive with floor-spacing power forwards, Saric is someone you consider if he's prepared to come stateside.

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, PG

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    Point guards are a pretty big deal in the NBA, if you haven't heard.

    Landing Marcus Smart would be a pretty big deal for the Lakers.

    Smart is built like a tiger, which you typically don't see at the 1. Think Kyle Lowry, only more athletic and muscular, less pleasantly burly. 

    Kendall Marshall should be back with the Lakers next season. He's on a non-guaranteed contract worth under $1 million, according to ShamSports. After the year he had—his awkward-looking threes were a thing of beauty, if that makes any sense—the team won't find better value elsewhere.

    Both point men can play together, though. Smart doubles as an undersized shooting guard, who is sturdy enough to keep opposing 2-guards in check on the defensive end. For those times the Lakers run small, Kobe Bryant can be at the 3 while Marshall and Smart assume control of the backcourt. 

    The motor on Smart is absurd. He's an end-to-end fiend. As Ford wrote, his "toughness, leadership, competitiveness and a desire to win" have the ability to transform a team's on-court dynamic. That's why the Lakers could use him, as they're thin on healthy leadership these days.

    That's also why he could be off the board. 

    Wasserman has him going to the Boston Celtics at No. 6. They, too, could use another backcourt weapon, so there's no guarantee he drops to the Lakers at No. 7. 

    If he does, Smart is definitely worth a second, third, fourth and 28th look.

Aaron Gordon, Arizona, PF

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    Aaron Gordon would be a boon for the Lakers' youth movement. The kid is fast.

    There's a lot of work for Gordon to do on the offensive end, but he has the speed to be a legitimate force in transition. Honing his jumper would make him nigh unguardable, what with his progressing ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim.

    Much of his value comes on the defensive end, where he's built to guard at least three of five positions. There's a serious case to be made that he can defend point guards as well. He has the lateral quickness. With a little beefing up, we might also be looking at someone who can hassle the occasional center.

    How's that for versatility?

    Oh, and did I mention he's fast? Because he is. 

    Munch on this draft-combine tidbit from Wasserman:

    Gordon finished seventh at the NBA combine in the lane agility test, just ahead of Marcus Smart and behind six other guards. He also finished with the fastest shuttle run in the gym after getting up for a 39" max vertical—a ridiculous number for a guy who's close to 6'9". 

    No matter what the Lakers do in free agency, they're going to need help up front. Gordon won't replace Gasol's playmaking or his range, but he gives Bryant an athletic big with immediate starting potential.

    Not to mention the Black Mamba hasn't played alongside this sort of frontline explosion in, well, forever.

Zach LaVine, UCLA, PG/SG

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    Some of you aren't going to like this.

    Taking Zach LaVine out of UCLA will feel like a ridiculous reach. In many ways, it is. Wasserman doesn't have him being scooped up until No. 13, and Ford has him going at No. 14. But he's not the project everyone thought he was. 

    Judging by his performance at the draft combine, he's ready to play at the NBA level now. Let's allow Wasserman to take it away once more:

    You couldn’t miss Zach LaVine at the NBA combine—he was the guy torching defenders in two-on-twos, knocking down jumpers during shooting drills and toying with the athletic tests. 

    He recorded a big-time 41.5” max vertical and the fastest agility time in the gym. LaVine also measured in a quarter-inch under 6’6”. 

    Sliding LaVine alongside Bryant is a scary thought. The former could wind up being his eventual replacement at the 2-guard position, but not in the threatening, Bryant-is-going-to-shun-him way.

    LaVine and the Black Mamba can play together. It can happen. The 6'6" LaVine mans both guard positions, making him an ideal sidekick for both Bryant and presumably Marshall. 

    Picture, if you would, Bryant, Marshall and LaVine running the break together—assuming Mamba the dinosaur can still run next season. End results would be insane. Each member of this triumvirate can pull up for transition threes and absorb contact and make the necessary adjustments on layup attempts. LaVine can even put someone on a poster, the way most of us hope Bryant still can.

    Reaching for LaVine comes with risks, make no mistake. The "project" label hasn't left his side completely. But he's outrunning it quickly.

    Soon, it will be but a blur. The Lakers wouldn't be unwise to join his hype train if given the opportunity. 

Julius Randle, Kentucky, PF

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    Rule No. "I Don't Really Know, but It's Definitely a Rule:" Consider drafting someone who wants to play for you.

    Exum would like to play for the Lakers. But he's not dropping this far. 

    Parker showed interest in relocating to Los Angeles. That's not happening either.

    Julius Randle is on board with sporting purple and gold. Now we're talking.

    "It would be extremely fun,” Randle said of playing with Bryant, per the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina. "I could learn a lot from him and talk to one of the greatest, if not the greatest player of all time. There’s a lot I could learn from and pick his brain in just how to get better and dealing with adversity."

    Lucky for Randle, and quite possibly the Lakers, he's well within Los Angeles' reach. Wasserman has Randle going to the Lakers at No. 7. Though he's clearly not their top choice, he could be the best player available at this point of the draft. 

    The 6'9" Randle has a 7'0" wingspan, per DraftExpress. That kind of length is valuable when defending forwards and contesting shots in general. It allows Randle to recover more easily than others. 

    Then there's his speed. He reminds yours truly of a younger, far-more-spry David West. His footwork is incredible and he can beat opposing forwards off the dribble while facing the basket, or bully his way down low from the block.

    Jump shots remain a point of issue for Randle, since he hasn't shown much in the way of range. Yet while he'll likely never develop into a stretch forward, he's not precluded from becoming a consistent shooter outside 12 feet. 

    Any help the Lakers can get up front is worth it at this point too. Randle has star potential, an exceedingly high ceiling within the right offense and—most importantly—is ready to get his Mamba on.