Biggest Takeaways from Lakers' Predraft Workouts
In an El Segundo, California, practice facility under hanging championship banners and retired Los Angeles Lakers jerseys, 12 draft hopefuls gathered on Wednesday, working out for general manager Mitch Kupchak and other team personnel.
This was the first big group workout hosted by the team in preparation for this year’s draft and the first time in nearly a decade the Lakers have assembled this many lottery prospects at once.
With the No. 7 pick, Los Angeles has the chance to select a legitimate impact player this time around.
With such a deep draft class, the team is also open to expanding its presence there. As Kupchak said to reporters, per Lakers.com:
We’d still like to add to our draft selection. Could we move this pick and get multiple picks? Maybe. Could you buy a pick? Or trade a future pick for a present pick? Yeah, that’s possible. I think picks now are more valuable than they were, so I think it’s not as easy as it used to be, but I think that’s still a possibility.
Those participating in the first session on Wednesday included Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis, Michigan State shooting guard Gary Harris, Pepperdine power forward Brendan Lane, UCLA point guard Zach LaVine, Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart and Indiana power forward Noah Vonleh.
The second group included Weber State shooting guard Davion Berry, Nevada shooting guard Jerry Evans, Arizona combo forward Aaron Gordon, Creighton forward Doug McDermott, Louisiana point guard Elfrid Payton and Kentucky swingman James Young.
Berry and Evans were last-minute additions, replacing Duke forward Rodney Hood and Michigan guard Nik Stauskas, both of whom withdrew unexpectedly.
The day produced sky-high jumping, explosive scrimmages and the kind of draft anticipation that hasn’t been present since Andrew Bynum was selected as the No. 10 overall pick in 2005.
Zach LaVine Can Jump Out of the Gym
Easily the talk of the day was the outrageous 46-inch vertical jump from UCLA freshman Zach LaVine.
According to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, the mighty leap set a Lakers predraft workout record and comes on the heels of LaVine tying for the third-best vertical leap (41.5”) at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago in May.
LaVine expressed confidence after his Lakers workout: “I’m going to win a spot. I’ve gone higher than that before, but, yeah. I think I was pumped a little bit. You know, the Lakers.”
At 6’5”, LaVine has both the size and athleticism to be an intriguing point guard in the NBA. Although he often came off the bench during his one and only year at UCLA, his stock has been rising steadily since declaring for the draft.
It’s hard to imagine LaVine being taken at the No. 7 slot come draft night, but keep an eye peeled if the Lakers somehow manage to get a second pick.
Doug McDermott, High IQ and Deadly Shooter
One of Wednesday’s highlights at the Lakers' workout was Doug McDermott going at Aaron Gordon during the afternoon scrimmage session—an elite shooter against a fiery defender.
Per Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, here’s how the dueling forwards described it:
"We really got after it," said McDermott, a 6-foot-8 senior from Creighton. "I thought it was a great day."
"It was fun to get out here and compete," said 6-foot-9 Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon. "This is the first time I've competed against anybody in a while."
McDermott, a 6’8” senior out of Creighton, was the nation’s top scorer this past season, averaging 26.7 points per game. He’s got an incredibly smooth, quick-release jump shot coming off screens and also uses an effective fadeaway when being crowded.
The son of Creighton’s head coach, Greg McDermott, Doug has a high basketball IQ and the ability to work off the ball, finding ways to set himself up for a shot.
After his workout, McDermott spoke with the media and showed a pragmatic and honest understanding of his strengths and weaknesses. A power forward in college, he knows he’ll have to adjust in the NBA.
Per the above article for the Times:
I have to get a lot bigger. I'm not going to grow anymore so I have to hit the weight room hard. That will allow me to guard a four at times. In college I guarded a lot of strong guys. I think I can adjust once I get a little stronger, but as of now, I'm going to have to guard a three and possibly some twos and I think I can do it.
McDermott may not be getting the same level of hype as Gordon and Vonleh, but he’s a lethal scorer with the kind of maturity that could make him an instant and trouble-free fit in the NBA.
Aaron Gordon Wants to be a Point Forward in NBA
Aaron Gordon, who played just one year at Arizona State, has been compared to both Blake Griffin and Shawn Marion for his insane motor and ferocious throwdown dunks.
Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers scouting staff got a good look at the lottery prospect during workouts held by BDA Sports in Santa Monica in late May.
On Wednesday, the 6’9” forward was put through numerous drills again, and this time, he was asked to guard volume scorer Doug McDermott as a test of his defensive acumen.
Kevin Ding for Bleacher Report wrote about Gordon’s confidence and motivation after the workouts:
The motor and work ethic that go with Gordon’s own unique athleticism—he told the Lakers brass he envisions himself as eventually a point forward in the NBA—have him expecting to be chosen between picks four and eight. Gordon proudly drew a comparison to Bryant’s workout diligence in saying about the 12:45 p.m. session: “This wasn’t my first workout of the day.”
It’s been a while since the Lakers had a real point forward—Lamar Odom often filled that role during his seven years with the Lakers, but his style couldn’t have been more different. The silky-smooth Odom could play all five positions and had superb ball-handling skills, romping end-to-end with a patented hesitation move before laying it up left-handed.
That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with power, intensity and relentless jams. And as Gordon noted during his remarks to the media Wednesday, “I’ve played point forward my entire life but at the next level I want to be a forward and then develop into that.”
Are the Lakers interested in a lockdown defender, freakish athlete and potential point forward? You betcha.
Noah Vonleh Has NBA Size and Ability at Both Ends of Court
At 6’10” with a 7’4” wingspan, Noah Vonleh has the size and power to be a defensive intimidator in the NBA. His versatility also allows him to stretch the floor and sink shots from the perimeter.
The only frontcourt player under guaranteed contract for the Lakers at this point is Robert Sacre, the No. 60 pick from the 2012 draft. They also have the ability to extend a qualifying offer to Ryan Kelly who was the team’s No. 48 pick last year and showed good potential as a stretch 4 during his rookie season.
Vonleh brings something different to the table—the ability to meld several assets in one player. He’s got a good face-up jumper, can take players off the dribble and makes a difference on the other end of the floor.
Per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, Vonleh feels he could help the Lakers on defense, something that is sorely needed for a team that allowed 109.2 points per game last season: "I can cover different positions. I would like to talk a lot on the court, tell guys to switch, do different things. I think my communication would definitely help wherever I go.”
Vonleh averaged 11.3 points, nine boards and 1.4 blocks in only 26.5 minutes per game in his freshman season at Indiana before declaring for the draft. He won’t turn 19 until August and is still very much an unfinished product—his passing skills are lacking, and he sometimes lacks assertiveness when finishing at the rim.
Is there enough eventual upside for the Lakers to use their all-important No.7 pick on a very young frontcourt prospect? It’s a valid question. The combination of size, a talent for rebounding and solid shooting ability will certainly put him in contention.
Marcus Smart Would Be 1 of the Strongest Guards in NBA
The Lakers are in need of a healthy and dependable starting point guard. Marcus Smart could be that guy.
The two-year man out of Oklahoma State has excellent strength at 6’4” and 220 pounds and posted an impressive stat line this past season of 18 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.
During the media session after the end of Wednesday’s workouts, Smart referenced his physical advantage, per Lakers.com:
Me with a bigger body set, it makes it harder for guys. I don’t have to shake and bake as much. I can make one move and get my shoulder by you cause I’m so strong and it doesn’t take a lot for me to get by you, so that helps me on the offensive end. On the defensive end, I can get into you and guide you where I want you to go.
His jump shot is a work in progress, and he acknowledges that. Smart has also had a reputation for volatility, including an incident in which he went into the stands and shoved a Texas Tech fan last season.
Still, the point guard with a penchant for playing hard has been gaining steam leading up to the June 26 draft. He’s currently projected as the No. 4 pick in the Sports Illustrated mock draft and the No. 5 pick by DraftExpress.
Will he still be available by the time the Lakers come on the board? Only time will tell.