Barring a trade, the Los Angeles Lakers are slated to select seventh overall in the 2014 NBA draft. Fans in Los Angeles would love to see Joel Embiid or Andrew Wiggins in purple and gold next season, but at this point, there's virtually no chance those two drop out of the top three, let alone the top six.
So that brings us to the ultimate question: Whom should the Lakers be targeting? Which positions are most important to look at, and do they simply take the best talent available?
Between now and June 26, there will be plenty of speculation as to what the Lakers will do with their pick. What we do know, however, is which players would best fit in L.A. today and which players management should consider with the draft around the corner.
Dante Exum could very well be the Lakers' top target. He's a long, athletic point guard who would slide in perfectly at a position that's been problematic for Los Angeles the past few seasons.
The problem is, Exum is more of an honorable mention at this point, as the chance of six teams passing on him looks highly unlikely.
As B/R's Jonathan Wasserman told B/R's Adam Lefkoe, "Yeah, Exum has the highest upside of any of the guards in the field. At both ends of the floor he can really change a game, get into the paint, lock down that perimeter with that 6'6" size, 6'9" wingspan."
All that sounds great for a team like L.A., but as Wasserman points out, the Australian is a perfect fit for the Orlando Magic at No. 4. It's possible that Exum would be a great for the Lakers, but it's improbable that they actually land him.
If the Lakers are set on drafting a point guard, Marcus Smart becomes the next (and more realistic) option.
Currently No. 8 on Chad Ford's Mock Draft 7.0 (ESPN Insider subscription required), Smart is more likely to be around than Exum when L.A. makes its decision. The former Oklahoma State product stands 6'3", 227 pounds, and he'd bring a strong perimeter presence on defense that the Lakers lacked during the 2013-14 season.
As with all prospects coming in, Smart brings with him both the good and the bad. He's a great penetrator with an ultra-competitive attitude, but his perimeter jumper and overall decision-making needs to improve.
Luckily for Los Angeles, the 20-year-old's motor will give him a high professional ceiling. There's time to improve for this youngster and time to prove he can be an NBA point guard—not just a tweener.
With the Lakers seemingly set to sever ties with Pau Gasol, a power forward could be the target come June.
Enter Julius Randle.
Despite not being an elite defender, Randle is versatile as an incoming 4. At 6'9", 234 pounds, he can score both with his back to the basket and in isolation sets, and Randle has the work ethic to compensate for an inconsistent jumper.
Although there are concerns regarding his health and the potential for surgery, Randle's stated he's OK. "My foot is fine," he said, courtesy of ESPNBoston.com's Chris Forsberg. "Everybody has their opinion on what they should do. But I'm pain-free. No pain before, during or after. I'm fine."
In Ford's mock draft (from above), Randle is the Lakers' guy. The ESPN analyst has L.A. taking the former Kentucky Wildcat at No. 7, stating, "Randle, along with Parker, might be the most NBA-ready freshman in the draft."
Ford goes on to say, "With the Lakers' entire front line heading into free agency this summer (including Pau Gasol, Chris Kaman and Jordan Hill), the Lakers are going to have a lot of needs up front."
Ford is right, and that help is what Randle could bring to the table. He's a player who can make a difference right away and is someone the team would love to build around deep into the future.
If the Lakers opt to stay away from Randle, but still want a power forward, Aaron Gordon becomes their primary target.
Although Gordon could go earlier than seventh in the draft, he's certainly someone L.A. must keep an eye on. He's a 6'9" power forward with incredible athleticism, and with that athleticism comes not just jumping ability but ball-handling skills that make him extremely versatile for his size.
According to Baxter Holmes of BostonGlobe.com, Gordon and the Celtics have mutual interest. The C's choose one spot ahead of Los Angeles in June, but if they decide Gordon's not their guy, the Lakers would be smart to consider the former Arizona Wildcat.
Doug McDermott is not a stellar athlete. He's not going to wow you with his brute strength or leaping ability, but this is a 22-year-old who knows how to put the ball in the basket.
In his senior year at Creighton, McDermott averaged 26.7 points on 52.6 percent shooting. He nailed 44.9 percent of his three-point shots and pulled down seven rebounds in the process.
If Mitch Kupchak is looking for a guy to stand alongside Kobe Bryant and score points, it could be McDermott. He's not only a good long-range shooter—he's a deep long-range shooter.
The Lakers were 11th in points per game this past season, but with so many players coming off the books, there's no telling who will return. McDermott won't do much to help the porous defense, but his high IQ just might make him the perfect player to complement Kobe in the twilight of his career.
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