After a season worth forgetting, there is justifiably a fair bit of anticipation heading into this draft, an unfamiliar sensation for many Los Angeles Lakers fans. Normally the draft for this team is about finding a diamond in the rough later in the draft, not trying to identify the team's next franchise player in the lottery.
But that's where the Lakers stand nonetheless, and not surprisingly that's where the rumors surrounding the team are also focused.
When the Lakers select at No. 7 overall, a slew of good players will still be available. But which are they likely to target?
Well, it seems point guard will be emphasized, if the latest rumors are to be believed. One player the team seems to like is Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
Spoke to a Lakers source who was very impressed by Marcus Smart's workout with them: "Tenacity was off the charts"— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) June 17, 2014
Of course, another player that has clearly made an impression is Elfrid Payton, per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:
Keep eye on Louisiana Lafayette point guard Elfrid Payton, who is working out for Lakers for 2nd time Friday, a source told a Yahoo Sports.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) June 17, 2014
Both players defend well and drive to the basket with regularity. What could possibly push Smart over the top is that he is the more polished player and is an excellent rebounder for a guard. If he can improve his jump shot, he'll be a complete player.
Of course, if either player lands on the Lakers, they'll need to adjust to life beside Kobe Bryant rather quickly. Kobe is still the straw that stirs the drink in LA, so Smart or Payton would have to be comfortable playing second fiddle.
One player who would embrace any of the challenges that could come with playing with Kobe is Julius Randle, who has worked out with the Lakers, as he told Mike Trudell of Lakers.com:
Randle on playing with Bryant: "It'd be amazing. I heard Kobe is a little tough on rookies, but I don't care."— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) June 17, 2014
He wasn't done, per Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:
Julius Randle: "I'm the biggest Laker fan. Probably more of a Kobe fan."— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) June 17, 2014
It sure sounds like somebody wants to be a Laker. And after averaging 15.0 points and 10.4 rebounds as a freshman for Kentucky, he'll certainly be an enticing option for the Lakers at No. 7 if he's still available.
Or if the Lakers still have that pick. As Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times tweeted, the Lakers could look to move it:
Of the lottery teams, Lakers and Kings seem most receptive to making a deal.— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) June 17, 2014
But would the Lakers be looking to make a deal to move up in the draft—perhaps chasing a player like Dante Exum—or would they be looking to package it for a deal to land a veteran forward, say a fellow like Kevin Love?
It's hard to see how they would put together an attractive enough package to get the latter done. While Love would likely be open to a move to the Lakers, what exactly does LA have to offer Minnesota other than that No. 7 pick?
Not much, right?
There are plenty of possibilities heading into the draft for the Lakers, but one thing is for certain—in a rarity for the organization, the draft this year is of the utmost importance. It's a change of pace for the team, but one that likely won't be a yearly occurrence either.