Ranking LA Lakers' Most Realistic 2014 NBA Draft Picks
The Los Angeles Lakers have a massive decision to make regarding who to select with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
This is the first time the Lakers will be picking in the lottery in nearly a decade, and it's the first step in their rebuilding program.
Whoever L.A. tabs will likely be billed as the franchise's cornerstone in the post-Kobe Bryant era.
So, who should that be?
We will assume that Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Dante Exum will all be gone by the time the Lakers are on the clock. Surprises happen every year, but the odds that one of those consensus top four—according to Chad Ford's latest big board and mock draft (subscriptions required)—fall to L.A. are extremely slim.
Taking that into account, let's craft a mini-big board ranking the realistic options for the Lakers at No. 7.
No. 5: Nik Stauskas
Nik Stauskas carries the reputation of being the best pure shooter in the draft.
He attempted nearly six three-pointers a game last season and knocked down over 44 percent of them.
Stauskas also proved that he was not a one-trick pony, driving hard to the rim when given an opportunity and generating nearly six free-throw attempts a night.
While he should be a very productive player whose scoring and floor spacing will jolt his team's offense, Stuaskas doesn't have star potential.
The Lakers will be looking for someone who can be a big box-office draw as well as develop into a top-tier player.
Though L.A. had scheduled a workout with Stauskas (which he postponed due to a minor injury), it will have better options available to it on draft night.
No. 4: Julius Randle
At the beginning of the college basketball season, Julius Randle was in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick.
However, Randle didn't quite live up to his hype at Kentucky.
He was very solid, averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds a game, but he didn't dominate the competition like most people expected him to.
Now a concerning foot injury has dropped his stock even further.
Randle is still very young, with the potential to still develop into a force in the NBA.
All the talent is there for him to become a dangerous offensive option and elite rebounder, but his lack of size means that he won't make much of an impact protecting the rim defensively—a glaring hole in any big man's game.
Randle could end up being the steal of the draft if he develops into the guy everyone thought he would coming out of high school, but the Lakers will likely have a chance to draft a player with a similar ceiling and a safer floor.
No. 3: Aaron Gordon
Aaron Gordon's college statistics won't overwhelm you, but when you watch him play, you can see just how much he can help any NBA team.
Gordon is the proverbial "Swiss army knife" type of player. He contributes in all areas across the board and delivers more value than his box scores indicate.
The Arizona product's length, lateral quickness and athleticism allow him to be a disruptive defender at multiple positions as well as a terrific finisher in transition.
His "tweener" status gives pause, though. He hasn't shown a reliable enough outside shot to play on the perimeter, but his body may not be up to withstanding a constant pounding down low, either.
Still, Gordon is one of the youngest players in the draft and has plenty of time to mold himself into the player he will become.
While the raw athleticism and versatility will be hard to pass up, Gordon still ranks behind a couple of other guys on this list because his offensive game may never develop to the point where he can be a go-to player on that end.
No. 2: Noah Vonleh
Noah Vonleh has been steadily rising up draft boards all season and now seems to be slightly favored as the first guy to be selected after the four players in the top tier.
The freshman from Indiana didn't put up eye-popping numbers, but he is oozing with potential.
He can score down low as well as step out to the three-point line, where he made nearly half of his attempts (albeit on a limited number of tries).
But what gives him the edge over someone like Julius Randle is what he can do defensively.
Vonleh's extraordinary length—he has a 7'4" wingspan—and great athleticism for his size will make him a good deterrent near the basket. He averaged two blocks per 40 minutes in college.
His ability to rebound and protect the rim on one end and score in a variety of ways on the other add up to a player the Lakers would be thrilled to take at No. 7.
No. 1: Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart has been all over the map in terms of where draft experts think he will go.
The Oklahoma State guard didn't iron out all of the wrinkles in his game during his sophomore campaign, but he did improve subtly, cutting down his turnovers and boosting his assist and efficiency numbers.
He's got great size and strength for his position, which makes up for any quickness he lacks on the defensive end. He also led the nation in steals in both of his collegiate seasons.
Smart has the reputation of being a great leader, and no one is questioning that even after a rocky season in terms of his behavior. He will do whatever it takes for his team to win, whether that's willing himself to the foul line or crashing the offensive glass.
The Lakers need someone with that makeup to lead them in the future. Point guard has long been a trouble spot for L.A., and Smart would give them a great option at that position for the next decade.
If the Lakers are presented with the choice of drafting either Smart or Noah Vonleh, it won't be an easy decision.
Smart's absolute ceiling may be a bit lower, but the confidence he exudes makes him a surer bet, and his leadership is exactly what the Lakers need moving forward.
That's why Marcus Smart would be L.A.'s No. 1 option on draft night.