Laker Fans Can Take Solace in Recent History of No. 7 NBA Draft Picks
Barring another unforeseen shakeup atop the 2014 NBA draft, the Los Angeles Lakers won't have a prayer of pegging either Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker to be Kobe Bryant's running mate/successor with the No. 7 pick.
What they will have, though, are a number of other solid options.
According to ESPN's Chad Ford, L.A. has targeted Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart and Kentucky's Julius Randle as its top two options. Aaron Gordon, Noah Vonleh, Elfrid Payton, Zach LaVine and Doug McDermott have all been mentioned in connection with the Purple and Gold at one point or another. Dante Exum, who's spent the past few months living and working out in Southern California, might've been a more realistic choice had he not all but locked himself into the top five.
And now that Joel Embiid's out of the mix to be the top pick after undergoing surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot, the Cameroonian-turned-Kansas Jayhawk may well fall into the Lakers' lap.
That swath of young studs should be enough to settle the nerves of Laker Nation over their likelihood of landing a star as recompense for the team's miserable 2013-14 campaign. So, too, should the last decade's worth of players taken in that "lucky" seventh slot.
2004: Luol Deng, Phoenix Suns
Career Averages: 16 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists in 35.8 minutes (677 games)
Deng went on to become a fixture on the wing for the Bulls. He was selected to back-to-back Eastern Conference All-Star teams in 2012 and 2013, along with a spot on the All-Defensive team for his work during the 2011-12 season.
Chicago dumped Deng on the Cleveland Cavaliers this past season for Andrew Bynum's expiring contract and three draft picks. He struggled to find his niche in Rock City, averaging 15.2 points on 41.7 percent shooting in 40 games, as the Cavs collapsed out of the East's playoff picture.
Deng will be a free agent this summer and may well be on the Lakers' radar.
2005: Charlie Villanueva, Toronto Raptors
Career Averages: 11.5 points, 5.1 rebounds 1.0 assists in 23.1 minutes (530 games)
Notables Taken After No. 7: Andrew Bynum (No. 10), Danny Granger (No. 17)
Surprising as it may seem now, Charlie Villanueva actually had the makings of a solid—if not well-above-average—NBA player during the early years of his pro career. The former UConn Husky was a double-digit scorer during each of his first six seasons, topping out at 16.2 points per game for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2008-09.
It wasn't until Villanueva signed a five-year, $37.7 million deal with the Detroit Pistons in 2009 that his career began to unravel. His arrival coincided with the Pistons' descent into mediocrity, from which the team has yet to extricate itself. He appeared in just 13 games in 2011-12 and missed a career-most 62 contests this past season, the latter largely on account of his being buried on the bench.
Villanueva will be a free agent come July 1.
2006: Randy Foye, Boston Celtics
Career Averages: 11.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists in 27.7 minutes (552 games)
Notables Taken After No. 7: Rudy Gay (No. 8), J.J. Redick (No. 11), Rajon Rondo (No. 21), Kyle Lowry (No. 24)
Randy Foye got passed around like a collection plate at church during the 2006 NBA draft. The Boston Celtics took him seventh, only to flip him to the Portland Trail Blazers (along with Dan Dickau and Raef LaFrentz) in a deal for Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair and a second-round pick. The Blazers, in turn, traded Foye to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Brandon Roy.
That move didn't prove fruitful for Minny, to say the least. Roy immediately emerged as one of the league's premier scoring guards, snagging Rookie of the Year honors and appearing in three straight All-Star Games thereafter.
Foye, though, wasn't exactly a slouch. The Villanova grad topped out at 16.3 points per game for the T-Wolves in 2008-09 before bouncing among the Washington Wizards, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Utah Jazz. This past season, Foye found his way to the Denver Nuggets, for whom he chipped in 13.2 points and 3.5 assists in 81 games, 78 of which were starts.
2007: Corey Brewer, Minnesota Timberwolves
Career Averages: 10 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists in 25.7 minutes (467 games)
Notables Taken After No. 7: Joakim Noah (No. 9), Thaddeus Young (No. 12), Nick Young (No. 16), Arron Afflalo (No. 27).
Corey Brewer fell in between Florida teammates Al Horford (No. 3) and Joakim Noah (No. 10) in the draft order in 2007, but hasn't had a career that could so much as sniff those of the other two.
Which, frankly, says more about their excellence than it does about Brewer's accomplishments. Brewer finally fit in as a starter with the Timberwolves in his third season, only to be shipped out of Minnesota the following year. Luckily for him, Brewer landed with the Dallas Mavericks, playing a marginal role in their run to the 2010-11 title.
After two seasons with the Denver Nuggets, Brewer returned to the T-Wolves in 2013-14, establishing himself as the preferred target of Kevin Love's legendary outlet passes.
2008: Eric Gordon, Los Angeles Clippers
Career Averages: 17.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists in 34.2 minutes (311 games)
Eric Gordon might be one of the premier shooting guards in the NBA today if not for his seemingly fragile frame. Injuries to his hamstring, wrist and knees have rendered Gordon a constant concern for teams counting on him to be a consistent contributor.
And not without good reason. When healthy, Gordon's talent and physical gifts portend All-Star-caliber play. He averaged 22.3 points during his final campaign with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2010-11, and shot a career-high 39.1 percent from three for the New Orleans Pelicans this past season.
If Gordon can somehow avoid the training room for an extended period of time, he might soon find himself as one of the leading scorers on a playoff-bound squad in the Crescent City.
2009: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Career Averages: 20.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 6.7 assists in 35.6 minutes (336 games)
Notables Taken After No. 7: Jrue Holiday (No. 17), Ty Lawson (No. 18), Jeff Teague (No. 19)
Fitness was—and, to some extent, remains—a serious concern for Stephen Curry. His brittle ankles robbed him of most of the 2011-12 season and likely cost him millions on his second pro contract.
Still, the Golden State Warriors liked Curry enough to reward him with a four-year, $44 million extension in Oct. 2012, and their gambit has paid off handsomely ever since. Curry was spectacular from Day 1 in the Bay Area, averaging 18 points on 47 percent shooting (43.9 percent from three) across his rookie and sophomore seasons.
His last two campaigns, though, have blown those out of the water. Curry's upped his scoring to 23.5 points per game since the start of the 2012-13 season, all while maintaining his shooting percentages and establishing himself as one of the NBA's premier playmakers at the point guard position.
This past season, Curry capped his rise to a prominent place among the league's elite with his first All-Star and All-NBA selections.
2010: Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons
Career Averages: 14 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists in 31.3 minutes (309 games)
Notables Taken After No. 7: Paul George (No. 10), Larry Sanders (No. 15), Eric Bledsoe (No. 18)
It's tough to tell exactly where Greg Monroe would fit if we were to rank the No. 7 picks of the last decade against each other.
On the one hand, he's been a steady contributor for the Detroit Pistons since he first set foot in the Association. Here's how Grantland's Zach Lowe described Monroe's game:
He’s a low-post behemoth with quick feet, a hungry appetite for rebounds, and good passing skills for his position. Throw this dude the ball on the low block and he’ll get buckets and double-teams.
That skill set, along with Monroe's size (6'11, 253 pounds), should be enough to earn the Louisiana native a superb payday in restricted free agency this summer. According to Sporting News' Sean Deveney, the Lakers could be the team to make Monroe a rich man.
On the other hand, Monroe's development has stagnated somewhat. He's not particularly quick or athletic, particularly on the defensive end, and his mid-range jumper leaves much to be desired.
But the Georgetown product just turned 24, and should wind up no worse than an invaluable role player on a good team that knows how to properly deploy him, be it in the Motor City or elsewhere.
2011: Bismack Biyombo, Sacramento Kings
Career Averages: 4.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 0.3 assists in 21.4 minutes (220 games)
Notables Taken After No. 7: Klay Thompson (No. 11), Kawhi Leonard (No. 15), Kenneth Faried (No. 22)
What happens when you've got the seventh pick in an unseasonably weak draft? You wind up with a project like Bismack Biyombo.
At this point, Biyombo's name is much more fun to say than his game is to watch. The Congolese center, who came to Charlotte by way of a three-team trade with the Sacramento Kings and the Milwaukee Bucks on draft day in 2011, lacks anything in the way of discernible offensive skills, and he still has a long way to go in learning (much less mastering) the art of defense in the NBA.
Biyombo, though, can take comfort in the fact that his age (21), his height (6'9"), his length (a freakish 7'6" wingspan, per Draft Express) and his athleticism will intrigue enough teams to assure himself many more shots to "make it" in the NBA.
2012: Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors
Career Averages: 9.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists in 26.8 minutes (159 games)
Notables Taken After No. 7: Andre Drummond (No. 9), John Henson (No. 14), Terrence Jones (No. 18)
The Golden State Warriors "tanked" their way back into their lottery pick in 2012, and wound up with Harrison Barnes as a result. Since then, Barnes has been equal parts tantalizing and teasing in the Bay Area.
Warriors fans will reflect fondly on Barnes' breakout performance in the 2013 playoffs, when he averaged 16.1 points and 6.4 rebounds during Golden State's Cinderellish run. But that nostalgia might quickly turn to disappointment when considering his sophomore season, during which his efficiency and effectiveness plummeted amidst injuries and an uneven adjustment to a role as the first man off Mark Jackson's bench.
Still, the North Carolina product has plenty of room left to grow. He turned 22 at the end of May and may well find himself back in a starting role for Steve Kerr should Klay Thompson be part of the price the Warriors pay for Kevin Love.
Unless, of course, Barnes is tossed into the deal as well.
2013: Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings
Career Averages: 8.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.0 assists in 26.7 minutes (82 games)
Notables Taken After No. 7: Trey Burke (No. 9), Michael Carter-Williams (No. 11), Tim Hardaway Jr. (No. 24)
Ben McLemore's rookie season with the Sacramento Kings was nothing if not uneven. The 21-year-old out of Kansas struggled to live up to his billing as a sharpshooter, converting just 37.6 percent of his field goal attempts, including 32 percent of his threes.
There were occasional flashes of McLemore's true potential, though. He was the first Western Conference Rookie of the Month this past season, finished the campaign with a career-high 31 points against the Phoenix Suns and was responsible for plenty of highlight-reel dunks in between—and not just the ones he flushed home during this year's convoluted Slam Dunk Contest.
Another year of seasoning on a slowly improving Kings squad should help to smooth out some of the rough edges in McLemore's incredibly raw game.
If history is any guide, the Lakers should be able to land themselves no worse than a solid rotation player with the No. 7 pick. It should help their case, too, that this year's draft could turn out to be the deepest in years.
To be sure, Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss shouldn't be expected to scoop up a future superstar with their selection. Of the last 10 No. 7 picks, only two (i.e. Deng and Curry) have played in the All-Star Game. On the bright side, eight of those 10 draft classes have seen at least one All-Star selected after the seventh slot.
The exceptions? The last two drafts, from which only two All-Stars—2012's Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard—have emerged thus far.
In that case, the Lakers could still stumble upon a star of some caliber if they play their cards right. The last time the Purple and Gold landed in the lottery, they managed to turn Andrew Bynum, an injury-riddled big man with attitude issues, into an All-Star and a fixture on two championship teams.
Just imagine, then, what they might be able to do with a high-upside athlete from among the likes of Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon and Marcus Smart.
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