Few teams will generate as much intrigue this offseason as the Los Angeles Lakers. After a nightmarish season, L.A. is hopeful that it can get back into contention during the 2014-15 campaign.
The eventual return of superstar guard Kobe Bryant will certainly help in that regard, but the rest of the roster is very much up in the air as is the head coaching position. The Lakers do hold the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, though, so they could find an impact player that way.
With the draft and free agency on the horizon, here is the latest buzz surrounding the Lakers as they attempt to return to their winning ways.
Joel Embiid in Play?
Just a couple days ago, it seemed like Kansas center Joel Embiid was a definite option for the Cleveland Cavaliers with the No. 1 overall selection in the draft, and he was most definitely a top-three pick at worst. Due to a new revelation regarding Embiid's health, though, the Lakers may surprisingly find themselves in position to draft the talented 7-footer.
According to SportsCenter, Embiid suffered a stress fracture in his foot that will require surgery:
It remains to be seen how long that might keep him on the shelf as agent Arn Tellem has opted to keep things largely under wraps until the situation has more clarity, per Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com.
"Joel Embiid suffered a stress fracture to the navicular bone in his right foot," Tellem said. "He is scheduled to have surgery (Friday). Joel will be unable to participate in any additional workouts, and will not attend the draft in New York. We will have no further comment until after the surgery."
Embiid's health was already a question mark entering the draft as he dealt with a back ailment during his freshman season at Kansas, but this foot problem could make teams even more apprehensive to draft him.
There is no doubt that Embiid is talented as the Cameroon native averaged 11 points, eight rebounds and nearly three blocks per game in just 23 minutes per contest. Embiid's ceiling is essentially limitless, but teams may be afraid to take a leap of faith.
If the Cavs decide against taking Embiid first, then there is some belief that the preference for him and his camp is to fall to No. 6 or No. 7, according to ESPN's Bill Simmons:
That certainly makes sense as the Boston Celtics and Lakers are two franchises that will be committed to winning once their rebuilds are complete. It is possible that Embiid will be taken before that, and there are no guarantees that the Celtics or Lakers would be interested, but getting the potential No. 1 player in the draft at No. 7 could be a major coup for L.A.
Lakers Willing to Deal on Draft Night?
If the Lakers stand pat in the NBA draft's first round at No. 7, they figure to get an excellent prospect. Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon, Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle and even Embiid in the wake of his injury are possibilities. If Los Angeles is looking to make a huge splash, though, perhaps a trade up is in the cards.
According to Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times, the Lakers are among the teams that are most likely to make a move early in the draft:
Although Woelfel didn't indicate which direction the Lakers might look to move in, one can only assume that a trade down wouldn't interest them. Los Angeles desperately needs to add some impact players around Bryant, and while there is talent throughout the first round, the elite players exist in the lottery.
The Lakers could use some help at essentially every position on the floor, so it is tough to pinpoint whom they might be targeting. Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker look very much like the favorites to go No. 1 and No. 2. It is a crapshoot after that, but Aussie Dante Exum could land somewhere in the top five.
He could be an interesting option for L.A. as a combo guard to play alongside Bryant. Whatever the Lakers' plan is, they are always looking to make a splash, so it wouldn't be a big surprise to see them move up on draft night.
Coaching Candidates Come into Focus
As the draft approaches, the Lakers are still unsure who will lead the team next season. Former head coach Mike D'Antoni stepped down in May, which means there is still a large void left to be filled. The Los Angeles coaching job is always a coveted one, but there is no doubt that there is a lot of work to be done based on how the roster looks currently.
Even so, the Lakers have no shortage of options. According to Bleacher Report's Howard Beck, the Lakers have whittled their search down to a few main candidates.
"The Lakers have interviewed at least a half-dozen coaches, but sources say they are focused on three primary candidates: [Kurt] Rambis, Alvin Gentry and Byron Scott," Beck wrote.
That leaves Rambis and Scott, both of whom are former Lakers players. Rambis also happens to be a Lakers assistant coach, so some might assume that he has the inside track. ESPN's Chris Broussard is reporting that the Lakers have shown extensive interest in Scott, though:
It is difficult to say which coach would be a better fit for the Lakers since there is so much work to be done on the roster, but Scott has the advantage in terms of experience and success as a head coach.
Scott also comes across as a good motivator, which will be paramount as the Lakers look to perform beyond their means. The decision has yet to be made, but Scott might be the safer and more logical choice.
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