The Los Angeles Lakers find themselves in unfamiliar territory, treading into the waters of the NBA lottery for the first time since 2005. They wade in with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
Twenty-seven victories for the Lakers this past season was the franchise's worst win total since moving to Los Angeles. And for Lakers fans, so few wins is merely unacceptable.
You know this team isn't going to take in failure for long. That's why LA—at least publicly—has such high hopes of landing a major free agent on the market this summer (even though that seems somewhere between highly unlikely and impossible).
Thursday, the Lakers made their first big transaction, selecting Julius Randle with the No. 7 pick in the draft. Los Angeles actually had itself quite a draft, purchasing a second-round pick to take Jordan Clarkson, who could end up becoming one of the most valuable players from round two.
It doesn't matter what happens this offseason. The Lakers aren't going to compete in 2014-15, even with a healthy Kobe Bryant. It just isn't realistic. But with the NBA draft, they started to head in the right direction.
Update: No. 46 pick, Second Round, 11:35 p.m. (ET)
Los Angeles Lakers select Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG, Missouri (6'4", 186 pounds)
The Lakers have purchased the 46th overall pick from the Washington Wizards. With it, they select Clarkson, who may end up being first-round value taken in the middle of the second. He just needs to work out the hitch in his shot.
The 22-year-old hit just 28.1 percent of his threes running the Missouri offense this past season, but helped run one of the better attacks in the SEC. Mizzou may have had only three guys who could score the ball, but Clarkson made sure to share the rock properly.
His best skill is that he already knows how to run the pick-and-roll. Missouri scored 0.95 points per play off Clarkson's pick-and-rolls, according to Synergy Sports. Considering the 6'5" guard's ability to see over an offense, that skill shouldn't change at the next level. But still, he needs to learn to shoot.
He is a decent defender who can man point guards and some shooting guards, even though he is skinny. He also showed that he was capable of playing off the ball, as Jabari Brown handled the rock more and more as the season continued.
If Clarkson learns to shoot, he's a steal in round two. If he doesn't, he still has a chance at becoming a productive NBA combo guard, but his odds become significantly worse.
Update: No. 7 pick, First Round, 8:20 p.m. (ET)
Update: Los Angeles Lakers select Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky (6'9", 250 pounds)
The Lakers have themselves their savior! Maybe.
After one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the seventh overall pick may find himself in a high-pressure situation heading to Los Angeles, but Randle is used to playing in boiling-point scenarios.
The 19-year-old spent just one season in Lexington, during which he averaged 15.0 points and 10.5 rebounds for John Calipari, but we're talking about Kentucky basketball. No one burns under the light of a microscope more than the Wildcats' best player, and Randle, in a run that took UK to the national championship game, saw himself in the spotlight more and more as the season carried forward.
Randle is a tremendously skilled power forward, someone who elicits comparisons to Zach Randolph both in coordination and size.
Though he still needs to work on his jumper, he has the ability to hang out on the perimeter and be effective from there. He isn't a bad passer, and his post and face-up moves can net him plenty of points. The defensive end is where he may encounter some issues.
With only a 8'9.5" standing reach (you really want your bigs to be 9' or above), Randle may never be a rim-protector. He averaged just 0.8 blocks per game in his sole season at Kentucky, and we probably won't even see that number get much higher.
If Randle can be a 20 and 10 guy, that won't matter. He'll be worth the seventh overall pick. And you know in Los Angeles, he won't be playing next to scrubs for long. Chris Broussard of ESPN can confirm that's not what the Lakers want:
Lakers' dream is to add LeBron & Melo this summer. If that fails would go for CBosh & Melo, sources say. That's assuming Bosh opts out— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) June 27, 2014
Randle probably won't be the messiah. Those are unfair expectations, but he has All-Star potential, and with the No. 7 pick, that's more than good enough.
Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade, but he maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at RotoWire.com, WashingtonPost.com or on ESPN's TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter: @FredKatz.