The Los Angeles Lakers have been one of the top teams in the NBA for the past three seasons, primarily as result of the play of NBA MVP candidate Kobe Bryant, center Andrew Bynum and point guard Derek Fisher.
However, Fisher's performance has steadily declined over the past few seasons, leading many to question if the longtime Lakers point guard will decide to call it a career possibly as soon as the end of the 2010-2011 season.
Even if Fisher returns next season, the Lakers' depth at the point guard position has been the greatest concern for the team, next to Andrew Bynum's health.
The combination of the aforementioned Fisher and Steve Blake has largely been underwhelming this season, and the minimal production (10.9 PPG, 4.8 APG between the two), as well as age (Fisher, 36, Blake, 31) leads me to believe that the two-time defending NBA champions should address their point guard situation during the upcoming 2011 NBA draft.
Despite the relatively weak point guard class for the upcoming draft, there are a few diamonds in the rough that could possibly contribute for the Lakers, either by adding depth, becoming a role player or perhaps even starting, come next season.
Nolan Smith is a player that the Los Angeles Lakers should be targeting come draft day.
The Duke point guard will never shock anyone with one skill or the other, but he is one of the most underrated players in the country as his skill set is easily one of the best in college basketball.
Coming into this season, freshman Kyrie Irving was supposed to become the Blue Devils' starting point guard, however, when Irving suffered a toe injury in the eighth game of the season, Smith took over and did not disappoint, leading the Blue Devils to the No. 1 seed in the 2011 NCAA tournament in which he averaged 21 PPG, 5 APG and 4 RPG.
Smith's statistics alone would warrant a selection by Los Angeles, however, it is not just the seniors' stats that make him one of this year's top NBA draft point guard prospects.
Smith has built a reputation throughout his college career of being one of the most fundamentally-sound guards in basketball. He has a high basketball IQ as he is not turnover-prone, possesses good shot selection, knows when as well as where to distribute the basketball and knows the correct pace to play the game in a plethora of situations.
Nolan Smith should definitely be on Los Angeles' radar come NBA draft time, and he would be a good acquisition if the Lakers were to pull the trigger on Smith.
Shelvin Mack is a point guard with two big questions surrounding him as we inch closer to the 2011 NBA draft, the two of them being: "Will he be able to become a natural point guard?" The other: "Is Mack capable of making the transition from a mid-major school to the NBA?"
Mack plays like a shooting guard in a point guard's body as his No. 1 inclination is shoot the basketball, evidenced by his 15.2 PPG.
The junior also needs to improve his decision-making and assist-turnover ratio, however, with good coaching, he could provide much-needed depth to the Lakers' point guard position.
The Butler Bulldog has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career, but the question is, will Mack be able to improve his play from the Siena's and Youngstown State's to the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks of the NBA over the course of an 82-game season?
I believe that Mack will never become a full-time starter in the NBA, but he could be a good specialist for the Lakers when they are in need of the clutch points down the stretch.
It will be intriguing to see how Mack's NBA career pans out, but if the Lakers were to acquire the junior late in the draft, depending on if Mack declares or not, it would be a decent move by the Lakers as long as they use him in the correct situations.
Norris Cole is another mid-major point guard that could end up making an impact in the NBA.
The relatively unheralded Cleveland State guard possesses excellent all-around game, a point proven by posting an incredible 41 point-20 rebound-9 assist stat line earlier this season against Youngstown State.
In addition to the 41-20-9 output, Cole averages 21 points per game, making him one of the top scorers in college basketball.
Also, he is an excellent defender as he averages 2.2 steals per game, a skill that can be utilized by the Lakers to bolster an already excellent defensive team.
Unlike Shelvin Mack, I believe that Cole could possibly become the Lakers' starting point guard if Los Angeles were to draft him on June 23.
Cole, despite minimal publicity as a result of him playing at Cleveland State, could become a good young NBA point guard in a few years, and with good coaching, do not be surprised if you see Norris Cole being a good NBA point guard for many years to come.
My point? If the Los Angeles Lakers were to draft Norris Cole, the team could wind up with the biggest steal of the 2011 NBA draft.