When you’re the two time defending NBA Champions as the Los Angeles Lakers are, you have about as much chance of securing a future NBA All-Star in the college draft as VCU does of winning an NCAA title. Then again, most “experts” didn’t even have VCU making the field of 64 and now the Rams are laughing all the way to Houston, home of the Final Four.
The mark of any great sports franchise is often measured not just in how many championships a team wins, but in how they maintain a consistently strong, winning record after their big stars age and leave the game.
The Lakers clearly have their collective sights set on going the distance this spring. They have a more than solid nucleus of players that may well carry them deep into the playoffs for several years to come. Pau Gasol (29), Lamar Odom (31), Ron Artest (31) and Kobe Bryant (32) all have the desire and potential to play at a high level for another few years.
But then what? Remember those lean years after Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and the rest of the Showtime Lakers retired? They weren't pretty.
One of the ways this franchise can continue to stay near the top of the NBA heap is by drafting talented newcomers from the college ranks with the hopes they'll find a diamond in the rough.
This year’s crop of eligible college players is slightly weaker than past seasons and the top players will be long gone by the team Los Angeles gets to its first of three second round picks. Still, there are always “sleepers” – players who were not given a chance to make it in the pros or didn’t play for a big-time college program and may have been overlooked by the scouts.
The Lakers drafted two such players in 2010 – Derrick Caracter and Devon Ebanks – both of whom may develop into solid NBA contributors but the book is still out on both.
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak has his work cut out for him.
Take a look at some of the potential sleepers the Lakers may want to pursue this coming June. There certainly are a lot of them. Identifying the one that will grow into a solid NBA player is anyone's guess.