Mitch Kupchak, general manager for the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, might make a good judge on "American Idol." Like the wildly popular FOX television show, Kupchak’s mission is to find the diamond in the rough, the one or two or three or four late draft picks who will rise to the top and become legitimate NBA stars in their own right.
A good example of Kupchak’s moxy came in 2005 when the team selected 6'10", 245-pound power forward Ronny Turiaf with the 37th overall pick in the draft. The high energy, aggressive Turiaf was a gamble—though he was Gonzaga’s fourth all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
Less than a month after being drafted in the second round by Los Angeles, Turiaf underwent open heart surgery. He started the season in the Continental Basketball Association but ultimately signed with the Lakers on January 17, 2006 and quickly brought much needed energy, hustle and leadership to the team.
This year, the Lakers have the 41st, 46th, 55th and 58th picks, all in the second round. While the lottery picks will be long gone and the first-round selections a distant memory, the Lakers do have a great opportunity to pluck some intriguing, athletic position players in the second round who ultimately could help the team over the next several years.
Similar to “Idol," if these second rounders perform well, they’ll be invited back. If they don’t, they may quickly disappear from the basketball stage at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The Lakers have a need for a strong point guard and depth at the forward positions since Andrew Bynum is their only “young” starter on the front lines, and we all know of his injury history.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 Lakers prospects who may get the call this coming June. There are some definite gems—they just need the right sort of polishing.
Greg Smith is an intriguing prospect, the kind of athlete the Lakers tend to like and see as a project.
The 6'10", 250-pound power forward/center has shown tremendous strength and court sense in his short time at Fresno State. He finished his sophomore season averaging 11.7 points per game and 8.1 rebounds.
Smith just turned 20 and decided to enter the upcoming draft—there are not a lot of players with his size and abilities at the center position. He could prove a valuable asset for a Lakers team that really has just one true center in Andrew Bynum.
As NBADraft.net proclaimed in their report on him: "It's scary to think how strong he will be in a few years. Unlike many players with his dimensions, Smith has nice agility and athleticism."
Scotty Hopson is a 6'7", 205-pound junior forward with a seven-foot wingspan. He needs to add some weight and muscle to play at the next level, but all the essential elements for him to succeed are already in place.
The Lakers will love his athleticism. He has tremendous quickness and leaping ability; his 24 dunks are often highlight-reel material (Shannon Brown may have some serious competition).
Hopson averaged 17 points on 45 pecent shooting this year for the Vols, including 38 percent from three-point range. He increased his percentage at the free throw line to 74 percent from 59 percent a year ago.
Hopson was impressive in a number of games this year, playing against some of the best competition in the country. He was 10-of-13 from the field and scored 27 points in a win over Pittsburgh and was 10-of-19 against the University of Georgia, putting in 32 points in that contest.
The 6'8", 230-pound Bryan-Amaning really honed his game in his fourth year at the University of Washington. He increased his scoring average almost seven points, to 15.3, from his junior year.
The English native did some damage this season as he averaged 28 minutes per game. He went off for 30 points against Arizona State and 24 versus Arizona and All-American forward Derrick Williams.
Bryan-Amaning also averaged eight rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game for Washington. He's athletic and still improving all aspects of his game.
This would be a very nice pickup for the Lakers.
Chris Wright, a 6'7" senior small forward for the Dayton Flyers, is about as steady a player as they come. He averaged about 50 percent shooting from the field all four years for Dayton and was one player the team could count on for double-digit scoring night in and night out.
Wright averaged 13.2 points and 8.4 rebounds in his final season after deciding not to enter last year's draft as a junior. The extra season should have helped his overall game and chances to stick with the NBA club in the fall, provided there is a season.
Wright can pass the ball (1.8 assists) and block shots (1.4 per game). His high-scoring games came against LaSalle and Western Carolina, where he scored 27 and 30 points respectively.
The level of competition for Wright was not of the highest caliber, so the Lakers' scouts need to see more of him and how we would fare at the next level in workouts. Wright is an intriguing possibility for a late second-round pick.
Malcolm Lee of UCLA is leaving his options open. He declared on March 29 for the draft but did not hire an agent—leaving open the door to return should he not like his prospects. If he does come out, Lee would be a gamble for the Lakers, but one that could pay huge dividends in a couple of years.
At 6'5", Lee has the length and quickness to be a strong defender and high-energy guard at the next level. He has shown excellent improvement in ball-handling skills and sheer strength, even though he remains very lean at 175 pounds.
Lee averaged 13.1 points and 3.1 rebounds this season for the Bruins and was not afraid to take the ball into the paint when the team needed energy and aggression.
Lee is adept at getting out on transition and could help the Lakers bench when it needs to pick up the pace of the game and make plays. He moves well down the lane and can use either hand to finish strong at the hoop.
Lee is a project and still is erratic with his passing and shooting, but there have been enough improvements for him to warrant a serious look. If he goes back to Westwood for his senior year, the Bruins will be a favorite to win the Pac-12. If he leaves, he may very well end up just down the 10 Freeway at Staples Center.
Vernon Macklin is entering the draft at a time when there are a lot of solid power forwards. His numbers are not necessarily eye-popping, but this senior power forward can surely play and does not make a lot of mistakes.
Standing 6'10" and 245 pounds, Macklin is a consistent, high percentage scorer who averaged 11.6 points on 60 percent shooting for the Gators this year as they went deep into the NCAA tournament.
Macklin saved his best for last—he scored a career-high 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting in Florida's 74-71 tournament loss to eventual Finals runner-up Butler.
Macklin needs to improve his rebounding skills. Someone of that size and ability could easily average eight to 12 rebounds per game in the NBA.
The Lakers would not hurt themselves with this pick, though they may use their choices for point guards and better rebounding muscle in the paint.
This player is most certainly is on the Lakers' radar. He fits the bill in several ways: decent height (6'3"), great shooting range (45 percent from beyond the arc) and good playmaking skills.
The Lakers will draft at least one point guard in June—they are looking to the day when Derek Fisher retires, and there's just not a lot of depth at this extremely important position.
McCamey averaged 14.6 points and 6.1 assists per game for Illinois this year. One important statistic to note: He took 164 three-point shots in both his junior and senior seasons, but he converted 18 more this year than last.
McCamey is quite adept at penetration and getting the foul calls near the basket. In two games against Wisconsin this year, he went to the charity stripe a total of 36 times en route to 21- and 23-point scoring nights.
McCamey is a raw, natural talent who needs time to develop. He could become a top point in the NBA within a few seasons.
Brad Wanamaker has the size (6'4") most NBA teams look for in a point guard.
He averaged 5.1 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game for the highly-ranked Panthers this season. He scored 11.7 points per game on a team that had one of the top offensive units in the country.
Wanamaker is a good athlete and a solid playmaker. At 210 pounds, he has the physical tools necessary to compete at the next level.
His Pitt teams split two games with eventual national champion UConn. Wanamaker put in 14 in the win and 17 in a March loss to the Huskies, going 5-of-11 from the field.
He's a long shot for the Lakers.
Cam Long is a smooth shooting point guard who has the necessary elements to make it at the next level. If he's still available when the Lakers start to pick, it would not be a surprise to see them take him.
Long is long at 6'4" and 190 pounds. He is considered an unselfish, polished ball-handler and scorer who would have had bigger numbers on a team if it had required Long to get them.
In his final year at George Mason, Long averaged 15.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He shot 48 percent from the field.
In his team's loss to Ohio State in March, a lopsided 32-point affair, Long held his own against the top-ranked Buckeyes, hitting on 5-of-7 from the field, including four from beyond the arc, on his way to 16 points.
E'twaun Moore, if available, should be a "no brainer" decision for the Lakers brass.
Moore has everything Los Angeles could use: he is a strong, smooth, quick and long (6'3") point guard who can shoot and produce big numbers in big games.
Moore was impressive earlier this season when he scored 38 points in a big 13 point win against Ohio State. In that game, Moore connected on 13-18 from the field, including 7-10 from three point range.
He also scored 31 points earlier in the year against Northwestern, making 7-13 shots from beyond the arc.
Moore averaged 18 points per game this season and was accurate 40 percent of the time from three point territory. He also pulled down 5.1 rebounds, had 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals per contest for the Boilermakers.
This is one second round possibility the Lakers should not pass up.