NBA Draft 2011: Five High-Bust Potential Players the L.A. Lakers Should Avoid
In what many experts are calling one of the weakest overall drafts in recent memory, the upcoming NBA draft Thursday promises to be a major challenge for the championship-challenged Los Angeles Lakers who have four picks, all in the second round.
The percentage of players from the second round who end up making the cut and turning into productive NBA players is not high. Very few of the “can’t-miss” prospects slide from the first into the second round and so the later picks become more of a gamble for general managers like the Lakers Mitch Kupchak.
As of Monday morning the Lakers held the No. 41, 46, 56 and 58 picks in the draft. There have been rumors that the Lakers may try and package a couple of their picks in a trade with another team in order to move up the ladder and pick a player with higher value.
But even that approach won’t necessarily translate into a sure thing. The chances are still high that the player will turn out to be a bust.
In recent years, the Lakers have done fairly well with second rounders, picks that turned into quality NBA players: Ronny Turiaf, Mark Gasol, Luke Walton, Derick Character and Devon Ebanks all made the team and contributed or, in the case of Gasol, were traded and excelled elsewhere.
Nick Van Excel in 1993 was perhaps the team’s best second-round selection. He became a starter that first year, averaged 14.9 and 7.3 assists per game in the five years he spent with the team and was selected to one all-star team.
What do these great NBA players have in common? Monta Ellis, Carlos Boozer, Manu Ginobili, Mark Price, Gilbert Arenas, Dennis Rodman, Trevor Ariza, Rashard Lewis , Michael Redd, Cedric Ceballos and Mark Price? They all were second-round picks, overlooked for various reasons. All of them went on to become elite players in the league.
Finding the next Manu Ginobli—considered by some to be the league’s best ever second-round pick—involves great scouting and a whole lot of luck.
All the combines and all the interviews don’t always translate into good or bad NBA players. It’s a crapshoot. Here, then, are five excellent college hoopsters the Lakers should avoid next Thursday. Nothing is a sure thing and I may end up eating my words—but that’s why they call it speculation.
There's a reason for calling this site The Bleacher Report. From where I sit, these are the guys I'd recommend passing on.
1. Greg Smith, Center, Fresno State
Here's one guy who could go either way when it comes to success or failure. My gut tells me the Lakers should steer clear.
There's no question the Lakers need backup help at the center position. Veteran Theo Ratliff is 38 and probably will retire and the team needs some strong, youthful energy here.
The player the Lakers may covet and should take is Keith Benson, the 6'11", 230-pound center out of Oakland. I believe Benson is high on the Lakers' board and if around at No. 41, they'll grab him.
Benson averaged 18 points per game in his final year at Oakland.
The stocky, 6'10", 250 pound Smith is considered a solid player but one who really didn't progress much at all in his second season for Fresno State.
His scoring average dropped from 16.7 to 15.2 and he only connected on 54.5 percent of his free throws, a very Shaq-like percentage that doesn't translate well in the NBA.
2. Trey Thompkins, Center, University of Georgia
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Like many players on the bubble, Trey Thompkins does posses exceptional skills as a basketball player. But the question marks seem to outweigh the positives.
At 6'10" and 245 pounds, the power forward also regressed in his last year in Athens. This is when a player should blossom and improve but Thompkins seemed to take a step or two backward.
Thompkins saw his scoring average dip to 16.4 from 17.7 the year before. His three-point percentage also suffered last season, dropping to 31 percent from 37 percent the year before.
Thompkins is also more of scorer than rebounder, bringing down just 7.6 boards per game in the last season. The Lakers really need help crashing the boards.
Thompkins also showed up at the combine as the fattest player. His 15.5 percent body fat is the worst of any NBA prospect. While losing weight and body fat can be attained through hard work and effort, it certainly does not bode well for junior from Lithonia, Georgia.
3. Scotty Hopson, Small Forward, Tennessee
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The 6'7", 205-pound Scotty Hopson is another one of those players who seems to have the skill set necessary to compete in the NBA but has been too inconsistent to take a gamble on.
The small forward may very well be available when the Lakers second round picks begin and they could be tempted by Hopson's athleticism and ability to drive to the hoop and get to the free throw line. He has all the physical tools, but seems to be lacking in many other areas critical to making it in the NBA.
According to most scouts, Hopson tends to disappear often in games and hasn't shown a consistency to his overall game that would have NBA GM's eager to grab him in the first round. He turns the ball over a lot.
Here is what DraftExpress says about Hopson: Overall, Hopson is still a bit of an enigma. For every game he has like the one at Pittsburgh where he put up 27 points on 10-of-13 shots in a win against a top-five team, he has another like the 1-for-7 performance against Oakland in a loss.
While there is no denying his talent and upside, and it's clear that he's made improvements in certain areas, there will likely be mixed opinions on whether or not he'll ever be able to put all of his tools and skills together to be an efficient contributor at the NBA level, as he tends to coast far more than scouts would like to see.
Hopson did average 17 points per game this past season and connected on 38 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. The talent is unmistakable.
The Lakers, however, do not need a player who "tends to coast."
4. Shelvin Mack, Guard, Butler
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
This 6'3", 210-pound junior combo guard has many of the talents needed to play at the next level. Where he fails in my book is his inability to dominate as a true point guard. And point guard is what the Lakers will be looking for this week.
Mack averaged an efficient 16 points in 32 minutes for Butler this season, his third as a Bulldog.
However, he only connected on 40 percent of his shots, not a strong percentage for someone wanting to go to the next level. He also slipped in three point accuracy this season, going from 39 to 34 percent.
Mack is big enough and strong enough to guard the other team's shooting guard.
But, he's not that quick, and small, fast, penetrating point guards in the NBA could easily cause problems for him. Draft Express is picking Mack for the Lakers in the second round. I think this has "bust" written all over it.
5. Ben Hansbrough, Guard, Notre Dame
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
The Lakers could be tempted here again with this talented shooting guard.
The team desperately needs perimeter shooting and Ben Hansbrough can certainly provide that—he connects on 48 percent of his shots from the floor, including 44 percent from three-point range.
Hansbrough averaged 18.4 points per game last year for the Fighting Irish. His work ethic is legendary and he could help the Lakers on the offensive side of the ball.
It's on defense where Hansbrough is weak and the last thing the Lakers need is another guard who has trouble against those quick, small point guards like JJ Barea of the Dallas Mavericks.
Draft Express says of Hansbrough: "He's exactly the type of college prospect many NBA types tend to shy away from. There will be plenty of question marks about his defense and his effectiveness at creating scoring opportunities at the next level."