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Lakers News: Free-Agency and NBA Draft Developments from Los Angeles

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2015

Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott smiles as the studio begins to fill before the NBA basketball draft lottery, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers missed the playoffs the past two seasons after reaching the postseason eight consecutive years. However, there is a sense of buzz and excitement rather than despair surrounding the Purple and Gold.

After all, the future is bright in Hollywood.

Los Angeles landed the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft lottery, a loaded free-agency class is about to hit the open market and last year’s first-round pick, Julius Randle, will be healthy again next season. The Lakers will have a completely different look in 2015-16.

With that in mind, here is a look at the latest news from Los Angeles surrounding free-agency and draft decisions facing the legendary franchise.

DeMarre Carroll Could Be Hollywood-Bound 

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 16:  Kobe Bryant #24, and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers reach for a steal against DeMarre Carroll #5 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 16, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledge
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

DeMarre Carroll is set to be a free agent this offseason, and he picked the perfect time to turn in a career year.

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The Atlanta Hawks swingman averaged career highs in points per game (12.6) and three-point percentage (39.5) in 2014-15 and established himself as a valuable defender and wing scorer during Atlanta’s run to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Sean Deveney of Sporting News noted Los Angeles would like that production in its lineup next year: “There's a long list of teams already prepared to pursue Carroll this year, including the Celtics, Lakers and Pistons. ... The Lakers, a source said, have big-time interest in Carroll.”

That defense and scoring ability would be critical in Los Angeles, especially given Carroll’s position as a small forward. The Lakers’ core next season will revolve around Bryant, Randle, a potential big man in the draft and young point guard Jordan Clarkson. There is a glaring need for more depth on the wing.

Carroll could slide right into the starting lineup if he elects to sign with the Purple and Gold. 

Carroll actually suffered a bone bruise in the Eastern Conference Finals, which put his impressive defense into context, per NBA on ESPN:

NBA on ESPN @ESPNNBA

ATL can't afford to lose DeMarre Carroll for much time. He's the only Hawks player who's been able to limit LeBron. http://t.co/hJ0TxV25P7

There are so many electrifying players at small forward around the league—including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George—that it is difficult to win without a solid wing defender in today’s NBA. 

Carroll would provide just that for Los Angeles and help the offense with his three-point shooting when defenders collapse on Bryant.

Lakers Looking for Big Impact in Draft

The best part about landing the No. 2 pick in the draft is Los Angeles is guaranteed the opportunity to draft one of the elite big men.

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times suggested that will happen: 

“The Lakers will look at dynamic Ohio State point guard D'Angelo Russell, but preliminary indications are they want to go big, the Times has learned. In fact, general manager Mitch Kupchak is fond of saying that a good big man is often more valuable than a good little man.”

D’Angelo Russell is an excellent playmaker who likely has a bright future ahead of him in the NBA, but the Lakers already have Bryant and Clarkson in the backcourt. Drafting Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor at No. 2 would give them another big man to play alongside Randle and solidify the frontcourt for years to come. 

Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times pointed out how important that selection will be moving forward:

Bill Plaschke @BillPlaschke

Lakers get their big man..wow...could be franchise changing...

If the Minnesota Timberwolves take Towns as an athletic and defensive force with the first overall pick, the Lakers will apparently be more than pleased to scoop up Okafor.

Okafor is the better offensive prospect of the two, thanks to overpowering strength down low, impressive footwork on the block and a solid mid-range jumper. One NBA executive put Okafor’s skill set into context, per Bresnahan: “He can score 16 points a game right now.”

Putting someone with those abilities next to Randle, Bryant and Clarkson is an enticing possibility for the Lakers. Bryant is still one of the NBA’s biggest superstars, Clarkson was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team, and Randle showed potential in preseason as the No. 7 overall pick before he broke his leg in the 2014-15 opener. 

That lineup has enough talent to compete for a playoff spot as soon as next season, especially if the Lakers add a couple of impact free agents.

Free Agents Eyeing Los Angeles

SAN DIEGO, CA- OCTOBER 6: A shot of the Los Angeles Lakers logo before they take on the Denver Nuggets at the Valley View Sports Arena in San Diego, California on October 6, 2014 . NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
Noah Graham/Getty Images

Those playoff aspirations will be even stronger if Los Angeles lands a marquee free agent or two in the offseason. Carroll would fit the bill, but the Lakers probably have their goals set even higher with players such as Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, Jimmy Butler and Kevin Love potentially available.

Deveney pointed out that Los Angeles’ pitch finally has some merit behind it:

Not only did the Lakers avoid the disaster that would have followed if they’d fallen to No. 6, by landing at No. 2, Los Angeles also is that much more attractive as a potential free-agent destination this summer.

That’s according to player representatives who will have major free agents on the market this summer.

“I think it is something that helps out their sales pitch in a big, big way,” one agent told Sporting News. “The past couple of years, their pitch has sort of been, ‘Come play for us because we’re the Lakers and the weather is nice.’ That’s not enough. You’ve seen that. They have not had a direction, and that’s why players don’t want to go there.”

There is something to be said for playing under the Los Angeles spotlight and alongside one of the all-time greats in Bryant, but there seems to be a post-Bryant plan coming into shape with the No. 2 pick, a young point guard in Clarkson and a young power forward in Randle.

That solid core will develop together, and adding a superstar free agent or two would instantly bolster Los Angeles’ outlook for years to come. Adding winning to a formula that already includes the fame and prestige surrounding the Lakers will entice free agents this offseason.

The Lakers will always have a storied past, but fans can once again look ahead to the future for the first time in a couple of years.

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