6 Prospects Los Angeles Lakers Should Consider with 27th Pick in 2015 NBA Draft
But for a rebuilding team with needs at virtually every position, there are other assets that will also be helpful, including the 27th and 34th picks.
The Lakers could choose to trade one or both of those selections—whether moving up or acquiring a veteran player.
For now, however, the team is in full evaluation mode, holding group workouts on Tuesday and Thursday for prospects who could be considered for the late first round and early second round.
It’s part of an ongoing cattle-call process. Per Serena Winters of Lakers Nation, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak plans to “bring in 50-60 players” who could be drafted in the 27-34 range.
From big to small and from shooters to rim-protectors, Los Angeles has only just begun its process of turning over every rock in hopes of finding a rare gem.
Robert Upshaw, C, Washington
True centers with legitimate size are a rarity in the draft, and those who are available in the latter stages invariably come with red flags attached.
Take the case of Robert Upshaw—a 7-foot rim-protector with a 7’5 ½” wingspan. Upshaw averaged 4.5 blocks per game in 19 appearances for Washington this season. That was before he was booted off the team for a violation of team rules, according to ESPN. The troubled center had previously been dismissed from Fresno State for similar reasons.
But the 21-year-old is seeking to turn his career and life around, according to Percy Allen of the Seattle Times:
Since his UW dismissal, Upshaw has hired Bill Duffy as an agent. He’s been working out at P3 (Peak Performance Project) in Santa Barbara, Calif. to improve his strength and conditioning. He’s hired a life coach and he’s been receiving mentoring from Bill Walton.
Granted, there are a lot of question marks. But there is also the tale of a player with real talent. Upshaw had a PER of 29.4 with the Huskies and was the NCAA block leader before his dismissal.
Yes, he could wind up as just another basketball cautionary tale. But he’s certainly worth a close look from the Lakers.
Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville
Louisville's Montrezl Harrell is a straight-up power forward. He’s not particularly tall at 6’8”, but he weighs a solid 253 pounds and has an outrageous 7’4" wingspan.
Harrell also has a good motor, loves to bang in the paint and throws down some monster jams.
The junior may not still be around when the Lakers get on the board for their second selection—Zach Harper and Sam Vecenie of CBS Sports currently have the 21-year-old as their 17th and 20th picks, respectively.
Vecenie’s CBS scouting report on Harrell takes note of the prospect’s lack of elite size and his over-reliance on dunks. But he also underscores his defensive versatility—an increasingly important skill set in the evolving NBA:
Guys who can switch onto guards and wings to cut off penetration momentarily, then switch back to post players to dissuade position on the block are as valuable as ever. This isn't to say that Harrell will become an all-NBA defender or anything, but he could easily become a key defensive piece at the 4 in the right situation.
Another young 4 probably isn’t high on L.A.’s list of priorities—Julius Randle will essentially be a rookie next fall after missing all but 16 minutes of his debut season with a broken leg. The Lakers will also have sophomore Tarik Black, who serves as both an undersized center and a power forward.
That said, Harrell’s fearlessness, mobility and defensive skills would make him a solid fit in Byron Scott’s system.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona
The Lakers are in desperate need of an athletic two-way swingman who can bring energy on a consistent basis.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson could be that guy. The 6’7” sophomore from Arizona has a 7’2” wingspan and is one of the draft’s best defensive wings.
He’s also a spectacular finisher at the rim. That particular skill set made for a playful quote at the NBA Draft Combine when the 21-year-old was asked who he’d most like to dunk on in the NBA.
"I don't know if I should say this, because he might be, like, looking for me if I come down the paint," Hollis-Jefferson said per Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman. "But I know Serge Ibaka is a big blocked-shot dude. So if I can get him, I'm good."
Ibaka responded with a good-natured tweet, saying he’d be waiting for the “young fella” and wishing him luck in the draft.
Hollis-Jefferson has areas that he needs to work on. His jump shot is streaky, and he doesn’t create well off the dribble. But the small forward has a great attitude, he loves to clean the glass and, best of all, he’s a lockdown defender.
Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia
Following up on the need for a defensive presence at the small forward position, Justin Anderson from Virginia is one of the late first-round prospects that has caught the eyes of the Lakers organization.
According to the team’s Twitter feed, Anderson was one of six prospects who worked out for the Lakers on Thursday.
Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com broke down the key attributes of the ACC Sixth Man of the Year:
A key cog in Virginia’s lockdown defense that allowed an NCAA-low 51.4 points per game, Justin Anderson brings athleticism along with a 6’6” frame to the NBA. The 21-year-old is able to guard multiple positions and ranked in the ACC’s top four in defensive rating for all three of his seasons as a Cavalier.
And while Anderson's most notable attributes are his quick lateral mobility and closeout speed on the defensive end of the court, he has also shown marked improvement with his shooting touch. His three-point completion rate went from 29.4 percent during his sophomore year to 45.2 percent this season.
This is a solid, low-risk prospect for Los Angeles.
Rashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV
Rashad Vaughn is all about getting buckets. The 18-year-old out of UNLV averaged 17.8 points per game during his one-and-done season.
Unfortunately, his freshman year was cut short after 23 games when Vaughn suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee that required surgery. He has since recovered and has been working out with teams in the lead-up to the draft.
As TWC SportsNet Lakers analyst Dave Miller tweeted Tuesday: “Rashad Vaughn continues to move up my draft board! Shooting the lights out lately.”
Jonathan Givony of Draft Express broke down a variety of ways the 6’5” shooting guard can get his numbers, whether creating off the dribble, coming off screens or with his feet set:
He has excellent mechanics, and is very reliable in catch and shoot situations, sporting range out to the NBA line, and making 38% of his 3-pointers as a freshman, on a very high volume of attempts. At the bare minimum, he will be able to space the floor adequately at the NBA level, which has value in and of itself.
Vaughn would need seasoning, but his arsenal of scoring weapons as a young player has a lot of teams intrigued.
This is a kid who would spend most of his rookie campaign watching and learning from Kobe Bryant and getting experience with the team’s D-League affiliate, the D-Fenders.
And while the Lakers aren’t necessarily looking to play the waiting game, having the luxury of the No. 2 pick does allow some flexibility with later selections.
Delon Wright, PG, Utah
The Lakers need depth at the point guard position, and Utah's Delon Wright fits the bill nicely.
Possessing great length at 6’5”, the senior won the Bob Cousy Award for the nation’s top point guard. The Los Angeles native spent his first two seasons at City College of San Francisco before transferring to Utah for his final two years.
Wright’s a two-way player who fills the stat sheets, averaging 15 points, 5.8 boards, 5.2 dimes and 2.3 steals at Utah. He also had 77 blocks in two seasons for the Utes, a fairly astounding number, given that rim protection is not a typical point guard attribute.
At 23, the brother of Portland Trail Blazer Dorell Wright won't get the same kind of heat as younger prospects. But that won’t matter for the Lakers—Wright was one of six players working out for the team on Thursday.
“I was a Kobe fan growing up,” Wright said per Lakers.com after his workout. “So, just to be at the same place they practice at is fun.”
Sam Vecenie of CBS Sports has Wright pegged for the Lakers at No. 27, adding: “He’s more of a creator for others, whereas Jordan Clarkson is more of a scorer. The two could complement each other and really push each other to improve.”
Like Clarkson—the 46th overall draft pick in 2014 who wound up on the NBA All-Rookie First Team this season—Wright brings both a hunger and a dedication to improvement.
He could be a good fit on a rebuilding Lakers team.