Prospects Lakers Fans Should Watch in March Madness 2021

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 18, 2021

Prospects Lakers Fans Should Watch in March Madness 2021

0 of 3

    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Assuming the intel on Anthony Davis' health is promising (fingers crossed), the Los Angeles Lakers may opt against any major moves between now and the upcoming NBA trade deadline.

    There just isn't much this club needs to put up a formidable defense of its world title.

    Shift the lens forward, though, and there's an obvious lack of up-and-comers rising through the organization. That's a byproduct of playing championship-or-bust basketball, of course, but when it comes to building blocks with this franchise, Talen Horton-Tucker is the only rotation regular under the age of 25. And even his future is uncertain with restricted free agency awaiting him this offseason.

    The Lakers need young roster reinforcements, and their upcoming first-round pick will be the place to get one.

    With that in mind, fans of the Purple and Gold might want to keep close watch of these draft prospects preparing to start March Madness this weekend.

Chris Duarte, SG, Oregon

1 of 3

    Amanda Loman/Associated Press

    With the Lakers operating in win-now mode for the foreseeable future, they might value a quick transition to the pros more than most.

    Chris Duarte has a good chance to hit the ground. That's partly because of the fact he's already 23 years old (will be 24 by draft day), which could lower his ceiling. But it has more to do with his NBA-friendly (and NBA-ready) skill set. Scan through his scouting reports, and you'll find serious three-and-D potential.

    "He's a terrific 43 percent three-point shooter who can hit them from a variety of different situations: off the catch, off movement, off the dribble, off a jab step," The Athletic's Sam Vecenie wrote. "... More than that, though, Duarte was also an All-Defense team member in the Pac-12 and really takes pride in that end of the floor, both on and off the ball rotationally."

    Perimeter defense should be a focus of this front office, and perimeter shooting will always be a need alongside Davis and LeBron James.

    Duarte's Ducks are seeded seventh in the West Region and open tournament play against 10th-seeded VCU on Saturday night (9:57 p.m. ET on TNT).

Aaron Henry, SF, Michigan State

2 of 3

    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Lakers need a wing defender, and Aaron Henry brings enough on that end to think he could step into that role right away.

    The 6'5" swingman is long, physical and as tough as you'd expect from a player coming out of Tom Izzo's program. Henry has the mobility and strength to check anyone from primary ball-handlers to burly forwards, and he doesn't take possessions off.

    But his NBA stock is climbing at the opposite end. There, he flashed exciting development down the stretch, averaging 17.7 points on 47.1/37.1/71.2 shooting and 3.5 assists between February and March.

    Lakers fans with an interest in Henry should tune in early, because his 11th-seeded Spartans may not be around long. They're set to tussle with fellow No. 11 seed UCLA in Friday's final First Four matchup (9:57 p.m. ET on TBS).

Jared Butler, PG/SG, Baylor

3 of 3

    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    There are multiple factors behind Baylor's absurdly successful season (22-2, fourth overall rank at, but junior guard Jared Butler might be the biggest.

    He'll have a spot on every player of the year ballot for showing a knack to give the Bears whatever they need on any given night. He can be a primary scorer (17.1 points per game), a shot-creator (4.8 assists), a floor-spacer (42.9 percent from range) and a defensive pest (2.0 steals).

    He's not a standout athlete, and he probably won't dribble his way on to highlight reels, so he may not grade the highest with ceiling-chasers. If the Lakers are focusing on floors, though, his is elevated thanks to polished combo-guard skills and willingness to compete at both ends.

    His top-seeded Bears start their championship hunt against 16th-seeded Hartford on Friday (3:30 p.m. ET on truTV).