Lakers' Top Draft Needs Ahead of 2021-22 NBA Season

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 1, 2021

Lakers' Top Draft Needs Ahead of 2021-22 NBA Season

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Lakers are on the hunt for roster reinforcements.

    The search started when their attempted NBA championship defense fell apart in an injury-riddled first-round loss to the Phoenix Suns—if not before that. They have a pair of needle-movers in LeBron James and Anthony Davis but very little around the duo. As it stands, only five Lakers hold guaranteed contracts for next season.

    That gives L.A. a good deal of flexibility when it comes to choosing a draft night direction, but there are three needs that stand out above the rest.


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    Ethan Hyman/Associated Press

    The Lakers should be chasing maximum spacing.

    When James won big with the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers, he was surrounded by shooters. Having the middle cleared for him and Davis would back opposing defenses into pick-your-poison corners.

    And yet, L.A. hasn't finished higher than 20th in threes per game since James joined the team in 2018-19. In fact, the Lakers are trending in the wrong direction, landing 23rd in 2019-20 and 25th this season.

    This offense needs to breathe, and the 22nd pick could lead to an oxygen supply. Florida's Tre Mann, Virginia's Trey Murphy III and Oregon's Chris Duarte are among the top snipers who could be drafted in this range.

Wing Defense

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    It might seem a bit strange to see anything related to defense here, since L.A.'s top-ranked defense is so far ahead of its 24th-ranked offense.

    But the Lakers could use more perimeter protection.

    While their size and schemes are enough to pester most opponents, top point producers at the guard and wing spots can be a challenge. When 36-year-old LeBron and 34-year-old Wesley Matthews rank among the best options to throw at a perimeter star, it's probably time to identify alternatives.

    Assuming the Lakers want an early return on their investment, they could go the polished prospect route with Baylor's Jared Butler or Illinois' Ayo Dosunmu. If they're feeling friskier and want to shoot for long-term potential, they might target Tennessee's Jaden Springer, who would add defensive value now and could grow his offensive game with time.

Frontcourt Athleticism

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    When the Lakers won the title in 2020, they concluded shortly thereafter they could move on without JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard. It seemed reasonable enough at the time, since interior bigs can feel like a dime a dozen in the modern game.

    But L.A. didn't get around to replacing them with rim-runners, and instead sought out different skill sets with the likes of Marc Gasol (shooting and IQ) and Montrezl Harrell (deep scoring arsenal).

    Again, it wasn't the worst idea, but it took some zip out of this offense. In 2019-20, the Lakers ranked in the 83rd percentile for pick-and-roll rollers. This season, they fell to the 52nd percentile.

    They need to put that pep back in their step and should have options to do so in their draft range. In a dream world, Texas' Kai Jones would fall in their laps. In reality, they'll have a much better shot at Kentucky's Isaiah Johnson or North Carolina's Day'Ron Sharpe.