Lakers' Top Targets at Pick No. 22 in 2021 NBA Draft

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 22, 2021

Lakers' Top Targets at Pick No. 22 in 2021 NBA Draft

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Lakers need to walk away from the upcoming 2021 NBA draft with someone they can throw into next season's rotation.

    Whether that's an incoming rookie or an established player acquired in a draft-night deal is up to them. The important thing is they uncover a pathway to a useful player who can assist in another championship quest guided by LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

    If the Lakers stand pat at No. 22, the following three prospects all seem up to the task.

Ayo Dosunmu, PG/SG, Illinois

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    From shot-making to shot-creating, on-ball defense to locker room leadership, Ayo Dosunmu does it all.

    At least, he did it all in college, capping his three-year run at Illinois by earning AP All-America first-team honors with per-game averages of 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists. If his increases in playmaking and three-point shooting (39.0 percent) hold up, he's someone who could fit alongside L.A.'s stars or help run the offense when they're taking a breather.

    "Going three years at Illinois and playing at the highest level in Illinois, being one of the first guards to average 26 [points] and five [assists] in the Big Ten, being an overall complete player, I think definitely that will translate to a contending team," Dosunmu told reporters.

    Even if Dosunmu lacks a standout skill, his all-around game should help him handle a complementary role sooner than later.

Chris Duarte, SG, Oregon

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    There's no such thing as having too much shooting alongside attackers like James and Davis. Even if there were, the Lakers are in no danger of approaching that threshold.

    Five teams averaged fewer threes than L.A.'s 11.1 this season. Nine shot worse than its 35.4 percent splash rate.

    Improving both numbers seems an obvious offseason goal for this front office, and drafting Chris Duarte would help. He just spent his 2020-21 season shredding every net in his line of sight, burying 2.3 triples per night at a 42.4 percent clip.

    There are offensive flashes of more than shooting, as he has some off-the-dribble game and can make basic reads as a passer. On defense, he's a smart team defender who makes the right rotations and can cause havoc in passing lanes. Saying that, he's 24 years old already, so his weaknesses might remain weaknesses.

    But that shooting stroke should get him noticed by the Lakers. As long as that translates, they can live with his lack of upside.

Tre Mann, PG/SG, Florida

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Lakers are on the hunt for two things this offseason: shooting and playmaking, according to longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein.

    Tre Mann's best-case scenario would scratch both itches.

    The 20-year-old might have the lowest floor of the three players mentioned here, since he doesn't have great burst and isn't the most advanced passer. But he does offer the highest ceiling as a 6'5" lead guard who can separate from defenders, make off-the-dribble jumpers from long distance and find open teammates.

    Even if his passing needs a little time to come along, the Lakers might still be drawn to his scoring punch. They were hurting for support scorers already this season, and now they could lose several in free agency, as Dennis Schroder, Talen Horton-Tucker and Montrezl Harrell are among the team's many players who could hit the open market.