Lakers' Complete 2021 NBA Draft Preview, Predictions

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 26, 2021

Lakers' Complete 2021 NBA Draft Preview, Predictions

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    The Los Angeles Lakers hit the 2021 NBA offseason in the market for, well, a little of everything.

    Just five Lakers have guaranteed contracts for 2021-22, and only two of those players feel like locks to return: LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The challenge for this front office, then, is to construct a contender around its two building blocks.

    L.A. will get the first crack at it during Thursday's draft. Here's everything you need to know about the event from a purple-and-gold perspective.

Draft Assets and Team Needs

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    Barring a trade, the Lakers will get one crack at the dart board on Thursday night.

    Their second-round pick was sacrificed in the 2019 trade for Reggie Bullock, so it's one-and-done for L.A. The Lakers have only the 22nd selection at their disposal.

    In an ideal world, they'd still sniff out a rotation player. They could use help almost everywhere, although the forward spots are in relatively good shape, assuming they don't send Kyle Kuzma packing in a trade.

    Getting a bit more specific, they should be in the market for shooters and playmakers to support the stars. An above-the-rim center might be an option depending on how the draft board breaks, too.

Expert Mock Projections

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    The mock drafters have spoken. The Lakers are likely getting a guard Thursday.

    Both The Athletic's Sam Vecenie and's Jeremy Woo have the Lakers landing LSU scoring guard Cameron Thomas.

    "Some evaluators really buy Thomas' ability to get a bucket from anywhere, and others actively dislike the fact that he doesn't pass or defend," Vecenie wrote. "The Lakers might be the perfect landing spot for him because I would venture LeBron James would hold him accountable on those things early in his career."

    B/R's Jonathan Wasserman, meanwhile, has the Lakers landing Baylor combo guard Jared Butler. The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor went with Alabama wing Joshua Primo, citing his sharpshooter and secondary creation skills as potential draws for L.A.

Draft Predictions

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    The Lakers might prioritize readiness here, but unless Chris Duarte, Trey Murphy III or Jared Butler slip, the board may not grant that wish.

    Rather than reach for an upperclassmen just for experience, L.A. will try to scratch its itch for playmaking with Auburn's young floor general Sharife Cooper.

    Running offense isn't an issue. In his lone collegiate campaign, he skewered opposing defenses for 20 points and eight assists per outing. He has a dizzying array of dribble moves and further weaponizes that skill with pinpoint off-the-dribble passing.

    Shooting and defense are major question marks (if not outright liabilities) right now, but the Lakers will still pounce on his playmaking and bank on their developmental staff to at least straighten the shooting out.