Leading up to the 2014 NBA Draft – in the stretch run now — we are going to preview each team in the lottery for their needs. Taking a look at each team’s individual strengths, weaknesses, roster, and what prospects would fit in with their current and future plans.
The highest draft picks the vaunted Los Angeles Lakers draft picks this decade were in 2005 (No. 10, Andrew Bynum), 2007 (No. 19, Javaris Crittenton), and in 2003 (No. 24, Brian Cook) showing the consistency of the franchise. Now they are hoping to find a future building block in the lottery after the worst season the team has seen since moving to Los Angeles.
[RELATED: 5 Prospects Phoenix should take in the Draft]
[RELATED: 5 Prospects Orlando should take in the Draft]
[RELATED: 5 Prospects Denver should take in the Draft]
Here is the NBA Draft Fast Five:
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ONE: 2014-2015 Potential Roster Review
The Lakers roster the past few years was put together with sticks and glue to support the Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and “fourth star to be named later” which blew up in their faces. Or did it? Next year the Lakers are committed to Bryant, Nash, Robert Sacre, and potentially Nick Young (1.2 million dollar player option) leaving the roster blank for a creative mind to fill. The questions though are tough to answer:
How will a 36-year-old Bryant look coming back from an Achilles’ injury?
What does Nash have left in the tank?
Can they convince Gasol to return? Or do they want Gasol to return?
General Manager Mitch Kupchak has a lot on his plate with about 20 million in cap space, 10-12 roster spots to fill, and the highest Lakers draft pick since the Reagan Administration. How he shapes the roster is completely up to him and it starts with a decision on who he selects in the draft.
TWO: Biggest Strengths
No one is going to question the potential of a Bryant-Nash backcourt, but let’s be honest for a moment here – they are both more effective with the ball in their hands and are collectively 76 years old with 34 years of NBA experience. If they spent this summer rehabbing, gaining chemistry, and working out a style of play so they can come back for a redemption story of Disney proportions then this can be a fringe playoff team. If not, then this team has nothing else to consider as a strength at this moment.
THREE: Biggest Weaknesses
Pressure. This team was designed to wrap around Dwight Howard as a “Big Four” and compete for championships, not dwell on which of the best seven players in the draft might fall to them. Also, there is the pressure of nailing this pick with Bryant, Nash, and Gasol on their way out with next year’s potential lottery pick (top-5 protected) heading to Phoenix thanks to the Nash trade.
FOUR: Odds In The 2014 NBA Draft Lottery
The Lakers had a 21.5 percent chance of moving into the Top 3, a 43.9 percent chance of staying put at No. 6 overall, and a 30.5 chance of a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers jumping up and sliding them back down to where they are. This was not the Lakers year for luck or odds as we saw on Draft Lottery night.
FIVE: Recent History of the No. 7 Pick
Every now and then a Stephen Curry slips here or a Greg Monroe because of bad decisions by teams in front of them. Other times the bad decision lands here with a Bismack Biyombo type. Overall the No. 7 overall pick the past nine years has an average career PER of 13.9 and a rookie year Win Share of 2.9, so impact out of the gates is rare, but in recent years it has happened. The Lakers need immediate and long-term impact with this pick, a tall order even for those teams in front of them.
Five Prospects That Make Sense For The Los Angeles Lakers At No. 7 Overall
1. Marcus Smart: 6-3.25, 227 pounds – G, Oklahoma State
Stats: (In 32.7 MPG) 18.0 PPG 4.8 APG 29.9 percent 3PT
There isn’t a prospect in this class better suited for the physical demands of an 82-game season on a thin roster and the mental demands of playing with Bryant. He can play with either Nash or Bryant in the short-term and be the face of the franchise potentially in the long-term.
2. Julius Randle: 6-9, 250 pounds – PF, Kentucky
Stats: (In 30.8 MPG) 15.0 PPG 10.4 RPG 50.1 percent FG
For a period of time Randle was considered the No. 1 overall pick, and he didn’t get worse as the season progressed. He is a dominant double-double machine with NBA athleticism and strength out of the gates. This draft is just so strong, he’s no longer a sure-fire top-3 pick.
3. Dante Exum: 6-6, 196 pounds – G, Australia
Stats: (2013 FIBA U19 Championships) 18.2 PPG 3.8 APG 33.3 percent 3PT
This is the long game. If Exum falls here the Lakers can wear their kid gloves developing his point guard skills (with Nash) and his combo guard skills (with Bryant) for the next few years.
4. Noah Vonleh: 6-9.75, 247 pounds – PF Indiana
Stats: (In 26.5 MPG) 11.3 PPG 9.0 RPG 52.3 percent FG
The best overall big man prospect in this class could be Vonleh with his elite length, defensive ability, rebounding for position, and shooting ability from the perimeter. He is just scratching the surface.
5. Aaron Gordon: 6-8.75, 220 pounds – F, Arizona
Stats: (In 31.2 MPG) 12.4 PPG 8.0 RPG 49.5 percent FG
If Wiggins, Parker, Embiid, Smart, Exum, and Randle are off the board the decision to go with Gordon over Vonleh is on athletic potential. Gordon is a high-energy, high-character prospect who might never be more than a complimentary role player, but could also be a game-changer on both ends with time to develop.
Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid will not be available this deep in the draft so the Lakers are looking for the best available prospect that fits the need of immediate impact, toughness (physical and mental), and long-term potential.
This draft has a quality of depth eight deep so the Lakers should be able to check off a few of those boxes.
What do you think?
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