Let’s Go Big

Kurt —  June 18, 2005

Now that Phil is making a daily commute from Playa to Health South (with Jeannie in the passenger’s seat), we can start to focus on the draft. Expect changes — I’d be more surprised if the Lakers don’t make trades before and on draft day than if they stand pat. It’s going to take more than one summer to get this roster in shape, but I expect moves will start sooner rather than later.

Everyone is on the same page that there are two glaring player needs for the Lakers — a point guard who can defend and a rebound-grabbing, shot blocking presence inside.

Through the draft the Lakers can address one of those in the first round (whatever spot they draft from). This draft is deeper in point guards — after making this big man’s draft list, I realized there aren’t a lot of good bigs. I put together this list with Phil in mind — looking for someone to play the Dennis Rodman role in the triangle. It includes both centers and power forwards here because the idea of moving Chris Mihm to the four is not without some merit — he can run the floor and doesn’t have to get the ball with his back to the basket.

So let’s talk bigs — this is my current draft of who the Lakers should draft if they go big at 10. This list is subject to change because, frankly, I haven’t seen all these guys play (I just try to read a lot) and I’ve been known to change my mind. I can be swayed by good arguments/evidence.

1) Andrew Bogut: Thank god we don’t actually have to make a decision on whether or not this guy is the next Bill Walton, the next Brad Miller or the next Sam Bowie. He may have flopped in the Chicago pre-draft camp, but he’ll still go in the top two. Even if the Lakers move up he won’t be around, so I’m not going to deal with him.

2) Fran Vazquez: One good thing about guys who play in the top European leagues for a few years is, much like the guys who go to college, you get a good look at them. People who follow Europe are high on this guy. Don’t think Vazquez is the new Darko: he’s 22, 6-10 and 230 and comes ready to play in the NBA. He averaged 11.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in 20 minutes per game this season in Spain. His offense may not be up with his defense yet, but scouts say he has a solid jumper out to about 15 feet. Some players listed below may have more “upside” but here you are getting a good player who will be around for a while. The Lakers need sure more than potential right now. I’d take him if he fell to 10, but they should go after a point if they trade up.

3) Channing Frye: He’s got an NBA body — 6-11 and 250 with a good vertical — and put up good numbers (15.8 points, 7.6 rebound and 2.3 blocks a game) in a good system for a good coach in Arizona. However, those are not great numbers (particularly rebounds) and Frye is trying to shake his reputation as soft (he had a good workout in the Chicago predraft). I watched him a couple of times this year and rather than soft he just seems to just take parts of the game off — he just disappears for a while. Phil and Kobe may be able to correct that by riding him. Rumor is the Knicks are high on him at #8.

4) Ike Diogu: After the top three I think there’s a drop off, this is The last big guy I’d take at 10. A very polished offensive player — I watched a handful of his games this season and he was double and triple teamed every time he touched the ball, but he still scored in double digits every game. There were questions about his height, but he measured a legitimate 6-8 with the wingspan of someone 7-2, according to Chad Ford at ESPN. He averaged 9.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game this past year as well. The downside is he is not known as a great defender and is too slow to cover the fours he’ll see a lot of in the NBA. He’s not going to block many shots at the next level. I’d prefer someone else at 10, but it depends on who is left on the board, Diogu may be the best choice.

5) Andrew Bynum: If you’re going to take on a project, take on one that could be a star one day. Bynum is a legit 7-0, 300 pounds coming out of high school and has a lot of skill. He also is very raw at both ends of the court — if he goes to UConn for two years he may well be the #1 overall pick. If the rumored Laker trade with Indiana goes through and we get the #17 overall pick (and keep it), I’d consider Bynum strongly. The Lakers reportedly have worked him out privately so they may have an idea of what he can do. Not many physical specimens like this come along and he may be worth the wait.

6) Hakim Warrick: One of the best athletes in the draft and he has performed well on the biggest college stage (remember how good he was in Syracuse’s run to the title?). He’s very quick. The knock on him is he is a tweener — a 6-8, 215 power forward who is too small to be an NBA four but is not really a three. For the Lakers, he’s a good fit in the interchangeable triangle system Phil has talked about putting in, but he’s not going to grab a lot of board or block a lot of shots, filling those much-needed roles. I’d consider at 17.

7) Sean May: As he showed in the NCAA Tournament, he is very good on the block — he’s a polished scorer and will grab plenty of boards in the NBA. I think, in the right setting, he can have good NBA career. That said, I don’t see him fitting in with what the Lakers are trying to build — a 6-8 he’s not going to intimidate in the paint and certainly will struggle to guard the fours in the NBA. He can’t play the three. Again, I’d consider at 17, depends on who is still out there.

8-9) Charlie Villanueva and Chris Taft: I’ve lumped these two together because they present the same challenge — lottery talent that would be a great fit for the Lakers but questionable desire. Taft’s stock is dropping like a rock after some terrible workouts, so that makes Villanueva better by default, I guess. NBAdraft.net has the Lakers taking Charlie at 10. But I really watched Villanueva during the NCAA tourney and was very unimpressed — he was slow and looked lost defensively, looked confused by Vermont’s double teams and was outworked on the glass by lesser players. If some combination of Kobe/Phil/Shaw/Rambis/Mitch/their moms can motivate these guys they are great picks, but guys who can’t get up for the NCAA tourney have to be questioned. If there is nobody else good on the board at 17 maybe, but even then I’d rather have a guy who is a lesser athlete but will work hard when the paychecks start to come in.

Kurt

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