Let’s Get Small

Kurt —  June 22, 2005

Last season the Lakers’ weakest point was at the point — it was the worst cog offensively and the worst cog defensively. It is clearly one of the team’s pressing needs this summer.

That doesn’t change with the arrival of Phil Jackson — what does change is who will be looked at. The Lakers don’t need a classic ball distributor (ala John Stockton) because ball-handling duties are more spread out in Jackson’s offense. But they still need someone who can defend.

The good news is they may be able to get that through the draft — point guard is the deepest position in this year’s class. The bad news is everybody wants one. Teams drafting ahead of the Lakers such as Utah, Toronto, New Orleans and more need a point guard, too. That’s why, if the Lakers do decide to trade up, I think they will be looking at point guards — they will have their eye on someone and will be moving up to get him.

So, to quote early Steve Martin, let’s get small. (As I wrote for the post on Bigs: This is my current list of who the Lakers should draft. 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) Deron Williams: He’s big (6-3, 210), tested out as quick as Raymond Felton in the Chicago pre-draft camp and he stepped up on the big stage in the NCAA Tournament this year. Oh, add to that he is best known for his defense, which is NBA ready. His shooting may be a step behind — he shot 36.4% from the college three-point line last season and scored 1.19 points per shot attempt, both good but not great college numbers — but he can score some and has shown a great work ethic. This kid screams “Phil Jackson-style” point guard. To get him, the Lakers will have to trade up because he will be gone by three or four.

2) Chris Paul: He is the consensus best point guard in the draft and has had his all-around game compared to Jason Kidd. He shot 47.4% from three-point range and scored 1.54 points per shot attempt. And lest your forget two years ago, he carried Georgia Tech to the NCAA Final Four. He’s quick and a solid defender. He’s a can’t miss type guy. He’s gone unless the Lakers trade up.

3) Raymond Felton: Here’s where it gets hard, I think the Lakers could go with Felton or Jarrett Jack if they stay at 10 (and if Felton is still on the board at that point). I’m putting Felton on top because of defense — he’s quick and showed in the NCAA Tournament this year he can stop just about anyone and that is something the Lakers need. The knock on his defense at the NBA level is Felton is just 6-0, but he is a strong 200 pounds — this is not a Chucky Atkins body, think more Derek Fisher’s build. He will not get pushed around much if he is posted up. Offensively, last season he started to develop a more consistent outside shot and hit 35.8% of his three pointers. Felton’s athleticism may fit better in a run-and-gun style, but he would be a big upgrade for the Lakers.

4) Jarrett Jack: Two years ago, when he had more talent around him, Jack was primarily a passer. This past season, he took on more of the scoring load. Basically, he can do what he wants offensively. He fits the Phil Jackson mold by being 6-3, 200. His defense is considered good, not great. Did have some turnover issues, but that may be less of a concern in the triangle where he would not be the only ball handler/distributor. Jack is solid everywhere if not spectacular anywhere, if the Lakers take him they will get a guy who can fit in quickly.

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If the Lakers take a point guard in the first round, it will be one of those four. What follows are some point guards who may be around when the Lakers draft in the second round (they have picks 37 and 39, providing those aren’t traded). These guys are more projects but may make the team.

Daniel Ewing: He comes out of Duke, so you know his fundamentals are solid. He’s 6-3, 185 and played both guard positions in college so he has some versatility. The good news is he is a tenacious defender and may someday become a defensive stopper off the bench. The downside is his offense is questionable and his ball handling average. He may develop into a point. I like the idea of taking him, maybe sending him to the NDBL for a year (maybe not) and trying to develop the offensive part of his game. If Phil wants defenders, this is a good second round pick.

John Gilchrist: He’s 6-2, 200 pounds with a good all around game offensively and he could be a defensive stopper. Scouts say his game is that of a poor man’s Marbury. So, if he’s all that, why isn’t he listed in the upper part of the draft? Attitude. He had attitude problems in high school then was basically asked to leave the Maryland program. He seemed to quit the second half of this past season and Hoopsanalyst said he looked lazy. Does Phil (and Kobe, really) want a project on his hands? If so, this guy could be a real steal. Or, he could flame out.

Travis Diener: You know, that last point guard to come out of Marquette wasn’t bad… but don’t confuse the two. At 6-0, 165 Diener is considered a bit small and frail, that said he was impressive at the Chicago camp, where he may have been the best point guard playing. His quickness is average at best, but he makes up for it with court IQ and effort. He has good shooting range, hitting 41% of his college three pointers. He may make a good NBA bench player.

Nate Robinson: He was one of the most fun players to watch in the NCAA this past season and fans will love him in the NBA, but at 5-9 I just have a hard time seeing the Lakers drafting him. He’s quick enough to get to the hole offensively but his outside shot is questionable. If I have a running style team I take a shot on him, but that’s not the Lakers under Phil.

Kurt

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