We already know that John Wall will go #1 to the Wizards. But who will the Lakers take? Tonight we find out.
Before we get into the draft, the big news of the day for the Lakers has to do with Phil Jackson’s statement that he’s leaning towards retiring and not returning to coach the Lakers next season. We’ll have more on this topic as we get closer to Phil’s self imposed deadline for a decision of next Friday, but we bring it up now because whether or not Phil returns has ripple effects on what the Lakers do tonight in the draft. Phil runs a specific system – the Triangle offense – and nearly every player on the roster has been brought in because his skill set in some way can be adapted and incorporated into the Lakers’ schemes. Whether it’s the slashing of Shannon Brown, the shooting of Sasha, or the shooting and subsequent spacing from the PF position of Josh Powell, the players that the Lakers look to add to the roster are guys that can play in this offense and for this coach. Now as we enter the 2010 draft, some of that is up in the air with the future of Phil and the Lakers a bit murky.
That said, the Lakers are still going to need to make some picks tonight and when they’re on the clock, they’ll need to be ready to call a name. The Lakers have 2 second round picks this year at numbers 43 and 58 and will be looking at the best available player that also fills a need. And despite the Lakers just winning their second straight championship, there are needs. The Lakers have 6 potential free agents at nearly every position on their roster. In the back court, Farmar (restricted FA), Shannon (player option), and Fisher (unrestricted FA) could all be gone next season (though it’s likely that Fisher returns). Plus Morrison on the wing and Powell/Mbenga in the front court are also unrestricted FA’s that could all be on another roster next season. That’s 6 players from the Lakers roster of 13 and the team will surely look to replace one or more of these guys tonight with a prospect that can potentially develop into a contributor down the line.
However, problem is with picks this late in the draft it’s unlikely that the Lakers will find that capable player. As Mitch Kupchak stated in a conversation with Mike Trudell over at Lakers.com, the likelihood of the Lakers finding a contributor at #43 is slim. And there’s only a sliver of hope that the player drafted at #58 will even make the team. So while the draft is typically a place where teams look to restock its roster, the Lakers are really only looking for a player (or two) that can hopefully make the team or become a contributor in a couple of seasons. However, that’s not to say it’s impossible.
The Lakers have had some success with second round picks and will look to find that diamond in the rough or that niche player that can fill a role. Remember, Ronny Turiaf was taken at #37 and Von Wafer was taken at #39. Marc Gasol was taken at #48. So there is hope that a capable player can be found and molded into a guy that can soak up some minutes and do it on the cheap.
So, who are the players the Lakers are looking at? As I mentioned earlier, the Lakers are likely losing role players (or at least warm bodies that could be called on in a pinch) at PG and in the front court. So, look for the Lakers to draft a player (or two) at these positions to try and find a replacement for these potential losses. Some of the guys that the Lakers (reportedly) brought in for workouts (note that this list may not be complete) play these positions and include recognizable names like Sherron Collins (PG, Kansas), Jon Scheyer (PG/SG, Duke), Jerome Randall (PG, Cal), Dexter Pittman (C, Texas), and Brian Zoubek (C, Duke). All of these guys fit in one way or another, but none of them are truly wow prospects that I see as potential starters down the road or even rotation players in their first season. However, they’re all guys that could end up playing for us down the line as they fit a need or fill a hole that is likely to be present sometime after July 1st.
Honestly though, I’m no expert on this. The guys that are – the mockers at several sites – break down the Lakers’ selections as so:
Draft Express: #43 – Brian Zoubek (C, Duke), #58 – Dexter Pittman (C, Texas)
Chad Ford, ESPN: #43 – Willie Warren (SG, Oklahoma), #58 – Brian Zoubek (C, Duke)
NBADraft.net: #43 – Greivis Vasquez (PG, Maryland), #58 – Alexey Shved (PG/SG, Russia)
So, this is where we’re at. Maybe the Lakers end up with Zoubek and/or Pittman (I’d be okay with either). Or maybe one of the picks is Warren, Randall, Vasquez, Scheyer, or Collins (who all have qualities that make them draftable and potentially solid pros, but none that make them stand out). I have no clue, but that’s what the draft is about. It’s the intrigue of the night and the suspense of who will be the next Laker that will have me watching. And I’m sure that you’ll be watching too. So, who’s your pet guy? Who would you like to see the Lakers draft? Let me know in the comments and why you think he’d be the right pick. If your guy ends up being the pick, we may just use your words of wisdom when we recap this entire thing.