Talking Draft: Need vs Best Player

Darius Soriano —  June 9, 2011

With the draft only 14 days away, it’s time to start to discuss what the Lakers may do when they’re on the clock. With 4 second round picks the Lakers have quantity, but the key will be finding some quality in a part of the draft that doesn’t often produce impact players. Last year, the Lakers were able to pick up two quality young players and both ended up making the team. And while neither got much burn (which was to be expected considering the experienced veterans and talent ahead of them on the depth chart), both look like they could become players that contribute in future seasons.

An underrated part of the Lakers draft last year is that both Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter were talented guys that fell on draft night (at least in the Lakers eyes) but also happened to play positions of need. Remember, coming off the championship year of 2010, the Lakers had questions at SF with Luke Walton’s injury, had not yet signed Matt Barnes, and had let Adam Morrison walk in free agency. They’d also let Josh Powell and DJ Mbenga leave in free agency and were short on big men. When thinking long term, the Lakers certainly needed to invest in a wing player and a big man and happened to find both late in the draft. This was the classic case of where need and the best players on their board intersected.

However, this year they may not be as lucky and it will be interesting to see what the Lakers strategy will be when it’s time to select a player.

For what it’s worth, Mitch Kupchak has already given us a bit of a hint as to what his strategy may be. In the interview we linked to earlier this week, Kupchak explained, “At that point in the second round, if somebody drops that you didn’t think would drop you probably just take him regardless of position.”

In a way, the Lakers are “lucky” in that there’s a solid argument to be made that they have a need at every position. With the uncertainty of Shannon Brown returning, the collective age and talent level at point guard, and the lack of big man depth, the Lakers could select a player at any position and rationalize that they’re filling a need.

However, when you drill down, I’d argue that the big man need is more at C than at PF and that the need on the wing is at SG rather than at SF. These points are arguable but if you take Ebanks and Caracter into account, this is mostly true. If the Lakers come on the clock and it’s a choice between a talented player at PF and one slightly less talented at C whom to they take? What if it’s the same choice between a SF and a SG? Or, what if it’s between a PG and a C? Which need wins out more?

My preference would be to go after the following positions in this order: PG, SG, C, PF, SF if talent is equal. However, if there’s a SF that’s much more talented than any other prospect when the Lakers’ first pick comes up, things get a bit trickier. Do they bite the bullet, draft that player, and expect to carry 5 SF’s next year (Artest, Barnes, Walton, Ebanks, and rookie X)?

Those are the questions that the Lakers brain trust will have to answer when it’s their turn to pick. And we haven’t even gotten into other variables like age, upside, U.S. vs. foreign player, nor whether or not there are other concerns regarding character, work ethic, etc.

In two weeks we’ll have more answers but right now all we can do is speculate. What do you thing the priorities are? What positions would you target? Do you draft for need or for best player? Let me know in the comments and we’ll compare notes as we all anticipate who the Lakers will select in 14 days.

Darius Soriano

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