We’re inching closer to Thursday’s NBA draft and with that comes much intrigue for the entire league. Sixty players will be drafted to various teams and with that the dreams of 60 young men will be fulfilled while the hopes and expectations of millions of fans crystallize.
Will the new guy (or in some teams’ case, guys) lead our team to the playoffs? To a championship? Will they bust? These are questions that we’ll all be asking as analysts rattle off buzz words like “length”, “upside”, and “winner” while highlight reels of these players’ best plays run in the background. It’s an exciting time, and really, one of my favorite times of the year.
For the Lakers, though, they’re looking at this draft from a different perspective than many other teams. With four second round picks, the Lakers aren’t looking for/don’t expect to see an impact player or a guy that can come in and compete for a starting spot next season. Instead, they’re looking for a player that can simply make the roster. Said another way, the Lakers have quantity (in their number of picks) but aren’t in a position to expect a lot of quality to fall to where they’ll be making their picks. It’s simply the reality of drafting in the 2nd round with the first of four picks not being made until the 41st selection overall. As Mitch Kupchak said himself:
We’re looking at players that we think might be there in the 40s and 50s. Typically with those kinds of players, something may jump out at you, but the whole package doesn’t ever really jump out at you, because if it did, that player would be a lottery pick. You may see somebody who’s got a nice stroke, but he’s a tweener in terms of size; or somebody that’s got great athletic ability but can’t shoot the ball; or great size and can’t catch. When you’re drafting in the 40s, there’s compromises that you have to make and sacrifices. You end up looking at a lot of mid-sized players, 6-7 and less, because the big guys are just hard to come by … [big guys] that can play, anyway.
So, who fits into this category of a prospect that offers a distinct skill set that can help a team, but also has enough flaws in his game that he could be available when the Lakers pick? Some names to chew on:
- Nolan Smith, PG, Duke – A PG/SG prospect that filled in nicely for (projected #1 overall pick) Kyrie Irving early this past season. Smith proved he could run the point, score well, and is seen as a good defender. However, towards the end of Duke’s season, his production fell off dramatically when Irving reclaimed his starting gig and pushed Smith into a less certain role.
- Darius Morris, PG, Michigan – Morris insists he’s a pure PG and at 6’5″ possesses excellent size for that position. He showed very good efficiency as a scorer making 53% of his 2 point shots, but struggles as an outside shooter, making only 25% of his 3 point attempts. How he’d transition to playing PG in the NBA – both on offense and defense – is a real unknown, however and thus he’s seen as a 2nd round prospect.
- Malcom Lee, SG, UCLA – Seen as more of a defensive specialist with an evolving offensive game. His D has some saying he could play right away as someone that guards NBA wings and the fact that he played for a defensive minded Ben Howland at UCLA only enhances his reputation as someone that could transition well to the pros on that end of the floor. On offense, however, his jumper needs lots of work (29% on three pointers) and as a SG in the NBA, there’s only so many minutes for a guy that is a liability on that end of the floor.
- David Lighty, SG/SF, Ohio St. – One of the better shooters in this draft, Lighty shot 47% overall and 42% on three pointers. He has decent size for a wing and proved a versatile threat for OSU this past season. He also showed that he’d work hard on defense though isn’t thought of as a defender the caliber of Lee.
- Greg Smith, PF/C, Fresno St. – Draft Express has the Lakers drafting Smith with the #58 pick in their latest mock draft. Also of note, John Hollinger has Smith rated as his 24th best prospect for this draft. Smith has a mostly un-polished offensive game and shows flashes of ability to defend and rebound well. His measurables are pretty good as he’s 6’10″ in shoes but has a 7’3″ wing span and enormous hands. His biggest issues seem to be focus and consistency with his effort.
- Jordan Williams, PF/C, Maryland – Draft Express has the Lakers drafting Williams with the 46th pick in their latest mock draft and Hollinger has him rated as the 31st best prospect in this draft. Williams comes to the pros after his sophomore season and showed good ability as a scorer (16.9 ppg) and rebounder (11.8 rpg) this past season. He’s seen mostly as a Center but at 6’9″ lacks good size for that position. He does have good hands and seems to have a good feel for positioning both on the glass and in moving in space towards the ball.
Obviously there are other names out there besides these. However, I’ve looked around the interwebs at a lot of prospects and mock drafts, and these are guys that are consistently picked in the range of where the Lakers will make their selections. Maybe you have another name you’d like to see the Lakers draft. If so, let me know in the comments and why. As we get closer to the draft, it serves us all to know as much about these guys as we can. Especially since one or more will likely have his name called by the Lakers this Thursday.
Note that most of the information on the players above is from written profiles around the web, with a heavy reliance on the fine work done at Draft Express as I’ve seen only some of these players play this past season.