Archives For June 2011

Draft Day Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  June 24, 2011

Coming into the draft, armed with four 2nd round picks, the Lakers had a clear strategy. They wanted to draft guards that could help their back court depth and they wanted to draft one or two players that could be stashed in Europe for future consideration of a roster spot. Plus, besides those two rather generic goals, the Lakers also sought to improve on and add skills lacking on the current roster. The hope was to nab playmaking and shooting and hope those skills were advanced enough that the player (or players) possessing them could earn a roster spot.

And while it’s much too early to say whether that last point will actually prove positive, the other goals all have a check mark next to them the day after the draft. And for those reasons, beyond anything else, the Lakers had a successful Thursday evening phoning in their picks from Los Angeles to Newark.

With pick number 41, the Lakers nabbed Darius Morris from Michigan. His strengths include size, natural point guard ability, and the ability to get into the paint to create for others and himself. His profile at Draft Express includes several positive morsels about his college career, including the fact that he boasted a greater than 2-1 assist to turnover ratio while also shooting 53% on two point baskets last season. We also learn that he improved by leaps and bounds over his two seasons at Michigan by flashing a well rounded game, including the ability to rebound well and defend at an above average level. Draft Express ranked him as the 22nd best prospect in this draft and Chad Ford states that he may be the best pure point guard in his draft. 

However, his game is not without flaws. He’s shown literally no ability to make the college three point shot, knocking down only 25% of his long balls last year. He can be an over dribbler that probes too much rather than making the simple play.  His size is very good for the position but his athleticism is only average. He’ll be tested at the NBA level both physically and in terms of the deficiencies in his game, needing to make both improvements and adjustments to his style of play that will be harder than the ones he had to make during his time at Michigan.

With the 46th pick, the Lakers selected Andrew Goudelock from the College of Charleston. He’s also listed as a point guard, but where Morris is of the playmaking variety, Goudelock is a scoring machine. He ranked 5th in the nation this past year, dropping nearly 24 points a game (right below Kemba Walker). He’s used to operating with the ball in his hands and creating shots from everywhere on the floor. He shows incredible range on his jumper and is literally a threat to hit shots once he’s over the half court line. Really, he is. He also shows great moxie on the court and is a confident player, letting media know after the draft that he’ll compete with anyone of any size and that his shooting ability will be with him until the day he dies.

Goudelock too, though, has his flaws. While confident in his playmaking ability, he committed nearly as many turnovers as assists this past season. Finishing inside is not a strong suit. And while he made 40% of his three pointers (a great number) he also shot nearly 9 shots from distance a game last year, which instantly has me questioning his shot selection. There’s a real question about whether he can be a true point guard or if he’s destined to be an undersized shooting guard in this league.

With the remaining two picks, the Lakers selected Chukwudiebere Maduabum (#56) and Ater Majok (#58). Chu-Chu (as he’s known) was ultimately traded to the Nuggets for a future 2nd round pick and Majok is a player that has little information on him anywhere. After the pick, Chad Ford tweeted that “He wasn’t awful at EuroCamp.” And that he “Shoots it OK for a big man”, but I wouldn’t call that a ringing endorsement on my friendliest and most optimistic of days. Odds are this pick never sees the floor for the Lakers.

In the end though, with both Morris and Goudelock at least, these are the types of players you draft in the 40’s. They’re flawed players but ones that have good skill level and a foundational attribute (or more) that can keep them in this league. For Morris, that’s a combo of playmaking, size, and floor generalship. For Goudelock it’s shooting and confidence. Considering the Lakers have a real need for both of those skill sets on this current roster, I think the team did quite well for themselves in acquiring these two players. We won’t know until training camp what type of progress or improvements they’ve made in their games (Summer league has been officially cancelled and with a lock out on the horizon, who knows when camp will even start) but I do believe that both of these players can stick and make the team.

And if that turns out to be the case, that’s a great result from this draft and all any reasonable observer could ask for. There’s little chance a pick in the 40’s will come in and impact a team. Those chances go down exponentially when you’re talking about a team that many believe to be one of the handful of title contenders in the league. If the Lakers are lucky, both Morris and Goudelock will come in, compete hard, improve as the year progresses, and get some spot minutes where they can test their development in real game action. If they contribute positively in those minutes and earn more time, that’s a homerun. If they don’t, I’m not judging. I look at Ebanks and Caracter and see two guys that rarely played and I still think they can be players on this team.

Hopefully, with both Morris and Goudelock, I’ll be thinking the same thing a year from now.

From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: As Brian mentioned earlier, Mitch Kupchak is looking for guards. Five picks after selecting Darius Morris, the Lakers plucked Andrew Goudelock, a 6-3, 200 lb point guard from the College of Charleston. The four-year student-athlete and 2011 Southern Conference Player of the Year left his Alma Mater as its all-time leading scorer (2,571 points), plus fourth in assists (424). On his career, Goudelock ranks 39th all-time in scoring in NCAA D-1 history. As a point guard, Goudelock is able to create for others, but he was especially successful with his own shot, particularly from distance. A career 41.2 percent three-point shooter in college, he never averaged below 39 percent in any season. Goudelock did a speaker phone interview with the media shortly after getting selected, and I’ll say this for the kid: He ain’t lacking for confidence, nor is he afraid to speak boldly. (For my own purposes of needing daily quotes, it’s imperative Goudelock makes the team.) He’s not necessarily cocky in a bad way, mind you. Jay Bilas described Goudelock during ESPN’s draft special as a kid who’ll keep his mouth shut and work hard. Goudelock admitted his defense, while improved throughout his college career, needs work. Hell, he even copped to crying after hearing which team took his rights:

From Brian Kamenetky, Land O’ Lakers: Meeting the media early in the first round, long before the Lakers were on the clock, G.M. Mitch Kupchak indicated the Lakers would look for help in the backcourt. He wasn’t lying. With the first of their four second round picks, L.A. selected Michigan point guard (and L.A. native) Darius Morris. He’s a big kid, listed at 6’3″ in the NBA’s official Draft media guide, 6’4″ on the bio handed to us by Lakers PR, and 6’5″ on TV. (A few more sources, and he might get up to seven feet.) He left Michigan after his sophomore season, and a lot of people who track this sort of thing believe he would have elevated himself well into the first round, perhaps into the lottery, had he stayed in school a little longer. From a scouting report on Morris by’s Chad Ford, written last month:

From Land O’ Lakers: In the end, Draft night for the Lakers went pretty much as expected. There were no blockbuster deals, and G.M. Mitch Kupchak suggested the trade buzz, whether around Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, or Lamar Odom, was generated not by the team itself but by other squads around the league and player agents fueling the rumor mill. (That, and a comment during the playoffs from a “prominent member of the media,” Kupchak’s not-so-thinly veiled dig at Magic Johnson, who said during ABC’s broadcast of the Dallas/Lakers series L.A. needed to “blow up” its roster.)  Obviously Kupchak isn’t going to sit before us and declare he shopped his players like a Black Friday sale, but his storyline is also the most realistic for a team with a very solid core still well positioned to contend if necessary improvements can be made around them. Still, exciting as draft night can be, the question of what the Lakers can do this offseason to improve is barely related to the question of whether or not they had a good draft. If at all. Forget finding contributors, given where they picked (the first selection coming at No. 41) if the Lakers finished with a player or two capable of making next year’s roster, the evening has to be called a major success.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPNLA: Freshly hired Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown showed up to the Lakers’ practice facility Thursday for the NBA draft admittedly more as a spectator than a participant. He watched the draft in his office, ate pizza with his son and checked in from time to time while members of the Lakers’ front office monitored draft activity in an adjacent conference room. Dressed casually in a polo shirt, yellow athletic shorts and sneakers, Brown projected just as relaxed a stance when asked about the fact that Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant has yet to comment publicly on Brown’s getting the job. “I’m more than OK with it,” Brown said of Bryant’s near month-long silence since Brown was hired in late May.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPNLA: The Los Angeles Lakers were mentioned in various trade scenarios in the days leading up to the NBA draft, but general manager Mitch Kupchak dismissed the speculation as nothing but rumors on Thursday. Not only did Kupchak debunk the validity of the rumored trades that had the Lakers shopping Lamar Odom to Minnesota and Philadelphia, but he pointed the finger at why they could have surfaced. “I think other teams have been exploring major moves with us,” Kupchak said when asked if the Lakers were actively pursuing deals to shake up their roster. “I’m not exactly sure where it all came from, but prior to our exit in the playoffs a prominent member of the media suggested that we ‘blow up’ our team.

From Walter Beeken, Draft Express: When talking about the most improved players in the country this season, Michigan’s Darius Morris has to be in the conversation. The sophomore point guard has increased his numbers across the board and made the leap from an unproductive freshman to one of the top guards in the Big Ten. From a physical standpoint, Morris has great size and length for the point guard position at 6’4” with a very impressive frame. Always looking to make things happen with the ball in his hands, Morris is capable of overpowering defenders with his solid first step and extremely aggressive mentality, similar to the way Tyreke Evans did at Memphis a few years back. While he may not possess jet-quickness by NBA standards, his size and strength are major assets on both ends of the floor and give him a huge physical advantage at the point guard position. Running the point for a young Michigan team, Morris has really stood out with his ability to utilize his size, ball-handling ability, and craftiness to get into the paint and make plays. His ability to finish in the lane and in the midrange area is highlighted by the fact that he’s shooting an excellent 56% on 2-pointers so far this season, where he’s shown that he’s capable of finishing in a variety ways. He’s also doing a much better job drawing contact at the rim this season, as he’s getting to the line at a much rate than he did as a freshman.

From Matt Kamalsky, Draft Express: Amongst the most intriguing prospects slated to compete in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Andrew Goudelock made a strong impression on one end of the floor, but struggled for stretches on the other. He’s still one of the most interesting small-school prospects in the draft, and did little to turn scouts off to his ability to space the floor. Finishing second in scoring over the course of the tournament, Goudelock made 13 of the 22 three point shots he attempted. Capable of getting hot from beyond the arc and hitting shots both off the catch and off the dribble from well beyond the arc, the Charleston product carried his team with his shooting for stretches at the PIT, much like he did during the 2011 season. He shot 43% in catch and shoot situations and off the dribble this season according to Synergy Sports Technology, and only reinforced what we already knew about his perimeter scoring ability.

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: The Lakers waited for more than three hours Thursday to select a player in the NBA draft, but felt the wait was worth it when they found Darius Morris of Michigan still available at No. 41 in the second round. Morris, a 6-foot-5 guard, had been projected to go in the first round after two solid seasons at Michigan, so Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak was surprised to see his name still on the board.  “Darius is a very gifted with the ball in his hands,” Kupchak said. “He looks to pass first.” Morris, who played high school basketball at Windward of Los Angeles, is considered to have solid passing skills and possesses a powerful first step despite not having great foot speed. He can create mismatches against smaller point guards … that is, if he gets a chance to play in new coach Mike Brown’s offense. “I need to work on my 3-point shot. I plan to attack and work hard on that in the offseason, get it together,” Morris said in a conference call.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: Andrew Goudelock hasn’t yet put on a Lakers uniform after his No. 46 pick in the 2011 NBA draft, but it already seems the jersey fits. He hasn’t yet stepped foot in Los Angeles, but it already seems this city will embrace him. It remains unclear how much he’ll affect the Lakers, let alone whether he’ll make the roster cut, but it already seems there will be space for him. His booming and articulate voice coming out of a speakerphone conveyed the maturity he developed in four years as a shooting guard at the College of Charleston. His strong sense of security oozed out when he confirmed a pre-draft quote: “I’m going to be able to shoot until the day I die.” Not only did he embrace it, Goudelock took it a step further: “Unless something happens, unless I gain some type of disease where I forget how to shoot, I’m going to shoot until the die I day.” And his direct honesty on recognizing the need to play to his shooting strengths, his need to sharpen up on defense and the need to immediately begin work the day after the NBA draft shows he has the proper perspective. “Tonight I’m going to enjoy it,” he said. “Then it’s back to work for me.”

From Elliot Teaford, LA Daily News: Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak had this to say a few minutes ago when asked to separate truth from rumor when it came to published reports that the team was willing to deal sixth man Lamar Odom to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the second overall pick or to the Philadelphia 76ers for Andre Iguodala: “I think other teams have been exploring major moves with us. I’m not exactly sure where it all came from, but prior to our exit from the playoffs a prominent member of the media (Magic Johnson) suggested we blow up the team and so I think that created an avalanche of expectations with other teams that we were looking to do things and I think we’ve been pretty consistent over the last month or so that it’s not our goal right now to look to break up this team. Certainly, we’ll explore opportunities, but we’re not out there dialing 27 or 28 other teams, (asking), ‘What would you do for these players?’

Update: With the 41st pick the Lakers selected Darius Morris, point guard from Michigan. From everything I know of him, his best attribute is his size (he’s 6’5″) and the fact that he offers true PG skills. His jumper is relatively weak, but he’s good in the P&R and off the bounce getting into the lane. We’ll have more on this pick later, but as of now I’m pretty happy with this pick. The Lakers could use some youth in their pipeline of back court players and Morris provides that (he came out after his sophomore season at Michigan).

Update #2: With the 46th pick the Lakers selected Andrew Goudelock, point guard from the College of Charleston. Chad Ford calls him the 2nd best shooter in the draft behind Jimmer Fredette and that he boasts tremendous range. Overall, I’m pleased that the Lakers nabbed a good shooter with this pick as that’s a portable skill that can immediately help this team.


We’re inching closer to the start of the draft and that excitement is starting to build up in me. Even though the Lakers don’t pick until the 2nd round, I’ll be dialed in to all the action.

Since our post this morning, some revalations have come to light:

  • Reports are that the Odom/Iguodala deal is essentially dead. Which, honestly, is no surprise. The Lakers typically run a tight ship with word of potential deals rarely getting out. That’s not to say this is always the case, but it’s so rare that the details of any Laker deal gets out that it’s tough to put too much stock into reports that actually see the light of day that don’t include the words “confirmed” or “nearly done”. That said, if you’d like some spot on analysis of the Lakers, Odom, and trades, you should go read this.
  • Just because the Lakers aren’t trading, it doesn’t mean no deals are getting done. It’s been widely reported that the Bobcats, Kings, and Bucks have agreed to a three way trade. Details state that Beno Udrih, Stephen Jackson, Shawn Livingston, and the #19 pick go to Milwaukee, Corey Maggette and the #7 pick go to Charlotte, while John Salmons and the #10 pick go to Sacramento. My first impressions are that the ‘Cats win this trade by getting a 2nd lottery pick (they’re already picking 9th) with the Bucks also doing well. Meanwhile, Sacramento fans should be pulling their hair out. As the great Tom Ziller (SB Nation, Sactown Royalty) noted “Kings got older, worse, more expensive AND downgraded their draft pick in one trade. Impressive.”
  • Reports have also started to surface linking Brian Shaw to the Pacers. Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star tweeted that Shaw will join the Pacers as their Associate Head Coach (otherwise known as the top assistant). Good for Shaw as I wish him nothing but the best. He was a very good coach for the Lakers and I’ll never forget the big shots he hit for the team during the Shaq/Kobe era (hello Portland!). I’m very happy that he’s landed on his feet and hope that this opportunity will springboard him back into contention for a head coaching job in the coming years.

That’s all the news we have before the draft, but I’m sure there will be plenty more as the night unfolds. We’ll update this post if any Lakers news breaks and surely when they make their picks. Enjoy the night, ya’ll.

I won’t lie, today is one of my favorite days of the year. The draft is a day where players’ long time dreams of going to the NBA come true and it’s also the day that all teams have that hope of finding a gem that will help them compete in the years to come.

Today is also great because it’s a day of non-stop chatter and action around the league with trades, rumors, and speculation hitting an all time high. For armchair GM’s and trade machine junkies, today is like Christmas.

And as I type this, the Lakers are in the middle of a lot of this action. Here’s what we “know”:

  • Last night, rumors started circulating that the Lakers and 76ers have had discussions about a potential Lamar Odom/Andre Iguodala swap. With Iggy making more money however, a filler would be needed to make the contracts match. Sam Amick (who originally reported these conversations) cited sources saying that Ron Artest could be the additional piece the Lakers sent to Philly. Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Lakers could send Luke Walton along with LO.
  • Obviously if the choice is between giving up Luke or Ron, I’d choose Luke every time. Nothing against Walton (a player I have more fondness for than others), but Ron is still a contributing player to this team and Luke has fallen out of the rotation due to injury and lack of production over the past few seasons.
  • Other rumors have Mike Brown wanting the Lakers to pursue Anderson Varejao, a player Brown is very familiar with from his Cavs days. Varejao is a very good defensive presence and one of the better hustle/energy players in the entire league.
  • All of these reports come on the heels of the LA Times reporting the Lakers offered Lamar Odom to the T’Wolves for the #2 overall pick in tonight’s draft. A deal the Wolves weren’t keen on.

It should be noted that in every single one of these reports, there’s nothing concrete and the Lakers are not anywhere close to actually making a deal. This can’t be said enough and should be repeated in your heads for long term absorption.

However, what these reports do tell us is that the Lakers are pretty clearly looking at options that could potentially improve their team. As I stated earlier this week, this is what good front offices do. The Lakers must look at their team with a critical eye and see if any deal makes sense for them. This isn’t that different than what the Spurs are reportedly doing in exploring options for trading Tony Parker or George Hill. Or reports that Danny Ainge would consider trading one of his key pieces. The best franchises look for ways to get better. That said, exploring deals and making deals aren’t the same thing. So, sit tight and wait for something to actually go down. The speculation is fun and we’ll monitor it closely here at FB&G, but don’t take reports for anything more than they are right now.


As for the draft, the Lakers are still sitting back with a fist full of 2nd round picks to make. Assistant GM Ronnie Lester told Mike Trudell that the Lakers are looking for back court players with their early picks and players that could go to Europe (whether they’re foreign born or not) with their later picks. Lester also says that if the team can’t take two backcourt players they like with their early selections, they’ll look to go big.

This jives with what we already know about the Lakers approach and shouldn’t be a surprise. The Lakers have aging players in their back court and lack depth behind Gasol, Bynum, and Odom. If the team can grab a guard or two that make this roster (preferably ones that can either shoot, make plays off the dribble, or defend at a high level) or a big man that can compete with Caracter as a young big to make the team, this draft would have to be considered a success.

With that said, here are who the experts have the Lakers drafting:

  • Chad Ford (Insider required): #41 – Shelvin Mack, PG; #46 – Malcom Thomas, SF/PF; #56 – Brandon Wanamaker, PG; #58 – Julyan Stone, PG/SG
  • Draft Express: #41 – Shelvin Mack, PG; #46 – Jon Leuer, PF; #56 – Andrew Goudelock, PG; #58 –  Malcom Thomas, SF/PF

As you can see, there’s some overlap here with both mocks projecting that the Lakers select Mack and Thomas. A few other names to look out for are Malcom Lee, Justin Holiday, Ben Hansboro (one of my sleeper picks that I hope L.A. takes a flyer on), and Jordan Williams (one of the better rebounders coming out this year).

As we get closer to the draft, we’ll pass along any updates that we get and will have another post up as we get close to the start of the draft with any confirmed reports. Buckle up everyone, this should be a fun night.

From Sebastian Pruiti, NBA Playbook: Ettore Messina was one of the best head coaches in European Club Basketball history, winning the EuroLeague title four times with two different teams.  Messina has been rumored to take a number of different head coaching jobs over the years, and for whatever reason he just didn’t seem to be interested, until now.  Messina has finally joined the NBA, agreeing to join the Lakers’ staff and as Ric Bucher reported, even though he will be listed as an assistant coach, his role will be to act as more of a consultant than an assistant coach. With Mike Brown being a defensive head coach, it is my opinion that Messina will be a consultant on the offensive end more than the defensive end, so I thought it would be interesting to look at Messina’s offense with Real Madrid (the team that he coached for the past two seasons), and see if there is anything interesting that he could bring over to the Lakers.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: All that “substantial progress” in the NBA’s labor negotiations? Don’t hang your hat on it. That’s essentially what National Basketball Players Assocition President Derek Fisher told Stephen A. Smith on ESPN 1050 radio in New York (via Sports Radio Interviews). And he was not backing down over a lockout. “If the owners decide they want to lock us out because we don’t agree to the most dramatic rollback in professional sports history, then that’s the choice that they have.” While the two sides continue to meet Fisher is clear that the two sides are far apart, in part because the two sides are coming from very different starting points, making it hard to agree on what a compromise in the middle looks like.

A collaborated effort on Ed The Sports Fan: How can a face foul an elbow?” That’s what I think of time and time again when I think about the dominance of Shaquille O’Neal. For those of you who are unfamiliar, those are the words of Vlade Divac discussing his battle with Shaquille O’Neal when the Lakers played the Kings in the playoffs. It’s also a sign someone held up in Philadelphia during the 2001 NBA Finals, when Dikembe Mutombo played Shaq about as well as anyone ever has one-on-one, yet still got torched. For all Shaquille O’Neal has done as an entertainer and athlete with cross-over appeal, there are drones of people who forget how incredibly awesome Shaquille O’Neal the basketball player was. There are those who say he didn’t reach his full potential, didn’t work hard enough to stay in shape, and took regular-season games off. All those people miss the point.

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, the Lakers’ two second-round picks a year ago, made the team. Ebanks and perhaps even Caracter will be with the team next season despite nonguaranteed contracts. That moderate success with their 2010 second-round chances – even though neither Ebanks nor Caracter had much on-court impact as rookies – means even less room on the next Lakers roster for 2011 second-round picks. Despite most of the focus going toward the start of the NBA draft and Arizona’s possible No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams (right), whom the Lakers were rumored to want via trade, the Lakers are prepared to use their four second-round picks on players such as Washington’s Justin Holiday (22) and Matthew Bryan-Amaning (11). Page through the photos for prospects the Lakers are particularly scrutinizing. And the Lakers have a lot of them: Nos. 41, 46, 56 and 58. The Lakers will be looking foremost for some possible backcourt depth. Secondarily, though, they just don’t want to waste the picks completely – which could mean drafting prospects whose rights could be stashed away for the future while they mature in Europe.

From Broderick Turner, LATimes: Armed with only second-round draft picks in the NBA draft and an aging roster, the Lakers unsuccessfully tried to trade for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ No. 2 overall pick in the first round. The Lakers offered sixth man of the year Lamar Odom for Minnesota’s No. 2 pick, according to two NBA officials who were not authorized to speak publically on the matter, but L.A. was turned down. When the Odom deal was rebuffed by Minnesota, the Timberwolves then inquired about trying to acquire All-Star forward Pau Gasol or center Andrew Bynum from the Lakers, both officials said.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: Oklahoma City made one of the biggest trades last season before the deadline when it acquired Kendrick Perkins from the Boston Celtics, immediately adding a layer of championship experience and toughness that the youthful Thunder lacked, and immediately ending the Laker archrivals’ chances of getting another NBA championship. But that deal also included the Thunder acquiring veteran Charlotte center Nazr Mohammed while trading three-point-shooting power forward Jeff Green and backup center Nenad Kristic. Mohammed has fulfilled that NBA journeyman-type role, playing for six teams since the Utah Jazz selected him with the 29th pick in the 1998 draft. But he immediately found his niche on the Thunder roster.  Mohammed averaged seven points and five rebounds on 52.2% shooting, improved the Thunder’s interior defense and helped elevate the team’s frontline presence in Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: This doesn’t exactly qualify as breaking news. Lakers forward Matt Barnes said unequivocally after Mike Brown’s introductory news conference May 31 that he would exercise his $1.91-million option to return to the Lakers next season. But for the sake of dotting the I’s and crossing the Ts, the Lakers made the official announcement Wednesday that has gone according to plan. Aside from wanting to have stability after playing with eight teams in his nine-year NBA career, Barnes cited his frustration over the Lakers’ four-game loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals and his own limited effectiveness after right-knee surgery as reasons for returning.

From Brian Kemenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: For r the record, I don’t believe a deal sending Pau Gasol to Minnesota, whether for Kevin Love and the No. 2 pick in Thursday’s draft; the pick and whatever flotsam, jetsam and magic beans with which the Wolves would try to entice L.A.; or any combination therein is going to happen. Accepting any offer not including Love would be monumentally bad for the Lakers, and while far be it for me to tell David Kahn how to do his job, I’m not really sure how shipping out the draft choice, Love and whatever other pieces required to obtain Gasol and make salaries match makes much sense from his end, either. Strip away Love, and even if you believe Gasol the superior player (as I do), how much does he improve a 17-win team? Even if he and Ricky Rubio instantly developed a chemistry so profound the great Venkatraman Ramakrishnan wept in appreciation, unless Rubio really is the second coming of Magic Johnson, the Wolves are, what, a 30-win group for the next few years, by which time Gasol will be past his prime?

From Arash Markazi, ESPNLA: The Los Angeles Lakers announced their new broadcast teams for the upcoming season and both the radio and television crews will have new play-by-play voices. Spero Dedes, 31, who had been the Lakers radio play-by-play voice for the previous six seasons, will not be returning. “We allowed Spero to miss several Lakers games from time to time over the past few years in order to do national events for the NFL and college basketball,” said Lakers spokesman John Black in an email on Tuesday. “However, for our TV play-by-play position, we insist that that person not miss any games because we feel it is important to our fans to have consistency and continuity and to have the same announcer for all games.

From Chris Sheridan, ESPN: NBA players and owners each made new financial proposals Tuesday at a three-hour collective bargaining meeting, emerging from the discussion cautiously optimistic that progress was being made. The current CBA expires June 30, and the two sides are trying to prevent an impasse like the one that has stopped NFL business. The union made the first proposal, asking to retain the current “soft” salary-cap system but with a half-billion dollar reduction in salaries — $100 million in each of the next five years in a proposed five-year agreement, according to a source who was briefed on the negotiations. The owners, who are asking for a 10-year agreement, then came back with a counterproposal of their own. Owners offered what they called a “flex cap” system that would earmark at least $2 billion per season toward player salaries.

From Ben R, Silver Screen and Roll: Looking at the draft is almost a whimsical activity nowadays because the Lakers’ front office has hardly relied upon it in recent years as a method of gathering talent, much to the chagrin of Laker fans who happen to be fans of college basketball. Nearly all of the major additions to the team since 2008 have been through free agency and trades, which earned the team two championships in three trips to the Finals, but also has created some of the problems that manifested in the Lakers’ inglorious exit from the playoffs at the hands of the recently crowned champion Dallas Mavericks. In any case, with the draft approaching, it behooves us to look at the Lakers’ position in the draft and how they can possibly improve. After the jump, I’ll cover how the Lakers ended up in their current draft position, what needs the team needs to address, whether in the draft or elsewhere, and some of the prospects that the Lakers could be targeting in the draft.

From Defending champion Spain included Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka in its preliminary team on Tuesday for the European championship. Ibaka, who was born in the Republic of the Congo, is still waiting to become nationalized by Spain before the championship begins on Aug. 31 in Lithuania. “We hope he can play, even though we are not sure that he will be able to,” Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said. “We are in the phase of waiting for the paperwork to go through.” Ibaka played for Spanish clubs for three years before moving to the NBA in 2009. According to Spanish media reports, he maintains a residence in Barcelona. Ibaka could form a formidable front court alongside Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol and his brother Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers, who returns after missing the 2010 world championship.

It seems that even the seriousness of the ongoing CBA negotiations can’t stop a good trade rumor from taking root in everyone’s mind. In case you haven’t heard, there have been reports that the Lakers and Timberwolves have talked about a trade. The terms of said discussion aren’t entirely clear, but the rumors say that they involve Pau Gasol, Kevin Love, the number 2 pick in this upcoming draft, the Mall of America, and some of those lakes left behind when the team moved to L.A. from Minneapolis.

In all seriousness, Eric Pincus reported that while a deal was unlikely, there were actual discussions about an exchange of Gasol for some of the Timerwolves’ assets. There was then speculation of what assets the deal would include and everything from the #2 pick to Kevin Love to several medium sized contracts for role players (and a combination of all) were floated as options. If you’d like a nice summary of the evolution of the reports, Dexter Fishmore covered it well here.

However, today Ken Berger of CBS Sports has stated that any Gasol/Love swap is not going to happen.  So, nothing to see here, right?

Yes and no.

The fact that rumors are swirling around the Lakers right now is nothing new. Los Angeles is a major market and the Lakers are a marquee franchise with attractive trade pieces that can be used to bring in other teams’ players. Be it a juicy rumor or a legitimate discussion about swapping players, the Lakers are one of the few teams that’s viewed as a viable partner across the league in a deal with any team.

Plus, the fact that the Lakers’ season flamed out so dramitcally only adds to the intrigue of them wanting (needing?) to make a deal. And with that intrigue comes more speculation that a major move is on the horizon even though the key players from the front office (namely GM Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss) consistently speak about the Lakers being happy with their core players.

With the team’s poor showing in the playoffs at the crux of the argument that the Lakers need to make a deal, it’s no wonder that Pau Gasol has surfaced as the main candidate to be traded. After all, Pau was the Laker that played so poorly this post-season and thus he should be the player to fetch new pieces to keep the Lakers in contention.

I have a problem with this perspective.

First, though, a disclaimer: I have no issues with the Lakers making a good trade; a trade that improves the roster for both short and long term contention. There are ways to make that happen and without getting into specifics now, I do believe there are viable options out there to be explored. Actively looking at options to improve the team is one of the first priorities for any front office and the Lakers brass would be doing the organization a disservice if they stubbornly stuck to their guns and didn’t explore what deals could be made.

That said, the overwhelming willingness to dump Gasol in a trade is perplexing to me. While he wore down this season, he’s still the one player the Lakers have that rotates comfortably between PF and C. He’s the one big man that shows skill both on the wing and in the post. Early in the year he was the Lakers best player and he again was an All-NBA performer (2nd team) and an all-star. He’s the best option of a PF in the entire league to play on this specific Laker team.

There is a counter to this argument, though, and Reed made it well in an email exchange:

I think that the decision to trade Pau would have nothing to do with on the court problems. There’s no question he fits in perfectly next to Kobe and the rest of our core given his versatility, length, skill, etc. But there’s also no question that something off the court went seriously wrong with him and the team in general last season. Was that 400 games in 4 seasons, or something deeper? We don’t know, but I imagine that Kupchak and Buss do. But we can’t blindly assume that the team was just tired and everything will be better after a long summer. There really might be deeper conflicts in play — I trust Kupchak to figure that out. If, of course, he is still running the show in light of Jim’s emergence.

Zephid adds another point about a potential deal of Gasol:

While I believe this team has found a great chemistry between Pau and Kobe, I do think that removing Pau from the equation will free up the paint for both Kobe and Bynum to operate more effectively.  We saw in the beginning of 09-’10 that Kobe and Bynum both played great in the post when Gasol sat out the first couple weeks.  They had room to maneuver as well as better post touches.  But when Gasol returned, Kobe was forced to return to the perimeter, even though at this point he is at most an average three point shooter, and Bynum touches decreased drastically. While losing Gasol, his ability to create baskets as well as opportunities for others will surely hurt, I think our offense could probably be better with improved spacing, more shots for Bynum, and more efficient shots from Kobe.

Everything said above is valid and worth thinking long and hard about. However, I’m still of the mind that the Lakers hold on to Gasol. Skilled seven foot big men with smarts that have come up big in the biggest moments don’t just grow on trees. If you trade a player like that, you do so for someone that’s clearly better, not for depth or somone who’s not as good but “younger” or “cheaper”. Those variables should be part of the equation, but not the determining factor.

The Lakers are in an interesting position in that they’re clearly still a contender but suffer from how their playoff losses stained their credibility to still win as is. The front office has to walk a fine line in attempting to strike a balance between change for change’s sake and change to actually improve the roster. How this is accomplished is out of our control, but I caution against any “grass is always greener” mindsets that start to creep in. Especially as the rumors ramp up coming into this Thursday’s draft.

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.