With the Lakers unable to move into the top 5 or the latter half of the 1st round – despite trying – the draft-day fireworks many hoped for didn’t materialize (looks like we’ll have to wait until Independence Day). But, that doesn’t mean the Lakers walked away empty handed last night.
The Lakers ended up buying the #55 pick from the Mavericks and using their own selection at #60 to take two seasoned college players they hope can come in and compete for roster spots.
At #55, the Lakers selected Darius Johnson-Odom, a 6’3″ shooting guard out of Marquette. Athletic, with long arms, and a sturdy build, Johnson-Odom was rated between 30-40 on the Lakers’ draft board. He’s known as a strong defensive player with a bulldog mentality that is aggressive in all aspects of the game. His jumper is above average as he shot 40% from the three point line during his college career and is lauded as a good catch and shoot player that should be able to hit spot up jumpers with some consistency. These skills should serve him well with the Lakers where he will mostly have to play off the ball with Kobe and the Lakers bigs getting the majority of the touches and acting as facilitators to create shots for others.
There are concerns about whether he has enough size to play SG full time in the pros but his athleticism and length (he has a 6’7″ wingspan) should mitigate that some. This is important because it’s not likely he’ll ever transition to being a PG. He’s shown the ability to create for others but being a pure set up man isn’t his strong suit as evidenced by an assist to turnover ratio that’s flat (1.1 to 1.0). And with a developing off the dribble game in general, he’ll be best suited not handling the ball too often when making the jump to the NBA.
That said, overall, this was a good value pick by the Lakers. If he can come out right away and prove he can defend and hit shots from distance at the NBA level, he’ll have immediate value. Players like him aid in lineup versatility and give coaches solid options to match up. Guys like Eric Bledsoe and Avery Bradley serve as an example of how undersized 2′s who defend, play hard, and show a knack for scoring can contribute by being able to play next to a variety of teammates. And, based off his attitude, he sounds like a guy that has a bit of a chip on his shoulder that’s ready to compete and show he can contribute at this level. Playing hard at all times is a skill too and this kid seems to have that in spades.
With the 60th pick, the Lakers drafted Robert Sacre, a 7’0″ Center from Gonzaga. Obviously what stands out right away with Sacre is his size. He’s a legit 7 footer with a pro body. He’s said to have pretty good feet and the knowledge of how to use his large frame to his advantage. He’s a solid offensive rebounder and a decent post player that shot over 50% his sophomore and senior seasons with the Zags.
Athletically he’s only average, however. He doesn’t have long arms and only shows decent lateral quickness. He will not play an above the rim game on either end of the floor and that limits his ability to finish in the paint over similarly sized players or dominate the defensive glass. So, he’ll need to improve his polish on O to be more effective at this level and will need to work even harder on positioning to be an effective rebounder. That said, his size and know how around the paint should make him a solid one-on-one post defender and he’s already said that he takes pride in his ability to play on that end of the floor.
Ultimately, Sacre reminds me of another recent #60 pick – Semih Erden – only with a bit more natural strength. Whether he can crack the rotation and contribute remains to be seen but his size and experience give him a solid foundation to do just that. And considering the Lakers have long been looking for a player with good size to play behind Bynum/Pau and provide spot minutes (Mbenga & Ratliff come to mind immediately), it’s worth taking a chance on him as the last pick in the draft.
Overall, the Lakers had a solid if unspectacular draft. They drafted experienced college players with tons of starting experience for good coaches at strong programs. These are the types of players with less upside but a better chance of contributing out of the box. We saw that last year with Goudelock and the same could end up being true with these two. They’re not the impact players many are clamoring for and their status as 2nd round picks indicate that they have a lot of work to do to become rotation level professionals. But their skill sets combined with the positions they play certainly add to a team that needed more in those spots.