The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t had the greatest success in the NBA Draft in recent years and having the 48th pick this year doesn’t help their chances of ending their slump of drafts that add useful contributors.
And while history shows that there are diamonds in the rough that can be had in the part of the draft the Lakers are selecting, it would be a mistake to think that this is the norm. Since 1990, 16 of the 23 picks selected at 48th overall played fewer than 100 games in their career. Furthermore, six of those 16 never played (or have yet to play) a single game. Only two players drafted at No. 48 overall have averaged double figures in points – Marc Gasol and Cedric Ceballos. Five others (Mickael Gelabale, Alvin Williams, Jamie Feick, Mark Davis, and Isaac Austin) had modest NBA careers.
In short, the chances of the Lakers landing a solid contributor are low.
An All-Star like Pau’s younger brother? Possible, but slim.
That being said, the Lakers still must go out to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and draft someone that they think will help improve their team. For a team that struggled with injuries last year, having young depth would be a welcome addition. So finding that depth is the goal.
With Dwight Howard, Earl Clark, Antawn Jamison, Devin Ebanks, Andrew Goudelock, and Darius Morris all potentially entering free agency, the Lakers could use a contributor at any position. Here are several players that may be available when the Lakers are on the clock:
Mike Muscala, PF/C (Bucknell): The 6’11”, 230 lb PF/C is coming off a fabulous senior year, averaging 18.7 points and 11.1 rebounds per game for the Bison. Most importantly, Muscala was phenomenal in terms of value added. Muscala added 5.31 percent to Bucknell’s scoring and took away 2.67 percent from the opponent’s scoring for a total impact of 7.98 percent – good enough for 12th best in the nation. Despite this, Muscala is projected by NBADraft.net to go at No. 50. The smart numbers like Muscala, but perhaps the lack of exposure he received playing in Bucknell has made him fly under the radar. Muscala played four years in college. Though this may mean that he has limited upside, it could also mean he’s more developed than freshman or sophomore. This is important because there’s a chance he could step up and play immediately, much like Robert Sacre did last year.
DeShaun Thomas, SF/PF (Ohio State): Coming in at 6’6″, 220 lb, Thomas is a strong, quick, and athletic forward who excels on the offensive side of the ball. Thomas averaged 19.8 points per game and added the Buckeyes’ offense by 6.53 percent – the seventh highest offensive value added this year. His weakness comes on the defensive side of the ball, but his offensive ability makes up for it. Thomas could reach and perhaps exceed his offensive potential in Mike D’Antoni’s offensive minded system. NBADraft.net sees DeShaun Thomas going at No. 41 in their mock draft.
Pierre Jackson, PG (Baylor): With Goudelock and Morris both hitting free agency, the Lakers are only left with Nash (who is 39 and coming off an injury plagued season), the inconsistent Chris Duhon and Steve Blake at the point guard position. So, drafting a point guard may not be out of the realm of possibilities for the Lakers considering these factors. Jackson was ranked 13th in the nation in terms of value added and is projected to go in the middle of the second round. The analytics like him and drafting him at No. 48 could turn out to be a steal for the Lakers. Jackson averaged 19.8 points and 7.1 assists per game and he’ll have the opportunity to elevate his game in a point guard oriented system under D’Antoni. Jackson is only 5’10”, but there have been many serviceable NBA point guards under six feet, especially now with the hand-check rules what they are on the perimeter.
Peyton Siva, PG (Louisville): Siva is another point guard that the Lakers may consider drafting. Siva was part of Louisville’s National Championship team this past year and has experience playing in big moments. Siva is also a fantastic defender, taking away 2.65 percent of his opponents’ scoring – 26th best in the nation. The Lakers have a history of poor defense against opposing point guards as their oPER against that specific position was a whopping 18.0. Siva can help mitigate that glaring stat. He is projected to go in the late second round by NBADraft.net.
Erik Murphy, PF (Florida): Murphy’s athleticism and physical strength (6’10”, 240 lb.) would be a welcome addition to the Lakers front court. Murphy was also a senior this year, meaning he probably doesn’t need as much development as a younger player. The big man didn’t put up the most astounding numbers (12.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game), but he had a 6.45 value added rating – 41st best in the nation.
James Southerland, SF/PF (Syracuse): The 6’8″, 221 lb. forward is expected to be a small forward when he’s eventually drafted. The Lakers currently only have Metta World Peace – who recently opted in to the final year of his contract – as a SF on their roster. Needless to say, they’re thin in that position and could use an athletic forward who can play defense and hit the three ball. Southerland hit near 40% of his triples this past season and also took away 2.23 percent of his opponents’ scoring defensively. Both skills could prove quite useful for the Lakers next season.
Again, there shouldn’t be this huge expectation that the Lakers draft a difference maker in the slot in which they’re picking. That said, finding another contributing player would go a long way in bolstering their depth and with limited ways to improve their roster this off-season, the draft could prove to be a big way to achieve this goal. The team is coming off a year where they received minimal bench production. A steal in the second round, no matter the position, can help the Lakers rebound quickly and ease the team’s transition back to greatness.
(Statistical support from valueaddbasketball.com, statsheet.com and 82games.com)