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With less than two weeks before the NBA draft, teams continue to bring prospects in for workouts and interviews to get one last look at these players before having to make a final decision on who to select. The Lakers are no different and, after hosting several big name prospects two weeks ago, are bringing in another well known prospect on Tuesday. From Eric Pincus of the LA Times:

The Lakers will work out Kentucky forward Julius Randle on Tuesday in El Segundo at the team’s practice facility.

Randle is a 6-foot-9, 19-year-old power forward who helped the Wildcats advance to the NCAA championship game, before falling to the Connecticut Huskies.

Through 40 games at Kentucky, Randle averaged 15.0 points and 10.4 rebounds. The left-handed freshman projects to be a top-10 pick in the NBA draft on June 26.

In several mock drafts, including those from ESPN’s Chad Ford and Draft Express, Randle is the player who ends up going to the Lakers with their 7th selection. So, the fact that the team is bringing him for a workout should not be a surprise. Randle is seen by several analysts as one of the more NBA ready prospects and considering the Lakers are hoping to have a quick turnaround next year, that fact may hold extra weight when it is the Lakers’ turn to make a selection.

Despite a recent report that Randle will need to have foot surgery to remove a screw that was part of an earlier surgery, Randle is still projected to go in the top 10 picks. The procedure is seen as relatively minor and though it will keep him out for most of the summer, he is expected to recover in time to be ready for the start of training camp.

All that said, while Randle was plenty productive at the University of Kentucky, he does have his detractors as a prospect. Due to physical measurements and athleticism that are only average for NBA power forwards, there are questions whether his bullying style will translate to a league where he will no longer be a man among boys physically. He is seen as a player who will need to make adjustments to his style, develop a more consistent jump shot, and learn how to finish around the rim against players who offer more height and length than he saw on a nightly basis while in college.

The flip side to that, however, is that Randle’s dimensions are almost exactly the same as David Lee — a player who matches up quite well with most NBA PF’s physically. Further, Randle’s motor and aggressiveness should help off-set some of his physical limitations. After all, going hard all the time is a skill too and Randle seems to have that in spades.

In any event, after getting up close looks at potential picks Marcus Smart, Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, and Doug McDermott the Lakers will now get to see how Randle performs. And while it will not be in a group setting where they can see how he measures up against his peers, they will still get to run him through some drills and get a better sense of who he is as a person. Whether all that adds up to him being the Lakers pick on June 26th remains to be seen, however.

While the Finals are set to resume on Sunday, the Lakers are like every other team not named Heat or Spurs and in full on draft preparation. This past week they held their first large workout which included several players projected to be lottery picks as well as some other prospects who could be available late in the first and into the second round.

For a full list of the guys who attended the workout can be found here, the guys who Lakers’ fans should keep a close eye on are:

  • Marcus Smart, PG
  • Aaron Gordon, F
  • Noah Vonleh, PF
  • Gary Harris, SG
  • Zach LaVine, G
  • Doug McDermott, F
  • Tyler Ennis, PG

Smart, Gordon, and Vonleh are projected to go in the top 7 picks in most mock drafts. Smart and Vonleh are also players who have been projected to go to the Lakers in multiple mocks since the draft order was determined (with initial rumors stating that Vonleh is a guy the Lakers are particularly interested in). McDermott, Ennis, Harris, and Lavine are all slated to go anywhere from picks 8 to 20.

And while it’s nice to speculate, this initial group really offers zero hints towards what the Lakers’ draft plans may be. If anything, this group offers a nice composite for the Lakers to simply gauge how the prospects measure up to each other and whether or not any of the middle-tiered prospects (like Ennis, McDermott, and LaVine) may be worth a gamble at 7 or if a potential trade down would net the Lakers a comparable talent and an additional asset on draft day.

That latter point is something that will gain steam as the Lakers get closer to the draft. Because while I’m fully on board with the Lakers sticking at #7 and drafting the best available player, they would be wise to explore all their options and get the most out of this draft as they can. This would be true even if the team’s pick next summer wasn’t slated to go to the Suns if it fell outside the top 5 picks. Even though this draft is thought to go 8 deep with a talent drop-off after that, there always seems to be a prospect who is picked at the tail end of the lottery or into the teens who ends up being a very good player (Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are recent examples of this). In other words, the Lakers could potentially slide down in the draft even further and net themselves a player who develops nicely while netting an additional player or pick that ends up contributing to more wins.

Whether that will be their strategy or not isn’t known, but I wouldn’t put it past them. Especially as they workout players who would be reaches at 7, but would be solid picks in the 10 to 20 range. And including these players in workouts with prospects considered to be better at this point in order to watch them compete and get a better gauge in how they compare only aids in that process.

Much like their coaching search, the Lakers look like they will also cast a wide net when evaluating prospects for the draft. And just like that other search, the more information they can get to make the best decision, the better.

Earlier we wondered how lucky the Lakers would be in the draft lottery.

Seems the answer is, based on your perspective, that their luck on Tuesday night was either slightly bad or neutral as the slid down a spot from their slotted 6th position to settle into the 7th selection in next month’s NBA draft. (As an aside, I don’t think you can argue they were unlucky considering the second most likely spot they would pick at was 7th and that’s exactly where they will pick. But I digress.)

Regardless of what is said in the aftermath, this is not the “worst case scenario” for the Lakers (that would have been falling to 9th). In fact, it’s not even that bad a spot to be in.

Most pundits would tell you that this draft, like every other, has talent that falls into tiers. The very top tier consists of 3 players — Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, and Jabari Parker. The next player on most draft boards is Dante Exum, a player who is the most intriguing prospect and has a high ceiling, but also someone we don’t know much about due to him being from Australia and not playing in a major European league. So, lets slot him in his own tier right below the aforementioned big three.

The next tier, however, is about four players deep and consists of Marcus Smart, Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, and Julius Randle. If the top four picks go as expected, at least one of these players will be available when the Lakers pick. Any of these players would instantly help a talent barren Lakers’ roster that only has 3 players under contract heading into free agency.

Of course we are early in the process. Player ranks are subject to change and are sure to fluctuate as guys go into their individual and group workouts. By the time we actually get to the draft, who knows how those workouts, agent maneuvering, team needs, and several other variables will shape draft boards of all the teams — including the Lakers’.

What we do know, though, is that the Lakers are very likely to have more than one very good player available when they pick. Will it be one of those top two to four players we all lusted after just 12 hours ago? Probably not. But it will be someone who has a chance to come in, compete for a rotation spot and, through hard work and proper development be a high level contributor for years to come for this franchise.

That, more than anything else, is my takeaway from tonight.

With Kobe and Nash the Lakers have name recognition and with Robert Sacre (and, if his contract option is picked up, Kendall Marshall) they have a young player who will work hard and fight for a rotation spot. But beyond those players, they are a blank slate. They need talent and especially young, athletic talent. The players likely to be available when the Lakers pick should be both young and talented. If they are also smart, hard working, and willing to take in some of what Kobe and Nash (and other veterans the team is likely to sign) have to offer in terms of experience and how to be a professional in this league, they can grow into the type of player we will all be proud to root for.

Time will tell what happens with this pick, but I’d be lying if I said I weren’t excited. The Lakers need good players and whoever they draft has an opportunity to be one.

Lakers’ beat writer for ESPN LA, Dave McMenamin told a great story once about the lottery. Back when the annual drawing of lottery balls was held in Secaucus, New Jersey and Dave worked for NBA.com, he was covering the event. When he went into the bathroom he encountered none other than Jerry West, The Logo, who was washing his hands. Making some small talk, the beat writer asked the executive how he was doing. West’s answer?

“Terrible. This is a celebration of losers.”

Classic Jerry West.

Tonight, the yearly celebration of losers retakes center stage. The teams who did not qualify for the playoffs will be sweating it out as the draft order of the first 14 picks is determined. The Lakers will be one of those teams hoping to have luck shine upon them.

They are certainly not used to this.

Since the inception of the “lottery” in 1985, the Lakers have only appeared at this event two other times. Both years they picked 10th, selecting Eddie Jones (1994) and Andrew Bynum (2005). This is the first time the team will select in the top 10 since the team selected James Worthy #1 overall in 1982. As a tie-in to that pick, the Lakers are sending Big Game James to represent them when the results are unveiled.

As you all know, the Lakers are currently slotted to pick 6th overall. Whether they stay there or not will depend on those lottery balls:

As the odds above state, the Lakers have roughly a 21% chance of jumping into the top 3 picks. They have much better chances — about 74% — of drafting either 6th or 7th. The odds, then, favor the team standing pat or moving down a slot much more than they do them jumping into the top 3*. It’s those slim chances, however, that will have all of us tuned in to see the results.

How lucky will the Lakers be?

Tonight we will find out. My guess? I think the Lakers either stay at six or move up to number two. My reasoning for this is scientific and involves a complicated algorithm. When playing for the Lakers, James Worthy wore #42: 4 + 2 = 6 while 4 – 2 = 2. There you have it.

Enjoy the “celebration” tonight, you guys. Hopefully, like the other times the Lakers have been at this event, they won’t make another appearance for at least another decade or so.

*Some are likely wondering why the Lakers have a zero percent chance of drafting 4th or 5th. The reason is that the lottery only determines the top 3 choices with the rest of the draft order being slotted accordingly. The Lakers, then, can only select at picks 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, or 9. And just as the Lakers can move up because of the lottery, if teams slotted to draft behind them jump up the Lakers will then fall. This is why the odds are so low that the team will actually pick 9th. Three teams slotted to draft behind them would all have to move up into the top 3, pushing everyone else down three slots. 

The Lakers used their lone selection in the draft to select Duke’s Ryan Kelly. The six foot, eleven inch big man was rated as a mid to late 2nd rounder by most talent evaluators, though Kevin Pelton of ESPN did have him ranked as the 38th best prospect in the draft.

Putting aside those things, it’s best to get this out of the way early: we shouldn’t expect much from the 48th pick in the draft regardless of his name recognition, his pedigree, or his skill set. The draft often symbolizes hope in that any player selected is fresh and new, representing a move towards the future. Even for a later drafted player, there’s a desire to think of what’s possible with a tilt towards the positive rather than simply understanding that many players drafted this late don’t pan out.

As Lakers’ fans, we should know this better than most. Over the past several years the Lakers have used second round picks on Derrick Caracter, Devin Ebanks, Andrew Goudelock, Darius Morris, Darius Johnson-Odom, and Robert Sacre. Of those picks, only Sacre remains actively on the team as he was tendered with his qualifying offer before Thursday’s draft. Of the others, Caracter was long ago waived and hasn’t since made it back to the big leagues, Johnson-Odom was waived last season and finished the year in Europe, while Ebanks, Goudelock, and Morris all spent most of last year on the bench or in the D-League and weren’t made qualifying offers for next season.

All of these players, at one point or time, offered promise as potential contributors. And all of them, save Sacre, are no longer on the team. Even Sacre, who can be a useful 4th or 5th big man in the NBA, is a low ceiling player who, if he’s seeing significant time, likely isn’t positively impacting the team in a lot of ways.

With all those qualifiers out of the way, Kelly can still be a useful player in the NBA and the hope is that his relatively high skill in certain areas of the game do, in fact, translate well to this level and make him someone who can contribute quickly and for a sustained period of time.

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