There were a lot of options on the board when the Lakers were on the clock with the #27 pick. Several of the players we looked at in our series of options to be selected with those late picks, in fact. But with the pick, the Lakers went in a direction no one saw coming by selecting Wyoming PF Larry Nance Jr.
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In the weeks leading into the draft, it almost seemed like a foregone conclusion the Lakers would select whichever big man the Minnesota Timberwolves did not select. This was presumed to be Duke’s Jahlil Okafor as Karl Anthony Towns began to solidify himself as the top player on most GM’s draft boards.
As time passed, however, Ohio St. point guard D’Angelo Russell gained momentum as a real option. And on Thursday night, that momentum turned into truth as the Lakers passed on the big man to select the guard instead.
The NBA Draft is finally here and it seems as though the whirlwind is only intensifying. Whether we’re talking about who the Lakers may draft, whether there are trades to be made, what may happen in free agency, and how the latter two items may affect the former, it seems the only thing we know about the Lakers right now is how much we actually do not know.
This is the inaugural post from new contributor Caleb Cottrell. Caleb is currently a student at Indiana Wesleyan University, where he plays tennis. In his own words: “I enjoy torturing myself by trying to get into the minds of the Lakers front office. You can also find my work at HawksHoop, and can tell me how wrong I am on Twitter @Caleb_Cottrell.” Today Caleb will look at trading up in the NBA draft.
With just days until the 2015 NBA draft there has been plenty of speculation as to who the Los Angeles Lakers will pick with the number two overall pick in the draft. Obviously this is a big deal because their pick can become a franchise cornerstone for years to come. However, they have two other very important picks in the draft with numbers 27 and 34, respectively. These picks can be incredibly important, as well, because every team needs good role players. It seems, however, that the Lakers are going to just miss out on a a good tier of players with their other two picks, unless there is a surprise pick or two.
Personally, there are five tiers in the first round for me, and the fifth tier starts at pick 27. Of course, that’s the pick the Lakers have, so it seems like the best option would be to trade their last two picks to go into the fourth, or even third tier, depending on which teams are looking to move back.
Eric Pincus of the LA Times has stated that the Lakers aren’t really looking to add much more youth to their roster after bringing in Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown, Julius Randle, Tarik Black, and whoever the number two pick will be. The Lakers also can extend a qualifying offer to Vander Blue, if they wish, which would put them at six guys who are 23 years old or younger — that’s not including the other two picks in the draft.
The Lakers have said outright (via Mitch,others) that they’re not 100% sold on adding 3 rookies to this team with 4 2nd year players
— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) June 20, 2015
The player I believe who could be the most useful for the Lakers is Justin Anderson. He’s a 6’6 wing with a wingspan of almost seven feet, and he weighs 230 pounds. He was known for his defense at Virginia, and he became a good outside shooter during his three years at UVA. He’s said he wants to be like Danny Green, and if the Lakers can grab a player like Danny Green in the latter part of the first round, sign me up.
Someone else the organization could look at would be RJ Hunter from Georgia State. He’s another 6’6 guard, and he can knock it down from beyond the three point line. If the Lakers are looking for a player who can be a good shooter, he’s their man, although I’m not as high as him as others are.
The third guy the Lakers would have a chance to draft is Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. The defensive specialist out of the University of Arizona is a 6’7 guard, who should be able to defend three or four positions in the NBA; however, he has no outside game, and the Lakers don’t really have much shooting elsewhere on the team,
Lastly, the Lakers could look to find their replacement for Kobe Bryant in Rashad Vaughn. There has been talk he could go as high as 15 in the draft, so it’s unlikely the Lakers can land him, unless they can get in the early 20s or hope he slides a bit.
Now, it’s fun and all to think about who the Lakers to trade up for, but they need a partner to trade with. One team who could possibly look to move down is the Cleveland Cavaliers. They’re going to be tight on money, so they can save a little bit going from 24 to 27, and then they can use the 34th pick for a draft and stash player. Or, they can try and package the two picks for a veteran.
Another team that could be looking to move back is the Dallas Mavericks, who have the 21st overall pick. Right now they only have four players on their roster, with some guys with player and team options. Trading with the Lakers would allow them to grab two more players for cheap, one of which would have a non-guaranteed deal. The Portland Trailblazers — owners of the 23rd pick — are also in a similar boat, with six guys on their roster, and players like LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, and Robin Lopez free agents, and Arron Afflalo with a player option.
If the Lakers really want another pick in the second round, they could end up buying a second rounder, just like they did last year from the Washington Wizards. It worked out pretty well, seeing as the pick became Jordan Clarkson.
If the Lakers aren’t looking to bring in much more young talent, trading up in the draft seems like a good idea to gain one more key roster piece, along with their top pick. The Summer League team will be absolutely stacked, and a core of Clarkson, Randle, Okafor/Russell (hopefully), and a player in the mid 20s is not a bad start to a rebuild just two years in.
When watching today’s the NBA, it is hard to escape the idea that the league is moving more and more towards perimeter oriented attacks. The pick and roll is now a primary action of most offenses and teams are valuing spacing and three point shooting more than ever. The Warriors just won the championship featuring an offense predicated on high volume three point field goal attempts, backed by Steph Curry, the first point guard to win league MVP and an NBA championship in the same season since Magic Johnson. And while I’m of the mind that the NBA isn’t so much a guard’s league as it is a skill league, it would be foolish to ignore the importance of a dynamic perimeter player to winning basketball.
This brings us to D’Angelo Russell, the Ohio State point guard who is currently rated as the top guard in the draft and a real option for the Lakers with the 2nd overall pick. While some will bristle at the fact the Lakers would even consider passing on whichever big man is on the board after the Wolves make their selection, Russell’s game is diverse and exceptional enough to put some of those concerns to bed.
There may be no bigger time of information misdirection (i.e. lies) than in the week plus ahead of the NBA draft. This is the period where strategic leaks, the up-talking and downplaying of prospects, and spin takes full form from all sides. Be it front offices, “league sources”, agents, or “those close to” the players, it is best to take most reports with a grain of salt and just try to wait it out until the names are actually called the night of the draft.
With those caveats out there, the player whose stock is climbing quickly is Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis. The seven footer held a public workout in Las Vegas on this past Friday and the Lakers were one of several teams who had representatives present to see what he could do. The workout was, apparently, a huge success as Porzingis flashed the shooting stroke and combination of size plus athleticism scouts go crazy over:
On the heals of that impressive showing, Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting the Lakers had Porzingis in for a workout on Monday evening:
Every day, front-office fascinations rise with Porzingis. Every day, he’s moving himself closer into contention to become one of the top three picks in the NBA draft on June 25. Los Angeles Lakers officials conducted a workout of Porzingis on Monday night at the franchise’s El Segundo, Calif., practice facility, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Suddenly, Porzingis is pursuing the Lakers’ pick at No. 2, along with spectacular Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. Suddenly, Porzingis is changing this NBA draft.
Reports like the one from Woj, especially when coupled with the fact that this was not a “public” workout like Jahlil Okafor, Emanuel Mudiay, and D’Angelo Russell went through when visiting the team, will only ramp up that speculation. After all, Porzingis is talented, has professional experience in what many consider the 2nd best league in the world, and has a huge upside. When drafting as high as the Lakers are, doing due-diligence on all players who are worthy of a top 5-ish pick is worth the time.
We cannot know for sure what any of this means, of course. If I were speculating, I’d argue that the Lakers are doing only what they said they would do: look at as many of the top prospects they could in order to make the best, most informed decision possible with the #2 overall pick. If asked why the workout Woj is reporting was not as public, I might counter with reports heading into Friday’s Las Vegas workout noting the group event would be his “only workout heading into the draft”. These answers aren’t as sexy as ones implying the Lakers are leaning towards taking the young Latvian, but they seem reasonable to me.
In any event, take these reports for whatever you want them to be. For what it’s worth, I think Porzingis’ talent is real and that he, like any of the other top players in the draft, has a chance to be special. As good a chance as Towns or Okafor or Russell? Who knows, honestly? I know I don’t. So much of the answer to that question will depend on countless variables specific to the organization which selects him. But the kid can play.
While the workout video above is what has gotten many GM’s salivating, the fact is those who have scouted him point to a skill set deployed in game situations. A skill set like the one below. Enjoy, and tell me what you think in the comments.
Erez Buki is a long time reader and commenter under the handle P. Ami. Heading to live in the Bay Area this summer, Erez has had the pleasure of following the Lakers while growing up during the Showtime era in LA, seeing first hand what great team basketball looks like when played by the greatest players. Having lived around the world he learned the game playing street ball all over Manhattan and Brooklyn, the university courts of Beijing, the indoor games of Portland, Oregon and plenty of stops in between. It turns out you can make out the words Lakers, Kobe, Shaq and Magic in all the language groups on this planet. He is currently working on a his degree in Medical Anthropology waiting for the iconic Laker his young kids will grow up loving. This is part II of his series looking at prospects who might be good targets for the Lakers’ later draft picks.
When we last explored players the Lakers could take with the 27th and 34th picks we took a look at players that I favor in Christian Wood, Montrezl Harrell and, George Lucas De Paula. The first two are power forwards, with Wood likely learning to play the small forward. De Paula is a raw point guard with upside that is sliding down the mock draft boards. I like Wood and De Paula due to that long term potential. The Lakers need to develop the best possible talent. On the other hand, the team has some gapping holes at the swing positions. Yes, Kobe is coming back and so is Swaggy P but one more season of Kobe is about all we can hope for and Nick Young could as easily be nicknamed Satisfied P. Neither player is a long term solution at the two or three. The question is, can we find someone in the draft to fill either spot?
What is a team looking for from the swing position? Basically, you want Paul George, Kevin Durant and Kawai Leonard. You want long, explosive players who can shoot from anywhere on the court, finish in traffic, create for others and defend three positions. Oh, and rebound on both ends, come up big in key moments, sell jerseys, be professional, stay loyal, cook, do the laundry and take care of the kids. It is uncommon to find those players late in the first round. What you might find is a player with a few of those skills and the raw tools to develop a few more.
I’m not a big Star Trek guy, but I remember watching this old “The Next Generation” episode where Scotty ended up in some time warp and found himself on the new version Enterprise. In one of the scenes he was talking to the ship’s engineer (Geordie LaForge) who was working on a report for Captain Picard. In their conversation Geordie was telling Scotty he had no time to talk because he told the captain he’d have this report for him in an hour and he needed to get it done.
Scotty asked Geordie “how long will the report really take you to finish?” and Geordie responded “an hour.” Scotty stared at him and said, “You told him how long it would really take? How do you expect him to think of you as a miracle worker if you told him how long it would really take?!”
If you’re still reading, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with Jahlil Okafor, the big man from Duke who many think will be available when the Lakers make the 2nd pick in the upcoming draft. Well, if Scotty was talking to Okafor, he’d probably tell him something very similar to what he told Geordie — that he had a problem managing expectations and that he should work on making some of the things he does seem a bit more difficult.