Archives For Laker Analysis

In our final podcast before the NBA Draft, Pete and I take one last look at some of the prospects, answer a bunch of listener questions, touch on the most recent LeBron/Lakers rumor, and have a spirited discussion about Jerry West’s leaving the Warriors for…the Los Angeles Clippers? Yep, that actually happened.

Click through to listen to the entire episode.

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Whether it’s smokescreen season or not (and it is), there is still information to be gleaned through the actions of the Lakers and all the other teams who are gearing up for the NBA draft. We are now in the home stretch and this is the last chance to get prospects in for workouts and interviews before selections are made.

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“With the #2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers select…Josh Jackson, University of Kansas.”

There is a real possibility that exact sentence is uttered by Adam Silver at next Thursday’s NBA Draft. Jackson, the do-it-all F out of Kansas, reportedly has his supporters in the organization, with Chad Ford noting that the organization might actually be “split” between drafting the presumptive #2 Lonzo Ball or selecting Jackson:

I also think it reflects a genuine split within the organization about whom the best long-term candidate is. Ball was a clear favorite of the prior administration run by Mitch Kupchak and still has his fans within the organization. But the Lakers also took note on how Fox outplayed Ball in their head-to-head matchup in March. And Jackson has always been another favorite in the organization.

While the feeling is that Ball is a good fit with the Lakers offensively, Fox and Jackson are gritty defenders and vocal leaders on the court, something the Lakers feel the team is lacking. Jackson in particular seems to have some strong supporters in the organization who think defense should be the priority.

I still think they lean toward Ball, but I’d put the odds somewhere like this: Ball 40 percent, Jackson 35 percent, Fox 25 percent.

I’ve covered Ball’s game and fit already, so I won’t get into that too much now. My simple summary, though: Ball’s offensive game and, specifically, his approach to playing the game (fast, fun, making the right play consistently) offer an almost perfect alignment with how Luke Walton wants his team to play. Combine that with Ball’s considerable ceiling and I think he’s the prime candidate for the #2 pick (assuming Markelle Fultz is drafted #1).

Saying all that about Ball, however, shouldn’t diminish the qualities Jackson brings to the table. Nor should they overshadow that Jackson, with his potential as a two-way difference maker, is also a very good fit for the Lakers in both the short and long term.

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From even before the time the Lakers secured the #2 pick in the upcoming NBA draft, the Lonzo to the Lakers train was steamrolling down the tracks. Whether it was Lonzo’s father, Lavar, trying to “speak it into existence” or Lonzo himself stating outright his desire to play for the Lakers (and be mentored by Magic Johnson) while staying close to home in Los Angeles, the UCLA star becoming a Lakers’ one seemed like destiny.

Now that the Lakers actually have the pick, this all seems even more preordained. Even reports about Lonzo not being a lock are at least partially prefaced with him still being the favorite to land with the Lakers. Yes, other prospects are worth selecting #2 and the Lakers will do their due diligence. They reportedly really like Josh Jackson and De’Aaron Fox and will work both out in the coming weeks. But Lonzo is the name we keep coming back to; he is the default name.

There is good reason for this. Lost in some of the bluster about his father or other “distractions” we should always remebmer that Lonzo Ball is an excellent basketball player and, in my opinion, one of the more intriguing prospects to come into the league in some time. Note, I’m not saying he is the best one — after all, he’s not even the top player in this class. But his profile is a unique blend of basketball IQ, size, skill, and a strict adherence to playing to his strengths that doesn’t often come in any prospect, much less one who can play point guard and/or initiate your offense.

When you add it all up, it combines to make Ball the prospect who seems to almost perfectly align with how the Lakers want to play under Luke Walton and one who should not be defined by any of the noise that surrounds him or his game.

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In part III (and the last) of our Lakers’ team building series, we will look at the option I like to call the middle road. If the first option is the slow rebuild and the second option is to try to contend right away, the next logical step is to find something which satisfies both while not going too far in either direction.

The Lakers are uniquely positioned to take this path, too. Now that they have secured the #2 overall pick in the upcoming draft — to go along with the #28 pick they got from Houston — while still possessing 6 players they’ve drafted over the past 3 years in contributing roles, the team has a blend of assets and enough cap space to be players in either the FA or trade market. What we’ll do below, then, is explore what this option might look like and how the front office may go about executing such a plan.

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The off-season is a time to remake and build up a roster and as a team that has missed the playoffs four straight years the Lakers are a team that needs some improving. Some of that will come from the internal development of recently drafted players, but the rest will come from player acquisition and swaps via the draft, free agency, and trade market.

With that, we recently detailed the types of players/skill sets the Lakers should be looking to add. And we did this using a classic venn diagram:

As I wrote, the hope is to get as many players on the roster as possible who have these skills. But, I know, even this request requires a bit more clarification.

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What you see here is a venn diagram. It is a simple thing you are likely familiar with. You probably used these in elementary school to learn about all types of things.

If you’re not familiar, well, each circle represents a quality and the overlapping portions of those circles means whatever person/place/thing you’re applying the diagram to has more than one of those qualities. The sweet spot is that small triangle looking part in the middle where all three circles overlap.

Got it? Good.

Now, the venn diagram above represents player traits I think are important for any player the Lakers acquire moving forward. Again, this is pretty straight forward, but if you have questions about this, here’s why:

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You will not find a more divisive member of the Lakers today than D’Angelo Russell. Opinions of him run the spectrum of hot takes, with full throated endorsements and dissents colliding each day wherever you are. There’s not a single player who inspires as much debate, no, belief that they’ve pegged him not just for what he is, but what he will be as a player.

A quick example: This past Saturday I was checking into a hotel in the Bay Area and one of the employees who handles valet parking saw me rocking my Mitchell and Ness Lakers hat. He asked me if I was a “real” fan or not. I chuckled and said I was legit and then he peppered me with qualifiers — “Real like you’re nervous about the lottery on Tuesday?” Yes, I said. “Real like you didn’t want the Lakers to draft D’Angelo Russell?” — whoa there, buddy. “He’s got a terrible first step, doesn’t pass well…” I stopped him there.

This is how it is with Russell. Like an apparition, you either see it or you don’t. And no matter if you’re on the pro or con side, the person who doesn’t see it has instantly lost some credibility with you.

Fast forward to today and there are rumblings about Russell’s status with the Lakers. After the team retained their pick and the prospects of Lonzo Ball (or, in what would be a minor miracle, Markelle Fultz) becoming a Laker is now perfectly plausible, Russell’s name is starting to be muttered in the same sentence with words like expendable. The reasoning goes something like “who needs Russell now that you’re going to get Ball? Ball is the PG of the future, not Russell, trade him for someone better!”*

Full stop.

This is a mistake.

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