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 his inaugural post on FB&G, but there will be more to come.
At least half of you had your feet off the ground at the same moment I did in June of 2010. We were up in the air feeling love when Lamar “hail maryed” the ball to the other side of the court and Kobe caught up to it. Up we went with him. The other half of you where in the air at the moment I landed. That is the love we all share. Since that time, our team has landed and landed hard. In five years, we’ve seen a lot of landing, some falling and often some clutching.
We don’t know if Kobe will be healthy next season. Don’t know if the Lakers will sign an impact free agent. Until recently we suffered the uncertainty over whether we’re getting one of those top-five picks. We are not used to feeling this kind of uncertainty in late April, but here we are. I don’t want to develop this bad habit. So lets focus on exploring the most imaginative part of the front office’s job, what available players in the draft may contribute to long playoff runs in the future.
It is impossible to know for certain who the Lakers will draft with the 27th and 34th picks in this up coming draft. It is also impossible to know if these players will ever have any impact, but I’m going to talk with you about the players that could be available to us in the late 1st and early 2nd rounds, the team’s more traditional draft position.
Lets start with the Christian Wood project. He is a power forward who declared after two years at UNLV.
Wood has competed against some quality opponents, three of them ranked, and did particularly well against Arizona. He managed 16 double-doubles this season and showed marked improvement from a disappointing freshman season. The kid is active. He has good touch up close. He is very long and very skinny. He needs to add strength, and bad.
He struggled against NCAA talent when trying to finish through contact. That means he is going to have some trouble against the NBA men. He has the perimeter moves to break down a defender and beat the secondary help. He struggles to finish. He plays way above the rim and will initiate contact, so I like his aggressiveness. He shoots low in the 70’s on his free throws and doesn’t have a three point shot yet. The key for him will be the weight room. At only 19 years old, there is every reason to think he has strength to tap into. If he develops a shot, he could be a small forward.
Defensively, you can see how his ability to move his feet and length lends itself to challenging and altering shots. Again, you can see how his lack of strength impacts his ability to hold his ground but the activity and want to contest shots is there.
Another power forward is Montrezl Harrell. Not a great shooter, in three seasons at Louisville he became a decent mid-range player. He can catch and shoot with confidence and has some running hook shots that look really nice. He finishes 60% of his 2-point shots and a lot of that has to do with how well he runs the floor. The guy is a long, explosive truck armored with muscles. He is a high energy guy that uses his length and energy to break up passes and block shots. He finishes through contact and is a beast on the boards. If I were to find a comp for him, his body is a little bit like Elton Brand but with a passion and swagger I don’t remember seeing in Elton. Harrell is no where near as skilled a scorer as Elton Brand was and relies more on his energy than smarts on defense but no Laker fan will be disappointed to watch Harrell develop over the course of a career.
Considering the team’s situation, I am prone to thinking in terms of developing players with latent talent. Harrell is closer to a finished product but as is, he is a hell of a player. He would bring much needed athleticism and is capable of improving his game. A continuation of the improvement in his jumper would be a huge gain for him as would a greater attention to fundamentally sound defense. His energy makes up for mistakes made and I imagine an improvement in those fundamentals will make him a monster defender in the NBA.
That said, I am intrigued by Christian Wood. An NBA weight room and eating program could turn that kid into a star forward who can use his quickness beating players on the outside. His length and touch would be an asset on the inside and with strength he should be able to assert himself as a defender. I would love for either player to be available to the Lakers when they pick. If Mitch has a better idea than let’s all be very happy with that player. This is a very good draft.
That said, I would want to know if one particular player might be had with our 2nd round pick. If not, I like George Lucas enough to possibly use the 27th pick on him.The Lakers need talent at every position. Some of us have settled on Clarkson at the 1, but I think it would be worth looking at a player at that position with higher upside.
This draft has a number of small forwards that stand at 6’6” or so. Winslow, Oubre, and Hollis-Jefferson to name a few. So, keep a small forward body in mind and imagine that body with a 7-foot wing-span usually reserved for power players. At the end of those arms are 10” long hands with a sense of touch to do tricky things with a ball. These are just three of the attributes of Brazilian point guard George Lucas De Paula.
Lucas has not played much against high level competition. You can see that in the highlight reel above. Playing against high-schoolers in Brazil is maybe a kind analogy to Dante Exum’s time playing high school ball in Australia. That said, one can look at Georginho’s skill set and the few chances he has had in international settings for a glimpse into his talent. Lucas plays low to the ground in an athletic crouch. This helps him remain balanced and ready to move quickly. He makes fast, rangy movements instead of explosive ones. When he is engaged his dribble is short. He can cross over from right to left and left to right. He has recently developed some advanced dribbling skills and uses his size to see over the defense. Lucas finishes through contact and finds players in traffic. He is a willing passer and seems to enjoy getting his teammates involved. He is much stronger in the open court than in the half court. His strength, length and giant hands help him grab rebounds and run. His mitts also allow for some insane angles taken on passes that get through due to the spin. His game’s maturation in the last year is also remarkable. He grew three inches and put on twenty pounds. It looks as though he may not be finished growing. There is reason to think he may also gain some explosiveness as he matures.
He averaged 14 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists a game with two steals when competing for Brazil in the Under 18 FIBA games.
He averaged 20 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and two steals in the Nike Global Challenge. Last month’s Nike Hoops Summit in Portland saw a George Lucas who was a bit tentative.
He needs to fix his shot. He tends to start his jumper from the middle of his face and then release to the right. I am not qualified to say whether this is easily fixable. He also tends to throw lazy passes and has had a high turnover rate. Considering how much he has not been taught yet by coaches, I see a lot of upside. A perhaps overly excited comp is a left-handed Dwayne Wade that needs lots of development. Let the kid play behind Clarkson for a few years while he is coached at the highest level. Use the NBADL to get his repetitions and find him a tutor to help him with his English. The struggles in Portland could well have been due to his poor English skills. His performance improved over the course of the summit as he grew more comfortable. He did not have the best showing in the 5on5s at the NBA combine but his athletic measurements were impressive. The raw potential of this player is in exciting to me.
Considering all the uncertainty, we should be aware that the Lakers may pick players to fill any number of positions. There are other interesting players that are likely to be available and in future post I’m going to look at them and give you my thoughts. In the meantime, please add any comments to this discussion.