INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 11: Darius Morris #4 of the Michigan Wolverines reacts against the Illinois Fighting Illini during the quarterfinals of the 2011 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 11, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Michigan won 60-55. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Clearly Mitch Kupchak knows something we all don't, as he has defied the draft prognosticators two years in a row by taking a first round talent in the middle of the second round despite having traded away the team's first rounder each time. Last year it was West Virginia's Devin Ebanks, and this year, the Lakers found themselves with the opportunity to take Michigan point guard Darius Morris, who slid from the first round all the way to the Lakers at number 41 and by Kupchak's own admission, would have been the team's first rounder if they still owned the pick. Not to be outdone, Kupchak followed this up at number 46 by selecting combo guard Andrew Goudelock from the College of Charleston before sending Laker Land into a storm of confusion and amusement by drafting Nigerian forward Chukwudiebere Maduabum, who later was sent to Denver for an unspecified second rounder, as well as former Connecticut player Ater Majok at the end of the second round.
Of those picks, Morris and Goudelock have a solid chance of making the team next season while Majok will almost certainly continue to refine his craft overseas. Between Morris and Goudelock, the Lakers could have scarcely picked two different prospects, both in their playing styles and where they came from, as Morris was a key figure at a major and well-respected program in Michigan while Goudelock toiled at the unheralded College of Charleston. The Lakers' bounty in the middle of the second round also stands in stark contrast to their rather unimpressive finish to the draft, similar to the way the Lakers have handled the draft in recent yeas, with the notable exception of Derrick Caracter, who was picked at number 58 in 2010. In any case, after the jump, we'll examine the newest members of the Laker family, how they help fulfill the Lakers' offseason needs, and the implications of how draft night ended.
In full honesty, I hardly entertained the notion that Morris would be available in the middle of the second round, to the extent that I didn't bother to write a scouting report for him in my draft primer. That said, as I noted in my closing remarks, the draft almost always throws a curve ball at most teams, and in this case, the Lakers were able to hit it out of the park. Coming off a solid sophomore campaign at Michigan, Morris was projected as a lottery pick should he return to school for his junior year to enter the draft in 2012. Thankfully for the Lakers, he choose to remain in the draft, and was solidly on the first round bubble for most of the process, although I saw him slip to the early second round in some mock drafts.
As the video Dex put up yesterday can attest to, Morris has legit point guard chops, with most draftniks calling him the purest point guard in the draft. Standing at 6'5.25'' in shoes, an impressive number even by NBA standards, Morris is very adept at running a conventional offense, such that Michigan coach John Beilein adjusted his motion offense into a pick-and-roll and isolation-based one with Morris at the helm. Capable of dribbling through pressure and finding his roll man after a pick as well as finding cutters and shooters, Morris can also test opposing defenses via the threat of penetration and could take the ball all the way to the rim or kick the ball out to the perimeter. He even displayed a flair for the spectacular in his passes every once in a while, not so different from a rather notable Laker legend. One could make a fair argument that although the other points in the draft, from Kyrie Irving to Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker, may be more skilled overall and have higher ceilings, Morris outstrips all of them in terms of sheer court vision and traditional point guard play.
Indeed, the only thing limiting Morris from being considered in the same echelon as those aforementioned players is his lack of a consistent outside shot. While solid from midrange and capable of rising up for a shot after penetrating into the heart of the defense, Morris is very shaky from behind the arc, only managing a meager 25.0 3P% in his sophomore season. It's a testament to the rest of his game that he still managed a respectable 55.0 TS%, courtesy of his accuracy inside the arc and due to the amount of time he was able to get to the line. His size and strength also enabled him to bully opposing guards on drives or in the post, an advantage he will still have in the NBA on most nights. Defensively, Morris has pretty solid chops, and his ability to cover either guard position will likely be appreciated by Mike Brown and his defensive approach to the game, notably insofar as he meshes with the Lakers' other second round selection.
Goudelock is essentially the player you would get if you took nearly all of Morris' strengths and weaknesses at the point and then inverted them for the two guard position. Whereas Morris is a poor outside shooter, Goudelock is a knockdown shooter from range, such that I called him Jimmer-lite in my draft primer. Off the pick-and-roll, Goudelock is capable of knocking down a shot with an inch of space, as versus Morris often using the same set to create for his teammates, and was also capable of using shot fakes to create his own shot in isolation. To his credit, Goudelock is able to run a more conventional offense and possesses respectable court vision, but his mindset on the floor is to look for his own shot. Combined with his 6'2.75'' height in shoes, one can safely label him as a combo guard, although as I noted several times in the primer, that's something the Lakers can live with due to the number of secondary ballhandlers who can initiate the offense in Kobe, Odom, and hopefully now Morris as well.
On the defensive end, Goudelock had problems even in college, even though he clocked the second best lane agility time in the combine at 10.33 seconds. As I noted in the primer, this likely meant that he was average rather than deficient, but it stands to reason that he will have problems in the pros on the defensive end. His height in particular makes it difficult to play him extended minutes at the two unless both teams are going small, and is one reason that his game pairs nicely with fellow draftee Morris, as one could see the two easily switching matchups if they were on the floor together. Goudelock's lack of athleticism is also prevalent in rest of his offensive game, as while he's capable of using fakes to free himself up for a shot, he definitely will have trouble finishing at the rim or dealing with more athletic defenders. Nevertheless, between his lethal shooting ability and ability to run some standard pick-and-roll sets that will definitely be present in Mike Brown's (and Ettore Messina's) offense, he brings a lot of positives to the table.
This is especially relevant in light of the Lakers' offseason needs that I highlighted in the primer, and Morris and Goudelock were clearly selected to fill the role of a point guard capable of running a conventional offense and a shooter respectively. Morris definitely is a guard that can probe a defense, manage the offense off the pick-and-roll, and run the drive and kick sets prevalent in Brown's playbook. With good execution so hard to come by in the triangle last year and Kobe and Odom unable to create for others consistently, Morris is a great addition in terms of a player capable of setting others up in the halfcourt, and he should be able to flourish in the more conventional offense the Lakers will be running. What Goudelock adds is much simpler, as his shooting ability will be a welcome addition to a team that lacked any source of consistent spacing last year, and combined with his half-decent handle, he already should be Derek Fisher's superior in terms of running basic pick-and-roll sets. Although he will find himself spotting up more often than not whenever he finds his way onto the floor, it's valuable that he can initiate the offense if necessary.
As for the end of the Lakers' draft night, one could drive a solid parallel between how the Lakers handled their business at the end of the draft and in the middle of the second round. While Morris and Goudelock were solid selections, the Lakers' last two picks seemed to be an attempt to choose the most obscure player imaginable that wasn't remotely a NBA prospect so they didn't have to pay them, although Minnesota's bumbling David Kahn might have won that contest by somehow managing to pick an ineligible player in Qatar's Targuy Ngombo with pick number 57. Granted, on one hand, this doesn't matter that much in the larger picture. Picks at the end of the second round are the crapshoot of all crapshoots and the possibility that either pick would have made the team this season or at anytime in the near future was very slim. I'm sure even the most diehard Laker fan doesn't remember that the team took Texas A&M forward Chinemelu Elonu with pick number 59 in the 2009 draft, and he's been toiling away on various European teams while showing that he's probably not a NBA prospect ever since. Moreover, the Lakers might have received a second rounder from Denver in exchange for Maduabum, and if it is for next year, the Lakers added a pick in what looks like a very strong 2012 draft in which there is a slightly higher chance that a late second rounder won't be a complete dud.
All that said, it's a bit disappointing when you see your team spend a pick on a player who has absolutely no chance whatsoever of breaking into the league. As the Spurs have shown time and time again, taking the draft seriously is one of the ways teams extend their championship window by utilizing all of the resources available to them. Even if the Lakers weren't interested in taking a player at number 58 that could have competed for a roster spot in Ohio State's David Lighty, Notre Dame's Ben Hansbrough, or Washington's Isaiah Thomas, there were plenty of players that showed some promise that could have been stashed in Europe, from American prospects such as San Diego State's Malcolm Thomas, Illinois' Jereme Richmond, and Fresno State's Greg Smith to European players such as Georgia's Giorgi Shermadini or former Oregon center Michael Dunigan. Even if the possibility of those players ever returning to the league from Europe was small, the team loses nothing by giving them the opportunity to succeed rather than punting the pick away for no reason.
I am perhaps being unfair to Ater Majok, who is very long and has displayed some shooting ability, but between his anemic production at Connecticut and his very raw game, he was a far inferior prospect as compared to any of the aforementioned players. In any case, despite the bad taste the Lakers left in our mouths at the end of the draft, Morris and Goudelock definitely make it a successful night, and we hope they make the team and contribute in bringing another banner to L.A. It is also our hope that Laker fans won't have to wait three hours before their first pick next year, and that the team can continue to add young talent onto a still championship core.