Looking at the draft is almost a whimsical activity nowadays because the Lakers’ front office has hardly relied upon it in recent years as a method of gathering talent, much to the chagrin of Laker fans who happen to be fans of college basketball. Nearly all of the major additions to the team since 2008 have been through free agency and trades, which earned the team two championships in three trips to the Finals, but also has created some of the problems that manifested in the Lakers’ inglorious exit from the playoffs at the hands of the recently crowned champion Dallas Mavericks.
In any case, with the draft approaching, it behooves us to look at the Lakers’ position in the draft and how they can possibly improve. After the jump, I’ll cover how the Lakers ended up in their current draft position, what needs the team needs to address, whether in the draft or elsewhere, and some of the prospects that the Lakers could be targeting in the draft.
Courtesy of a variety of trades, much of them quite terrible in hindsight, the Lakers find themselves in possession of four second round picks this year, including ones from Golden State, New York, Miami, and their own. Two of the picks were added on draft night during the 2009 draft, when the Lakers pissed away their chance to finally obtain a legitimate backup point guard by selling the 29nd pick in the draft to the Knicks for $3 million as well as the Knicks’ second rounder this year. That pick turned into Toney Douglas, whose defensive chops and occasionally explosive scoring would have constituted a real backup to Fisher that hasn’t been present on the team since the ’07-’08 version of Jordan Farmar. In a more minor deal, the Lakers sold their second rounder to Miami for cash and a second rounder this year. Miami picked Patrick Beverley, who looks like a fringe NBA prospect, but Marcus Thornton, who has been a huge bench scorer thus far in his career, was taken a pick later by New Orleans.
Finally, the Lakers acquired Golden State’s pick and Joe Smith from New Jersey in exchange for their own first rounder and Sasha Vujacic, which looking back on now, appears especially terrible. Granted, the trade was understandable – and why you always have to consider the benefit of hindsight – when Shannon Brown was torching nets from range at the start and the year and looking like a legit Sixth of the Year candidate, but at the same time, between him falling back to earth in the worst possible way and Joe Smith barely seeing any floor time, it couldn’t have been that terrible to have Sasha as a backup option. Moreover, the Lakers traded down fourteen spots in the draft so they could draft a lesser prospect and save a miniscule $3-4 million over the life of the deal. Aside from Smith himself, the only tangible asset the Lakers added was a roughly $5 million trade exception, but it’s doubtful they’ll use it for anything.
As is plainly obvious, the Lakers have seen fit to shoot themselves in the foot repeatedly by punting picks away for basically nothing, and the current dearth of athleticism and youth is partially due to this careless attitude. One could argue that these picks would have never seen the light of day under Phil, who was notorious for never giving rookies any floor time and preferring veteran retreads over younger players with higher upside, but at the same time, that’s a good problem to have. If the rookies didn’t pan out, the Lakers could either decline their options or trade them to a team with cap space for nothing; that’s the whole point of the rookie wage scale. Moreover, given that the bench has sucked terribly since ’07-’08 with the lone exception of the start to last season, I find it difficult to accept the notion that the picks we gave up weren’t of any value. Obviously, the two first rounders we gave to Memphis as part of the Pau Gasol trade were a small price to pay for the two championships we got along the way, but those picks turned into Darrell Arthur and Greivis Vasquez, both significant contributors on this year’s underrated Grizzlies squad, underlying the fact that those assets were far from worthless.
The other rationale that the Buss family needed to save some dime strikes me as completely short-sighted and specious. Take Toney Douglas for instance, who would still be on his rookie contract that would be paying him a trifle over $1 million/year while the team had to throw $16 million/4 years at Steve Blake, who already looks like a poor acquisition. That MLE money could have then been re-purposed to go after basically anything the team wanted, whether it was slashing (Ronnie Brewer) or shooting (Kyle Korver) from the wing position or a solid frontcourt backup (Kurt Thomas, Rasho Nesterovic). Again, part of this is what you get with the benefit of hindsight. At the time of the signing, Blake was lauded as a solid fit for the team as a prototypical triangle guard who could shoot from range, but at the same time, trying to compensate for a lack of youth by overpaying veterans inevitably bites you in the rear.
Minor rant aside, let’s look at where the Lakers stand in this draft, as there’s not much point in bemoaning what could have been. Of the second rounders we have, the most valuable is naturally the Golden State pick, which stands our best chance of finding a possible rotation player. The New York pick is somewhat useful, as you can hope that some half-decent prospect drops there, but our own pick and Miami’s, being at the bottom of the second round, are basically all but worthless. Unless there is a prospect that the Lakers particularly like at that spot, any players picked there or either going to be stashed in Europe or cut in training camp. As such, given the Lakers’ poor position in the draft, the standard fallback position is the BPA (Best Player Available) approach, which is exactly what it says on the tin. Most GMs incorporate this into their drafting strategy by making "tiers" of the various prospects, and then only picking players from a given tier until they are all taken and then proceeding onwards. In this fashion, you avoid "reaching" for a player who might fit your team’s needs, but wasn’t the best player available on the board. This method has more significance in say the NFL draft, when you have a lot more rounds, players to pick, and positions of value to judge against, but it generally holds true in the NBA draft as well. Of course, BPA isn’t infallible, and some reaches are justified if they aren’t too extreme and adequately fill a team’s needs. Furthermore, what constitutes a "tier" and the priority scheme within that tier is pretty much at the whim of the GM and his scouting staff, but it's generally a solid approach.
With this in mind, let’s look at the team’s specific needs. First and foremost among all the off-season needs, whether in the draft or free agency, is addressing the lack of three-point shooting in the team. Typified by the ridiculous show of futility in the Dallas series from behind the arc, the Lakers are a mediocre three-point shooting team and that makes life immeasurably harder on our post players and Kobe, who don’t have proper spacing in which to operate. The source of the shooting is irrelevant – a point guard, wing, stretch four, or whatnot; without spacing, running any sort of offense is highly difficult. Next is at point guard, at which the Lakers have been trying and failing miserably to acquire an adequate replacement for Derek Fisher. Specifically, the Lakers really need a point guard who can threaten the defense via the threat of penetration, not necessarily to score but to dish to our bigs or wings, which creates movement off the ball and gives the team another ballhandler outside of Kobe, who would benefit tremendously from being able to play off the ball, and Odom, whose focus is always suspect. This isn’t to say that they wouldn’t handle the ball frequently per their normal role in the offense, but rather that the Lakers can avoid stagnancy by having another player capable of initiating the offense. Moreover, with Mike Brown in tow, a point guard who can play the drive and kick game he favored in Cleveland would beneficial, as well as run a half-decent pick-and-roll now that Ettore Messina is on board. Finally, the Lakers need pretty much any half-decent frontcourt backup that can stay on the floor for 10 minutes without getting flattened. Ideally, this would be at the five, so Pau doesn’t have to spend that much time there, and it gives us insurance for Bynum the next time he faces Memphis.
Of all these needs, three-point shooting is the one most readily available simply because the second round is rife with three-point specialists who are offering their shooting skills and essentially nothing else to prospective teams. And frankly, that’s a good approach, as spacing is so critical to today’s game that players like Jason Kapono, who is an insanely good shooter but a godawful athlete who can’t defend anyone or do anything else on the court, can find a niche in the league. This is especially true for the Lakers, who can compensate for that player’s flaws on defense or offense with the other talent that is on the floor. In this current group of prospects, it’s slightly easier to find a point guard than a big, especially if you enlarge the definition of "point guard" to include a number of combo guards that can work fine with the Lakers given how much Kobe and Odom usually handle the ball. With the increasingly stringent defensive requirements hoisted on bigs to cover players on the perimeter and off the pick-and-roll, it’s also unsurprising, as plodding, deliberate centers have largely gone by the wayside. All this said, if the Lakers find one decent rotation player with any of their picks, you can consider the draft a success; it’s hard enough for late first rounders to make an impact immediately.
Let’s move on to specific prospects, then, separated by position. Here, I’ll list the statistics from their most recent collegiate season, as well as their measurements that were taken at the official NBA draft combine and the marks from their athletic testing. For the latter, they are, in order: height with shoes, weight, wingspan, vertical, reps with a 185 pound bar, how fast they performed the lane agility test that looks at lateral quickness, and how fast they completed a ¾ court sprint.
The athletic testing is simultaneously determinative and not so – on one hand, you can’t fake good scores, so guys who tested better than expected probably are more athletic than originally thought, but you can probably give players who had a reputation as an athletic player a break and say that they had a bad day. Take San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard, who put up mediocre numbers in the athletic testing despite being regarded as a solid athlete in college, but as ESPN’s Chad Ford astutely notes, he didn’t warm up before the tests in a freezing gym. Moreover, there’s a big difference between athletic testing in the NBA and say in the NFL, as it’s much more difficult to apply "athleticism" in one’s game unless they have the skill set to take advantage of it. For instance, how fast one can do a three-fourth court sprint only determines really how fast you can run down the floor, not how fast you are while dribbling or under pressure. All that said, it does provide useful benchmarks against similar prospects in the past; it’s just part of the overall evaluation process. Finally, this list is obviously not intended to be exhaustive, but is just to illustrate some prospects the Lakers should be looking at. If you want larger breakdowns of these players, hop over to the always excellent Draft Express.
Cleveland State (Sr.), 22 y/o; 35.7 mpg, 21.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 5.3 apg, 43.9 FG%, 85.3 FT%, 34.2 3P%
6’1.75’’ in shoes, 174 lbs, 6’2.25’’ wingspan, 38.5 vertical, 11 bench reps, 10.07 lane agility, 3.16 sprint
Cole’s inclusion here might be a mere formality, as he’s skyrocketed up a lot of draft boards after the combine, where he posted the best mark in the lane agility drill by a mile (Andrew Goudelock’s 10.33 was the next best), as well as displaying solid strength and hops with the 185 pound bar and vertical testing respectively. His recent workouts with teams have also been positive according to ESPN’s Chad Ford. Along with his underrated year at Cleveland State, in which he demonstrated fairly solid point guard chops, he looks like a lock for at least the early second round and might be on the first round bubble. After Darius Morris and Nolan Smith, he probably represents the best package of shooting, passing, and athleticism among the remaining guards in the second round, and indeed, some draftniks have him going in the late first round ahead of the aforementioned pair. The only thing that might keep him from going that high are questions on his overall ceiling, but the Lakers would be very happy to nab him at #41.
Duke (Sr.), 22 y/o, 34.0 mpg, 20.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.1 apg, 45.8 FG%, 81.3 FT%, 35.0 3P%
6'3.5'' in shoes, 188 lbs, 6'5.5'' wingspan, 34.0 vertical, 9 bench reps, 11.05 lane agility, 3.17 sprint
Similar to Cole, Smith is a prospect that very likely comes off the board before the Lakers pick at #41, as he's firmly on the first round bubble. That said, stranger things have happened on draft night, when prospects and rise and fall on a whim. In any case, Smith is a combo guard who lacks ideal size for the two and probably ends up playing the point in the pros after his fairly solid season running the show for the Blue Devils after top-ranked prospect Kyrie Irving succumbed to injury early in the year. Although streaky from the outside, Cole has a solid midrange game and can get all the way to the rim on penetration with his quickness. Along with his great defensive chops, he's an all-around player who can handle either backcourt position from a bench role. Between Cole and Smith, you can start lambasting Kupchak for that lost first rounder, as both would have been solid additions to the Lakers' aging backcourt.
Butler (Jr.), 22 y/o; 32.1 mpg, 16.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.4 apg, 40.8 FG%, 76.9 FT%, 35.4 3P%
6’2.5’’ in shoes, 209 lbs, 6’7.5’’ wingspan, 39.0 vertical, 17 bench reps, 11.23 lane agility, 3.18 sprint
For anyone who has watched Butler’s magical run through the tournament these past two years, they’ve had ample examples to confirm Mack’s credentials as a clutch and timely shot maker, with the noticeable exception of his putrid game against Connecticut. What has changed from that image is the relatively decent athletic numbers Mack put up at the combine, including a solid 39 inch vertical and 17 reps with the 185 pound bar; his 6’7.5’’ wingspan is also pretty decent for a point guard. On the flip side, his lateral quickness is mediocre, hence his poor lane agility score, but that’s compensated by his strength and size. Obviously, that’s no longer an ideal thing in the no-hand checking era, but the Lakers aren’t going to find a panacea for that problem in the second round. The nagging question that has dogged Mack from NBA scouts is whether he’s a point guard or an undersized two, but as I previously noted, that’s less of a problem with the Lakers, triangle or no triangle, courtesy of Kobe’s and Odom’s presence. Various draft boards are mixed on Mack, with him going anywhere between the early and mid-second round, so if the Lakers are high on him, he’s a fairly safe selection at #41.
Washington (Jr.), 22 y/o; 31.9 mpg, 16.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 6.1 apg, 44.5 FG%, 71.9 FT%, 34.9 3P%
5’10.25’’ in shoes, 186 lbs, 6’1.75’’ wingspan, 40.0 vertical, 13 bench reps, 10.49 lane agility, 3.14 sprint
The Nate Robinson comparisons grew stronger after Thomas posted a 40 inch vertical at the combine along with solid marks in the rest of the athletic testing; Draft Express rated him first among all the draft prospects in a composite score derived from all of the test results. While by his own admission, DE’s Matt Kamalsky doesn’t consider it indicative of much, it’s still fairly impressive. Thomas doesn’t quite have Robinson’s hops – although granted, not a whole lot of players do, and a 40 inch vertical for a 5’10’’ guy is awfully impressive – but his point guard skills are much better, and his leadership at Washington was an endearing sight. Taken along with his solid shooting performance in the combine drills, and he fits the mold of the bench energizer that the Lakers desperately need to change the tempo of the game, much as the unit in the ’07-’08 season was so successful in doing.
Naturally, like Robinson, his diminutive size is a problem on the defensive end, regardless of his strength or quickness, as staying in front of his man doesn’t really matter if he can’t contest shots well due to his height. That said, his frame looks like a linebacker’s, and he played great during the 3-on-3 drills at the combine, especially scoring after contact. Along with his ability to handle the ball in a more conventional offense, notably the drive and kick scheme Mike Brown favors, which is something he frequently did with Justin Holiday at Washington, he looks like an especially good fit for the Lakers. There were legitimate reasons the Lakers had a prevailing interest in Robinson himself a couple years back, and Thomas, while not having Robinson’s explosive scoring or hops, brings a lot of the same positives to the table without the character baggage. Most draft boards have Thomas going in the middle to late second round, so he might be a possibility with the Knicks’ pick, or if the Lakers are high on him, with the Warriors’ one.
College of Charleston (Sr.), 22 y/o; 35.2 mpg, 23.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.2 apg, 45.5 FG%, 82.1 FT%, 40.7 3P%
6’2.75’’ in shoes, 198 lbs, 6’4.25’’ wingspan, 37.0 vertical, 4 reps, 10.33 lane agility, 3.10 sprint
Goudelock is basically a poor man’s Jimmer, as he has toned down versions of Fredette’s strengths while more pronounced weaknesses. Like Fredette, he has insane range on jumpers off the dribble, augmented with the deft use of shot fakes to open himself up for midrange shots. Moreover, Goudelock blew away the shooting drills at the combine, notably his insane 21-21 mark on a timed shooting drill off the dribble. And while he’s primarily concentrated on scoring, he does have some point guard chops, although one could safely characterize him as a combo guard. As I noted previously, the Lakers can live with guards like that, as Goudelock isn’t required to always initiate the offense with Kobe and Odom on the team, but you can at least be assured that he’ll throw the ball into the post every so and then. Goudelock’s primary problems stem from his lack of athleticism, his solid testing at the combine notwithstanding, as he was a pretty poor finisher at the rim in college and didn’t always have the burst to free himself for a shot off the dribble. As with most of these cases, one can probably split the difference and characterize Goudelock as average rather than deficient. Regardless, Goudelock’s ability to stay with his man on the next level is always going to be a recurring problem. He currently looks like a middle to late second round pick, and is a possibility with the Knicks’ pick or the Lakers’ own.
Illinois (Sr.), 22 y/o; 33.4 mpg, 14.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 6.1 apg, 45.2 FG%, 72.4 FT%, 45.1 3P%
6’3.25’’ in shoes, 204 lbs, 6’6.25’’ wingspan, 33.0 vertical, no reps (injury), 11.55 lane agility, 3.19 sprint
McCamey does essentially two things the Lakers want: he can shoot well from range and can distribute the rock. If Phil was still in town, he would appreciate McCamey’s decent size and strength for the point guard position, but that’s history. Past that, you have a long series of problems. First is McCamey’s athleticism, or lack thereof, which is tied to the conditioning problems that have plagued him during his career at Illinois, along with a series of public clashes with Illini coach Bruce Weber over the subject. These problems also extend onto the hardwood, as he frequently goes through long stretches of passivity, and can get erratic with his shot selection. And although he’s money off the catch or spotting up, that lack of burst made it difficult for him to free himself up for a jumper or finish at the rim even in college, and is certainly going to be a problem in the NBA. Same goes for the defensive end, as his poor lateral quickness won’t do him any favors against the speedy point guards so proliferate nowadays in the league. Should they pick him, look for the Lakers to include clauses in his contract tied to his conditioning similar to what they did with Derrick Caracter last year. When he’s in good shape, McCamey can definitely contribute, as he was able to do at the start of his senior year when he showed up with a slimmer frame, but there are a lot of questions for the Lakers to parse through before committing to him in the draft. McCamey isn’t particularly high on most draft boards right now, with most ranging from the late second round to undrafted, so he’s a possibility with one of the Lakers’ later second round picks.
Texas (Fr.), 20 y/o; 32.4 mpg, 10.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.0 apg, 42.2 FG%, 69.9 FT%, 41.3 3P%
6’3.25’’ in shoes, 186 lbs, 6’5.5’’ wingspan, 35.0 vertical, 5 bench reps, 10.75 lane agility, 3.27 sprint
A young athletic point, Joseph surprised most draftniks by declaring for the draft after a so-so freshman year, although Texas’ successful recruiting of Myck Kabongo, one of the top rated point guards in the country, probably played a big part in his decision. In any case, Joseph’s primary strengths revolve around his quickness and ability to get to the rim off the pick-and-roll as well as step back from midrange or behind the arc. That said, he’s much more a combo guard than true point guard, although as I've noted several times, that’s not much of a problem for the Lakers. He’s probably not ready for the NBA immediately, but is an interesting prospect nevertheless in the middle to late second round and his potential upside might get him taken before that.
Notre Dame (Sr.), 23 y/o; 35.4 mpg, 18.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.3 apg, 47.9 FG%, 81.5 FT%, 43.5 3P%
Did not participate at the combine. Listed at 6’3’’, 203 lbs.
There’s an awful lot to like about Tyler Hansbrough’s younger brother once you get past the fact that he’s going to be very athletically challenged at the next level. After Luke Harangody left Notre Dame last year to replace Brian Scalabrine as the token white guy at the end of the Celtics’ bench, Hansbrough went from a spot-up shooter to the team’s primary ball-handler, and flourished in that role. Already an elite outside shooter off the dribble as well as spotting up, he ran a solid pick-and-roll game in Notre Dame’s halfcourt offense, and showed good overall point guard chops. For the Lakers, Hansbrough’s ability to play off the ball as well as initiate the offense is especially valuable. The problem, as previously stated, is that it’s going to be tough for Hansbrough to stay in front of anyone at the next level, and while he has good size and strength for the position along with a solid motor, he’s always going to be challenged in that regard. That general lack of burst also applies to the other end, as he’s going to be very limited if he has to create shots off the dribble, although between Gasol, Kobe, and Odom, he’ll have more than his fair share of open spot-up situations to take advantage of. All that said, you could do a lot worse in the late second round, where Hansbrough currently is slated for, and I wouldn’t be upset if the Lakers took him with the Miami pick or their own.
UCLA (Jr.), 21 y/o; 33.1 mpg, 13.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.0 apg, 43.7 FG%, 77.8 FT%, 29.5 3P%
6’5.5’’ in shoes, 198 lbs, 6’9.75’’ wingspan, 35.5 vertical, 17 bench reps, 11.20 lane agility, 3.09 sprint
As a local product, Laker fans have had ample opportunity to scrutinize Lee over the course of his career at UCLA and not a whole lot has changed. He’s a terrific defender at either backcourt position, a decent athlete, can run down the floor well, but his inability to shoot really hurts at the next level. That defensive ability and excellent size for the point guard position – although he might see more time on the wing in the pros – will get him drafted anywhere between the late first round and early to mid-second round, but he compounds the Lakers’ already endemic spacing issues. Of course, if he’s available at #41 by some twist of fate, the Lakers should pick him in a heartbeat per BPA, and the long history of Ben Howland guards playing poorly in college yet transitioning very well to the pros (Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday, Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo) does work in his favor. There’s no doubt he can be a difference maker, but he simply isn’t an ideal fit for this current Laker team.
Duke (Sr.), 23 y/o; 34.8 mpg, 16.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.6 apg, 43.0 FG%, 80.6 FT%, 32.1 3P%
6’8.5’’ in shoes, 228 lbs, 6’10.10’’ wingspan, 30.0 vertical, 10 bench reps, 11.22 lane agility, 3.21 sprint
Like Lee, Singler is a name well-known to fans of college basketball and one that will probably come off the board before the Lakers pick, but it doesn’t hurt to mention him because of how fluctuating the list of prospects is between the late first and the Lakers’ pick in the middle of the second round. The book on Singler hasn’t changed a whole lot: he’s a point forward-esque player with a solid basketball IQ, can create for others, possesses a solid midrange game, and has good defensive fundamentals. Only reason he’s not a lock to go higher is his so-so athleticism – cue obligatory joke about an unathletic white guy from Duke – which will make it hard on him defensively and limit his ability to create off the dribble. Moreover, he’s an average three-point shooter when his game would tremendously benefit from the ability to consistently knock down shots from behind the arc. As I noted before, Singler is a likely choice for the late first round or at the very least, the early second, but you never know what will happen on draft night.
Marquette (Sr.), 21 y/o; 34.6 mpg, 15.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.3 apg, 49.0 FG%, 78.3 FT%, 34.5 3P%
6’7.75’’ in shoes, 222 lbs, 6’7.5’’ wingspan, 39.0 vertical, 14 bench reps, 11.92 lane agility, 3.15 sprint
Laker fans have become inundated with near-constant references to the term "intangibles" in an attempt to rationalize the continued presence of Derek Fisher in the starting lineup, most of them thankfully humorous. In this case, however, Butler is a classic case of a prospect who you could say comes chock full of intangibles. While not a spectacular athlete and his shooting from behind the arc could use some work, Butler’s overall approach to the game is definitely something that would endear him to any potential GM. A heady player with great basketball IQ, Butler has a rep for doing all the little things on the court, from crashing the glass, making the extra pass, and worked very well within a detail-oriented Marquette offense, where he was consistently able to free himself for his midrange game and cuts despite his lack of athleticism. This approach also extends to the defensive end, where he is very involved and has good fundamentals. Butler cemented his image of a solid role player at the next level with his great interviews at the combine, where he came off as very grounded and willing to engage in a team concept. He’ll probably come off the board in the early second round, but would be a solid selection with the Warriors’ pick.
Purdue (Sr.), 22 y/o; 33.9 mpg, 18.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.2 apg, 44.7 FG%, 70.9 FT%, 40.0 3P%
6’4’’ in shoes, 191 lbs, 6’9.5’’ wingspan, 34.5 vertical, no reps (could not lift bar), 11.12 lane agility, 3.31 sprint
In many ways, Moore is the complete opposite of Shannon Brown, whose faults have become painfully apparent to any Laker fan over the last two years. Whereas Brown compensates for his lack of height with explosive athleticism, Moore is stuck with the unfortunate label of an unathletic combo guard, which is usually a death knell for any potential prospect and a one-way ticket to Europe. However, whereas Brown’s dribbling skills and approach to the offensive end is comically bad, Moore has a good handle, can create for others off the dribble, and is adept at getting his shots off screens or in spot-up situations. Throughout his senior year at Purdue, Moore did a fairly solid job at running the Boilmakers’ offense, and is a capable ballhandler off the pick-and-roll. The parallel to Brown also extends to the defensive end, where Brown’s adamant refusal to run through a screen or play with the slightest heed to good defensive fundamentals is contrasted against Moore’s decent chops at that end, as he frequently guarded three different positions at the college level. Obviously, this will be a much different story in the NBA, where his lack of athleticism, size, and strength will cause him a lot of problems, but it won’t be from a lack of effort. While these defensive limitations are a problem along with his inability to create for himself at the next level, the combination of ballhandling ability and shooting, along with his heady play, wouldn’t make him a bad selection for the Lakers. Moore is slated for the middle to late second round, and would be a possibility with the Knicks’ pick.
Illinois (Fr.), 19 y/o; 22.1 mpg, 7.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.8 apg, 52.8 FG%, 60.5 FT%, 16.7 3P%
6’7.25’’ in shoes, 207 lbs, 6’10.25’’ wingspan, 33.5 vertical, no reps (could not lift bar), 11.74 lane agility, 3.02 sprint
Richmond is one of the few high upside picks available in the second round, namely because his game hasn’t come close to catching up with his physical abilities. A McDonald’s All-American in high school, Richmond is a superb athlete who never really developed the skill set to complement those gifts. While he is a solid rebounder and showed decent defensive talent, his jumper is inconsistent, and most of his scoring came from hustle plays or getting smaller guards down in the post. Furthermore, he doesn’t yet have the ballhandling ability to be an effective slasher, where he can best utilize his athleticism, and he’s still growing into his frame, shown by his inability to complete a single rep at the combine. A possible pick in the middle to late second round, the Lakers probably would only pick Richmond to stash him away in Europe, where he could continue his development.
Tennessee (Jr.), 21 y/o; 29.3 mpg, 17.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 45.2 FG%, 73.5 FT%, 37.6 3P%
6’6.5’’ in shoes, 205 lbs, 6’10.5’’ wingspan, 36.0 vertical, 10 bench reps, 10.47 lane agility, 3.18 sprint
The most common term analysts assign to Hopson is "enigma." On one hand, he has great athletic tools for a two guard in the NBA, along with a 6’10’’ wingspan, decent shooting ability, and a solid first step. That basically was the description of a lottery pick, but Hopson’s production has been far short of that standard, ranging from shows of excellence (27 points on 10-13 shooting against Pitt) to maddening displays of tentativeness and lack of focus. While he’s an elusive dribbler and can get to the line, he has generally poor instincts on the court, and doesn’t create well for others. Combined with his lack of strength, this generally made it difficult for him to finish at the rim, and resulted in turnovers on a lot of his penetration attempts. Moreover, Hopson’s defense suffers from the same lack of focus and polish in his game, and he has pretty poor defensive chops for a guy with his athletic ability.
The final nail in any hope Hopson had of seeing the first round was his reportedly terrible interviews with GMs, one of whom told Draft Express that "This guy isn’t from the same planet as the rest of us." What that translates to is that Hopson has an overinflated opinion of himself, his abilities, and doesn’t have the work ethic to add the polish that his game desperately needs right now. Despite this, Hopson will get taken sometime in the middle to late second round due to his physical tools, but it’s hard to see the Lakers spending a pick on a guy with these kind of attitude problems. The "Kobe and Fisher will breathe down his neck and get him to give a crap" argument holds some weight I suppose, and he does offer the Lakers some desperately needed athleticism, but he might be a prospect to pass on.
Ohio State (Sr.), 23 y/o; 32.1 mpg, 12.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.3 apg, 46.8 FG%, 62.7 FT%, 42.9 3P%
6’6.5’’ in shoes, 216 lbs, 6’8’’ wingspan, 33.0 vertical, 15 bench reps, 10.81 lane agility, 3.25 sprint
Lighty basically projects as the next Raja Bell – good defensive chops paired with the ability to shoot from behind the arc. He has good size for a two guard and showed fairly decent lateral quickness and strength at the combine. Combined with his tireless work on the defensive end, where his fundamentals are solid, he should at the very least be able to hold his own on that end. On offense, he’s largely a catch-and-shoot specialist; in college, he handled the ball more and initiated the offense from time to time, but that won’t be his role in the pros. Lighty is currently slated for the late second round, and might be a possible choice with the Knicks’ second rounder.
Ohio State (Sr.), 22 y/o; 35.7 mpg, 12.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.4 apg, 50.7 FG%, 81.0 FT%, 50.2 3P%
6’6.5’’ in shoes, 197 lbs, 6’6’’ wingspan, 35.0 vertical, 2 bench reps, 10.94 lane agility, 3.17 sprint
If Lighty is the next Raja Bell, Diebler is the next Jason Kapono. Everything you need to know about Diebler begins and ends with his elite perimeter shooting ability, as he put up an utterly insane 72.0 TS% in his senior season at Ohio State, which according to Draft Express, was the best mark in the past decade. While he has some ability to put the ball on the floor, his role in the pros is almost entirely going to be in spot-up situations and shooting off the catch after running off screens. Diebler’s main problem, as with Kapono, is that you have to hide him on defensive due to his defensive shortcomings, although he didn’t test that badly in the athletic tests at the combine. Diebler is currently on the second round bubble, but as I noted earlier, players who can shoot as well as he can have value in this league, and he wouldn’t be a bad pickup in the late second round.
Kentucky (Jr.), 23 y/o; 31.6 mpg, 8.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.5 apg, 42.4 FG%, 64.8 FT%, 39.1 3P%
6’6.25’’ in shoes, 202 lbs, 6’11’’ wingspan, 31.0 vertical, 6 bench reps, did not participate in agility drill, 3.33 sprint
Players like Liggins are really hard to get a read on. On one hand, his ability to guard three positions and solid play in that regard during the tournament offers a compelling case that he could operate as the classic defensive specialist that locks down someone on defense and spots up in the corner or the wing on offense. On the flip side, it’s hard to ignore how anemic his offensive protection was in college, and he doesn’t bring a whole lot else to the table. He also lacks the superlative athletic tools that define the best defensive stoppers – like say Florida State’s Chris Singleton, who is slated for the late lottery – and give some latitude for future improvement. As such, the best that Liggins is going to provide is that of a marginal role player, and it’s why he’s currently likely going undrafted. Given how picks at the end of the second round tend to be the crapshoot of all crapshoots, there’s an argument to taking a player with at least some tangible skill there, but the Lakers might be better off choosing someone with somewhat higher upside.
Purdue (Sr.), 22 y/o, 35.4 mpg, 20.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.0 apg, 49.4 FG%, 80.9 FT%, 29.4 3P%
6'10'' in shoes, 220 lbs, 7'2'' wingspan, 38.0 vertical, 15 bench reps, 11.21 lane agility, 3.14 sprint
Long and athletic, Johnson is an explosive frontcourt player who has diversified his game in his senior year at Purdue, adding a midrange jumper to his steadily improving post game. Although he only has a limited repertoire in the post, he scored efficiently from there in college, but will definitely have to add strength onto his frame to see the same success in the NBA. That problem extends to the defensive end, as while he's active and blocks shots, he can easily be bullied in the post by stronger post players. Regardless, between his athleticism and improving skill set, Johnson is one of the best bigs available in the late first round and early second, making it unlikely that the Lakers see him at #41, but he'd almost certainly be an obvious choice per BPA if he fell on draft night.
Wisconsin (Sr.), 22 y/o; 33.5 mpg, 18.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.6 apg, 47.0 FG%, 84.3 FT%, 37.0 3P%
6’11.5’’ in shoes, 223 lbs, 7’0’’ wingspan, 36.5 vertical, 17 bench reps, 10.82 lane agility, 3.36 sprint
Leuer is the prototypical stretch four, players who make a living off the pick-and-pop and in spot-up situations behind the arc. Granted, that’s underselling Leuer quite a bit, as he’s capable of facing up from the high post and has a few post moves in addition to his ability to spread the floor. He’s also one of the players who turned heads at the combine with his athletic testing, as his rep in college was that of a guy who was going to struggle athletically at the next level. He managed 17 reps with the 185 pound bar, impressive for a guy who was expected to struggle in that aspect against stronger post players in the pros, and a very solid 10.82 lane agility score, which was among the best scores at the combine and especially notable with all the responsibilities modern bigs have to handle in defensive situations on the perimeter. As with previous instances, you can probably say that the worries about Leuer’s athleticism are somewhat overblown, but at the same time, he’s doesn’t really incorporate much of those aspects into his game, so it’s a muted impact. In any case, Leuer’s defensive chops could use some work, particularly in regards to rebounding, but he’s been lauded for his basketball IQ, which shows itself in his very low turnover rate, another hallmark of modern stretch fours. I’ve seen Leuer as a first round bubble pick and being taken in the middle of the second round, so it depends a lot of where he is on various teams' draft boards, but he’s probably a possibility at #41.
Maryland (So.), 20 y/o; 32.5 mpg, 16.9 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 0.6 apg, 53.8 FG%, 57.5 FT%
6’9’’ in shoes, 247 lbs, 7’0.25’’ wingspan, 30.5 vertical, 10 bench reps, 12.74 lane agility, 3.45 sprint
Williams’ credentials as one of the few centers in the draft who actually plays the role has been getting him up draft boards recently, as he has moved from a mid-second round pick to the first round bubble. A strong post presence, Williams is a good rebounder on both ends of the floor and works hard to establish good position on the block. His primary limitations are his lack of height for the position, and his relative lack of athleticism, as seen in his fairly dismal athletic numbers at the combine, although that was unsurprising to anyone who had watched him play at Maryland. He also lacks any semblance of a perimeter game, but that might be asking for too much. In any case, Williams has certainly not rested on his laurels, as he has worked throughout the summer to increase his explosiveness and has attempted to add a midrange jumper to his arsenal. All in all, Williams would nicely fulfill the role of a backup five if he was available for the Lakers at #41, although that appears unlikely.
Georgia (Jr.), 21 y/o; 31.2 mpg, 16.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.4 apg, 48.1 FG%, 68.9 FT%, 31.1 3P%
6’9.75’’ in shoes, 239 lbs, 7’1’’ wingspan, 30.5 vertical, 15 bench reps, 11.72 lane agility, 3.41 sprint
Thompkins resembles Leuer insofar as their diverse skill sets, although Thompkins is more adept in the post whereas Leuer is the better shooter, and while both have athletic problems, Thompkins’ centers on his lack of consistent conditioning. This limits his effectiveness on offense and particularly insofar as his defensive intensity goes, although he has displayed solid rebounding and shot blocking ability when on his game. Thompkins does have a fairly refined post game and can step out all the way behind the three-point line on offense, but he regressed quite a bit as a shooter from his sophomore year. That said, big men with Thompkins’ skill set are fairly rare, and he looks like an early second round prospect, making him a possible selection at #41.
Oakland (Sr.), 22 y/o; 32.4 mpg, 17.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 1.1 apg, 54.7 FG%, 64.3 FT%, 39.1 3P%
6’11’’ in shoes, 217 lbs, 7’3.75’’ wingspan, 36.0 vertical, 12 bench reps, 11.88 lane agility, 3.35 sprint
If Benson’s motor ran harder, he’d probably find himself being picked in the late first round, and his skill set and athletic talents might land him there anyways. A solid athlete who can run the court, Benson displays a good post game, particularly some deft footwork, along with the ability to shoot the ball out to 18 feet or so. Paired with his excellent size for a big as well as his quickness, he’s a particularly potent option down on the block when he has room to operate, and can roll or pop off the pick-and-roll. Benson’s primary issues are his lack of strength, as he could stand to add 20-30 pounds onto his frame and it shows against stronger players in the paint and on both ends; and his tendency to take plays off, as his focus comes and goes throughout games. All that said, for a senior, Benson still has a decent amount of upside, and will probably get taken off the board in the early to mid-second round, making him a possibility at #41.
Fresno State (So.), 20 y/o; 30.4 mpg, 11.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.7 apg, 57.4 FG%, 54.4 FT%
6’10’’ in shoes, 253 lbs, 7’2.5’’ wingspan, 35.5 vertical, 17 bench reps, 12.43 lane agility, 3.36 sprint
Smith is a physical specimen and not much else. Although slightly undersized for the center position at 6’10’’, he makes up for it with a 7’3’’ wingspan, a solid 35.5 vertical and absolutely massive hands (11.25 inches, the largest at the combine). Past that, there’s a lot of work he has to do. His offensive game is pretty raw and he often looks lost on that end. While he can perform some rudimentary post moves – and can catch basically any entry pass with those huge mitts – there’s a long way to go before he’s serviceable at that end. His complete lack of a perimeter game, an increasingly common sight with bigs these days, further underlines his limitations on that end. While it’s true that Fresno had an utterly miserable offense, it doesn’t excuse Smith’s nonexistent skill set. Scouts have also questioned his motor, noting that he frequently takes plays off, and he has rather poor defensive fundamentals, as he’s frequently beat in straight-up situations by simple fakes or misdirection. Smith appears to be a late second round prospect, and while he wouldn’t be a bad pick due to his athleticism, it’s doubtful he contributes meaningfully out of the gate.
VCU (Sr.), 23 y/o; 31.9 mpg, 15.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.6 apg, 52.0 FG%, 71.9 FT%, 41.9 3P%
6’8’’ in shoes, 242 lbs, 7’1.25’’ wingspan, 30.5 vertical, 10 bench reps, 12.43 lane agility, 3.46 sprint
As is plainly obvious, nearly all of these prospects are flawed in some way, whether a lack of athleticism, polish, skill set, or a combination of any of those; if they didn’t have these problems, they’d be in the first round. Predicting who will be available for the Lakers when it is their turn to pick is essentially just guesswork at this juncture, as the draft nearly always comes with a surprise or two out of left field for even the most skilled draftniks. Generally, the best thing going for the Lakers is that there isn't a huge difference in the prospects between the late first and middle second round, and there could be a lot of fluctuation depending on how teams set their draft boards. For instance, one of the prospects slated for the first round bubble (Cole, Smith, Lee, Singler, Johnson) could fall on draft night due to a team reaching for a player, having drastically different draft tiers, or by simple luck. Certainly, it's wise not to raise one's expectations, but that is the position that the Lakers find themselves in.
Weak draft notwithstanding, there are some interesting prospects available in the early to middle second round, and a chance to find even one somewhat serviceable player that can contribute in a meaningful way next season. On the flip side, this is essentially searching for diamonds in the rough and a certain amount of luck accompanies pretty much any selection in the second round. Players can be more receptive to certain environments, better or worse than any predicted they could be, and so on and such forth. Mitch Kupchak has shown an aptitude for getting good value out of the second round, as he did last year with Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, who look like good picks for each of their respective draft positions, and one hopes that can continue this year as well.