In some years, the NBA Commissioner walks to the podium and there's not a shadow of a doubt whose name he's going to call. LeBron James. Derrick Rose. Blake Griffin. Kyrie Irving. John Wall. It's academic--no holding your breath, no torrid anticipation. A few All-Star teams and MVP trophies later, I'm pretty sure it's worked out for all those teams.
In other years, it's more surprising. Michael Olowokandi. Andrea Bargnani. Anthony Bennett. The results have ranged from useful scorers to complete busts and everywhere in between. However, there are some June nights that leave people scratching their heads, wondering what exactly they just witnessed.
Regardless of whether or not we saw the number one pick coming from a million miles away or were hit out of left field by an Anthony Bennett-sized comet, no one sitting in that arena truly knows whether or not that pick will pan out. In fact, that's the general sentiment behind all 60 selections in the draft. What we know versus what we don't know going into draft night is usually staggeringly unbalanced.
Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Lakers are not exempt from the mysteries of the NBA Draft.
At the number 7 slot on the board, the Lake Show is in an unenviable position. They're sitting right outside what could be considered a draft comfort zone, perhaps just one slot out of reach for a truly impactful youngster. Guys like Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Dante Exum could all be taken by the time numero siete is on the clock, with potential stars like Julius Randle and Marcus Smart gone as well. The Lakers are choosing between what I'd consider the "second tier" of rookie players, and at the end of that section, to boot.
As I mentioned, it's impossible to know exactly who the Lakers are going to select, try as we might to prognosticate. There are too many curveballs in this draft to adequately forecast a pick as low as 7. Will Joel Embiid fall from the number one pick all the way towards the middle of the lottery with news of his foot fracture? Are both Dante Exum and Noah Vonleh rocketing up the board? Is Julius Randle's health going to shunt him down to Figueroa Blvd? At this point, we have no idea. We might not have any idea until well after 8pm EST on Thursday.
So, what do we know going into the 2014 NBA Draft, the most important to the Lakers in the last decade? Let's break it down with what we can possibly know going into Thursday night.
We know that selecting Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins is absolutely out of the question
While any other player in Thursday's Draft may be within the Lakers's reach--whether it be mere percentage points of a chance--I don't believe that either of these swingmen will at all be available. Both players have question marks: Wiggins's potential lack of a true scoring acumen and Parker's lackluster defensive talent. However, with Embiid and Randle faltering in their pre-draft stock with injury concerns and the tantalizing mystery of just how good Exum is, Parker and Wiggins are sure to fill that vacuum. These two will not fall past the fourth pick, let alone the sixth. Get them out of your heads, Lakers fans.
We don't know that selecting Joel Embiid, while unlikely, is completely out of play
To be quite frank, even with foot and back injuries, as well as the ghosts of Sam Bowie, Greg Oden, Yao Ming, Brook Lopez and Bill Walton dancing around in our heads, I still do not think that Joel Embiid will slip all the way to the Lakers at 7. He's a potential franchise-changing talent, one that could benefit the Jazz at no. 5 and wouldn't get past Danny Ainge's proclivity for risk-taking at no. 6.
However, I can see reasons for teams 1-6 passing on him. For the upper crust of the draft, it's his injury concerns coupled with the immense potential of Parker, Wiggins and Exum. For the Orlando Magic, it's the desire to win a little bit more in post-Howard year 3 with more NBA-ready guys like Vonleh and Randle. For the Utah Jazz and Boston Celtics, maybe Embiid's body can't outweigh the wildcard potential of Gordon and Smart.
Again, I don't think that any of this will really happen. I'd be shocked if the Magic on down didn't take a gamble with Embiid's extremely high ceiling glowering over them. But it could happen.
We don't know that Dante Exum, while also unlikely, is completely out of play
Much like Embiid, Exum's draft stock is completely affected (positively or negatively) by his unknowns. On video and in workouts, he looks like a top-3 talent. But those clips? They're against international competition and a bunch of 17-year-old Australians.
Again, I don't believe that Exum will fall to LA. His purported ceiling is far too high for these rebuilding teams to pass on him, especially Orlando who badly needs a point guard to replace the aging Jameer Nelson and pair with Victor Oladipo.
Exum's fate on Thursday will be much like Embiid's--front offices might be scared off by what they have seen with their own eyes versus what they are projecting. And that could bode well for the Lakers.
We know that the Lakers will most likely be selecting between Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart, Doug McDermott, Zach LaVine, Julius Randle and Noah Vonleh
These gentlemen comprise the "second tier" that I spoke of with such irreverence, despite there being real "gold in them thar hills". For a draft as solid as this year's edition, even the "lesser" group of players have shots at being multiple time All-Stars.
The only two players that look like they could be out of the LA's reach would be Randle and Vonleh. The latter's stock is rapidly rising, especially with news of foot trouble from the former's camp. Vonleh looks like one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft, and with comparisons to two-time NBA champion Chris Bosh running rampant, the former Indiana big man could go as high as 3 or 4. Randle seems like he'll almost assuredly be the second big man off the board, which still may be before the 7th pick on Thursday.
There's no doubt that the Lakers will leave at least three of these players hanging, most likely passing by McDermott and LaVine. When it comes time for Commissioner Silver to convey LA's selection, I'm fairly certain it will be between Gordon and Smart.
We know the Lakers cannot trade the pick before they select a player, but could still trade that player on Draft night
Unless they trade for another first round pick this year, the CBA prevents the Lakers from trading their pick before the draft (as they've traded their picks last year and next). However, they certainly could swing a deal on Thursday night after they've chosen at number 7.
Rumors have been flying recklessly like Russ Westbrook jumpers over the past few days, and shouldn't abate for the next 48 hours. The Lakers have seldomly fully rebuilt in their history, so selecting a rookie when given the opportunity to trade for an established star would be irregular for the franchise. I'm not saying that this is the surest course of action, but I wouldn't be surprised if this happened. At all.
We know the Lakers have very little chance of trading up
Generally, in the history of human interaction, when a person trades something of value to another person, there needs to something of value traded in turn. If this doesn't happen, one of the parties is considered a fool. Or Chris Wallace.
The Lakers have nothing of value to trade up in this draft, unless you consider Kendall Marshall, Robert Sacre or the sign-and-trade rights to Kent Bazemore assets. Unless Mitch and Jimmy have something in the bag that I don't know about, then I'd say this is damn near impossible.
So what does this all mean? What do we know?
To summarize, the Lakers are not going to draft Parker or Wiggins and I'd be very surprised if they had the opportunity to take Embiid or Exum. They'll most likely be selecting between Vonleh, Randle, Gordon, Smart, McDermott and LaVine, though Vonleh is almost assuredly going to be gone by the number 7 pick--a pick which the Lakers are extremely unlikely to move up from. The Lakers are in a very good position to trade whoever their pick is for an established veteran who will help supplement a Kobe Bryant-led Lakers team as they try to rebound from last year's disaster.
Whatever the outcome, there's no doubt that this is a monumental moment in the history of a franchise that's had many. The Lakers are standing right at the cliff of their next great era, but how will it begin?
We'll see on Thursday.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino