To a certain extent, discussion over the Los Angeles Lakers' number two pick in the draft has grown rather stale. Barring an absolutely incredible workout from say D'Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay, the Lakers will pick one of Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor, whoever Minnesota doesn't deign to take. Even discussions about whether the Lakers should move up in the draft ultimately don't do much other than elicit a shrug from yours truly, as it all fits into the larger paradigm of the Lakers taking one of Towns or Okafor. Not that you shouldn't be excited about getting one of those two players -- quite to the contrary, summer league will be amazing -- but a lot of the shock and unbridled joy at not only keeping the pick but being able to get one of the draft's premier players has more or less worn off.
This is why the Lakers later selections at #27 and #34 are particularly intriguing since we have absolutely no idea what direction the Lakers will take here. The team could elect for upside in taking a younger player who could grow with the team's burgeoning young core, opt for a more experienced senior that has a more defined skill set but lacks upside, or decide a draft-and-stash selection might be appropriate for a team that might not have enough room to give meaningful playing time to a bunch of young players. That there are two picks in a fairly similar range makes it even more of a crapshoot, especially since the draft board in this area is fairly amorphous.
With that in mind, we asked the Silver Screen and Roll staff to compile their top four choices they would like the Lakers to consider at No. 27. To offer some context for these selections, we are using the board from the Draft Express mock draft, so we are proceeding under the assumption that the Lakers are picking at #27 after the previous 26 players were selected in that order. (Unfortunately, Draft Express updated their mock shortly after we finished compiling the submissions; as such, swap Christian Wood and Rashad Vaughn for the purposes of this article.) The board certainly could change between now and the draft, or as always happens, our assumptions about how the board could play out are completely off-base. That said, without some context to utilize, we are firing selections off into the ether and that doesn't make for a coherent and meaningful piece.
In any case, the staff coalesced around two players as their top choices in Rashad Vaughn and Delon Wright, both of whom helpfully fit into the previously described categories we described. The youngest player in the draft aside from Devin Booker, Vaughn is a fascinating upside selection not often available so late in the draft, even if he lacks the kind of athleticism or length you'd ideally want from a wing prospect. As for Wright, he is among the draft's oldest players at 23, but his defense and playmaking certainly look like NBA-ready skills. Past these two, however, there is a wide variance of choices among the staff, ranging from draft-and-stash choices to other seniors who could immediately step into roles next season.
Without further ado, all of the selections from our staff are listed below in order of the number of votes they received:
#5: Anthony Brown (tie)
Jameson Miller (ranked him #4): OK, hear me out. I realize it’s not typically a great idea to draft guys with average athleticism and congenital hip conditions 20 spots ahead of their ranking, but check out this counterargument: Maybe it is? When people throw around the idea of the "3-and-D guy" as some kind of panacea for spackling up any cracks in the foundations of otherwise loaded rosters, they’re essentially talking about a guy like Brown. Post-hip surgery, Brown came back over the next two years to shoot nearly 45 percent from distance while displaying strong defensive abilities, utilizing his length and technique to offset his so-so athleticism. While consistency and toughness are areas he needs to improve upon, this is exactly the type of player you wish your team had once the actual core pieces are in place.
#5: Alpha Kaba (tie)
Trevor Lane (ranked him #4): Sticking with the draft-and-stash theme, I was tempted to choose Aleksander Vezenkov and his fantastic shooting, but in the end I decided to swing for the fences with French forward Alpha Kaba. The downside is he is very, very raw and has to develop quite a bit before he could even consider coming to the NBA. However, the upside could be huge: He's 6'9" with a 7'5" wingspan, is athletic for his size, and has the ability to step out and shoot jumpers all the way to the corner three. While all that is great, the best part is that he won't turn 19 until September. You can't teach the kind of athletic ability and size that Kaba has, and at such a young age there is plenty of time for him to develop his skills before coming to the NBA. While he wouldn't be ready to put on a Lakers uniform for a few years, he could end up being worth the wait.
#4: George de Paula (tie)
Harrison Faigen (ranked him #3): He would be a project that needed some patience with which to develop, because he can't shoot very well right now and still needs to work on his turnover difficulties, but he is only 19 and there is hope that both can improve with age and experience. He has great size for a point guard, and that height should help him avoid turnovers as he learns to use it to his advantage. He also looks like the type of player that will thrive in the more wide-open transition-heavy NBA. With his size, he could probably play alongside as well as in stead of Clarkson. He does a great job using his length and strength on defense as well, and looks like he has potential to develop into a real menace on that end.
#4: Jordan Mickey (tie)
Dakota Schmidt (ranked him #3): Mickey first got my attention when I just saw him be a dominant force during the NBA Draft Combine 5-on-5 scrimmages. Throughout both of those games, Mickey was a consistent defensive force, as he was able to work on the wing as an on-ball defender or just stay inside and mix it up with the bigs. Despite being 6'7, his 7'3 frame allows him to play big, which was both apparent by those scrimmages and by him averaging 3.6 blocks per game during his sophomore season. Mickey is also developing post-game and a solid mid-range jumper, which are two skills that could allow him be effective on the NBA level. While I don't see him ever becoming a starter, the LSU product could make for a nice energy big that could help improve the Lakers' defensive woes.
#4: Aleksander Vezenkov (tie)
Harrison (ranked him #4): Noted draft expert Sam Vecenie said Vezenkov "might be the worst defensive player in the NBA if he comes over," but that warning cannot keep a shooter with a stroke and results as aesthetically pleasing as Vezenkov's off my board. The Lakers need shooting, this guy fits the bill, and it's not like he is going to be the one weak link that compromises a defensive juggernaut in LA next year. This team will probably be really bad defensively again in '15-16, but Vezenkov's floor spacing could really help a team that will need space inside for Clarkson, Bryant, Randle, and Towns/Okafor to operate inside. This may be a moot point if he withdraws from the draft, but sign me up for a 19 year old that shoots as well as this one and who could either continue to grow with the team or be a potential draft-and-stash candidate.
Dakota (ranked him #4): Despite possibly being the worst defensive player in this draft, the little I've seen from Vezenkov has been extremely appealing. The dude has one of the quickest shooting strokes that I've ever seen, which apparently is very effective. He's pretty quick for a 6'8 forward and he does a great job of cutting to the paint. Of course, Vezenkov might need a year or two of overseas or D-League experience to improve his horrid defensive play.
#3: Guillermo Hernangomez (tie)
Ben Rosales (ranked him #4): Kristaps Porzingis' frontcourt partner in Spain, Hernangomez stands out among the motley mess of first round bubble center prospects (i.e. Cliff Alexander, Dakari Johnson, etc.) because of his skill and versatility on offense. Although he largely plays below the rim, he has a nice arsenal of fakes and moves to get his buckets, as well as sufficient bulk to force the issue if he needs to. In addition, Hernangomez has been pretty adept as a roll man and flashes some range from 15 feet or so, so he has more tools than your average backup center option and might be able to turn into a starter as a result. The issue for him is that while he does a good job moving side-to-side on defense, he's not a leaper and that hurts him from a rim protection standpoint. If the Lakers' top pick is Jahlil Okafor, it also reduces the value of any center prospect they pick late in the draft, although if Karl-Anthony Towns manages to fall to No. 2, he and Hernangomez could play in the same frontcourt. As such, until we know (as much as is reasonably possible) that the Wolves aren't taking Towns, Hernangomez deserves a long look here.
Trevor (ranked him #3): If Wright and Vaughn are both off the board, and no one else the Lakers are high on has dropped, then I don't expect the 27th pick to actually suit up for the team next year. The talent level drops off quite a bit at this point in the draft, so if there aren't any sensible trades available I would expect the Lakers to draft-and-stash a European player with the 27th pick so that they don't tie up any cap space. Hernangomez is a talented center who finishes well around the basket but struggles at protecting the rim, which isn't a perfect fit for the Lakers needs right now, but his talent level is high and he could be a solid acquisition after he spends a few more years gaining experience in Europe. Skilled big men aren't easy to find, and Hernangomez could prove to be an asset down the line for the Lakers.
#3: Jonathan Holmes (tie)
Jameson (ranked him #2): Sometime over the last three-to-four years, the phrase "combo forward" stopped being an insult. While some old school scouts might still chafe at a lack of positional definition and pose the tired question, "Is he a big or a wing?", it seems more folks are catching on to the idea that versatility might be the single most important attribute a non-star can possess. Mind you, Holmes has definitely played much better as a power forward, and his 6’9", 240 pound body (with a nearly seven-foot wingspan) certainly suggests he’ll hold up well against NBA 4’s, but he also displayed the ability to sop up some minutes at small forward. While his perimeter shooting numbers weren’t outstanding, he demonstrated decent fundamentals on his shot, which suggests that a consistent shooter lurks somewhere within his lanky frame. He also seemed to excel as part of team defensive concept, showing a knack for corralling guards in the pick-and-roll and quickly recovering to his man. If he continues to improve his shooting and his P & R defense holds up at the next level, he’ll have a long NBA career.
#3: Terry Rozier (tie)
Ben (ranked him #2): Rozier has a lot of Wright's strengths on defense, trading some height for significantly more vertical hops, but he's a long way from equaling Wright on the other end of the floor. Considering that Rozier is almost two full years younger than Wright, that's certainly not a death knell to his prospects, and that superior athleticism could possibly give Terry a dimension in the more wide-open NBA game that Wright wouldn't be able to equal. The league has never been friendlier to combo guards like Rozier that look to score rather than distribute and he offers some upside and talent that is rather sparse at No. 27. At the moment, however, Rozier has nothing resembling Wright's court vision and floor sense and also really has to improve his shooting to keep NBA defenders honest when he drives.
#2: Delon Wright
Ben (ranked him #1): I've gone back and forth on Wright, loving how he handled the lead role in a pro-style system at Utah but disdaining his uneven shooting, age for his class, and so-so athleticism. The latter flaws appear to paint Wright as ultimately a backup and that still might be his ceiling, especially if his shooting isn't up to par in the pros. Wright's strength is his defense. In straight-up defense against opposing players in isolation, Wright only allowed .46 PPP and forced a turnover 27 percent of the time. That's not good or even great. Insanely and stupidly dominant would be more like it, and when you look at Wright's size and wingspan as a point guard as well as his solid side-to-side quickness, it doesn't feel like a fluke. This, combined with Wright's playmaking ability, make him the best choice available at No. 27. If his shooting improvement in his senior year does manage to translate to the pros, the Lakers could have hell of a player on their hands.
Harrison (ranked him #2): Probably the most polished point guard left in this range, which makes sense because he is a senior. Kept his turnovers relatively low, and if his defense can translate to the pros, he could be a huge aid in helping the Lakers keep out of the bottom-five in the league again, which is honestly probably the team's ceiling the way things look right now. If the Lakers go with a big with their early pick (as expected), then Wright could be a great option to develop behind and soak minutes for Jordan Clarkson.
Trevor (ranked him #2): If the Lakers decide to go with a guy that can step in and contribute immediately there will be few better options than Delon Wright. At 23 he is at the older end of draft spectrum; for comparison he is actually a month and a half older than Jordan Clarkson, who dropped to 46 last year partly due to his age. However, at 6'5" Wright would be a near-perfect backcourt partner for Clarkson, as both have the ability to mark either guard on defense and are great at slashing to the basket. While he does need to work on his shaky jumper, the rest of his game would be a welcome addition to the Lakers back court.
Jameson (ranked him #3): In scouting Wright, the words "herky jerky" get thrown around so much, they lose what little meaning they had -- though to be fair, they do accurately describe his movements on the court and his unique ability to change direction rapidly while keeping defenders off balance. While his perimeter shooting is not great (not just from a numbers standpoint -- he looks physically uncomfortable doing it), his height and court vision allow him to make plays that are impressive at any level. Where Wright really separates himself is on the defensive end, where his quickness, aggression and anticipation make him a nightmare for opposing guards to score against. His slender frame could use some added strength, though despite being approximately 100 years old, there’s still plenty of time to address that in the weight room.
Dakota (ranked him #3): Every time that I watch tape of Wright, I can get the sense that he can be a longer version of Patrick Beverley. Wright is an absolutely relentless defender and he has the drive to stick on an opponent, even when he has to move through on or off-ball screens. Wright was able to utilize his long frame to be one of the finest thieves in the college game, averaging 2.1 steals per game. While he'll probably never be a perimeter threat, Wright's defensive ability combined with his work as a reliable facilitator (2.55 Ast/TO ratio) could make him into a pretty dominant backup PG for years to come.
#1: Rashad Vaughn
Ben (ranked him #3): So many of Vaughn's flaws can be partly explained away by the crutch of his age that you have to wonder at a certain point whether it can truly bear the weight. The most paramount flaw is that Vaughn resembles Nick Young quite a bit on offense, shooting freely and often with little to no shame at any point in the shot clock, except Vaughn doesn't have the benefit of excellent size and hops for a wing prospect. Now, Vaughn's still a respectable athlete, but he lacks upper tier explosiveness and this causes him to settle quite a bit off the bounce for long jumpers. Courtesy of his natural scoring ability, Vaughn was able to pass muster at the college level in this manner, ranking as one of the nation's best freshman scorers, although he's going to be far more circumspect about his shot selection and getting the ball to his teammates in the pros. All this said, however, Vaughn's still 18, over three years younger than Wright. Even if it doesn't explain away everything and he doesn't have the athleticism to get that excited about his upside, it helps to explain an awful lot.
Harrison (ranked him #1): Vaughn took a ton of criticism for his shot selection this year, and much of it justified, but in the pros when he will be reigned in a bit more by virtue of having more talented teammates to force him to share the ball, I do have some hope that he could develop into an effective two-way shooting guard. He will still be 18-years old when the draft rolls around, with plenty of time to develop. He has good size for his position, and while he has frequently been compared to Nick Young, from what I have seen gives far better effort on defense than Young does. According to DraftExpress, he also averaged 1.02 points per play coming off of screens, and while he may need to quicken his release to maintain this level of efficiency in the league, it does speak to his ability to score outside of the repeated isolations. If not for his meniscus tear, I am not sure he would have dropped this far based solely on his tape.
Trevor (ranked him #1): With the 27th pick the Lakers should be looking to either find a player that can step in and contribute immediately or swing for the fences and bet on potential. Vaughn would satisfy the latter of those two requirements, as he is still fairly raw, but that's to be expected for one of the youngest players in the draft (he won't turn 19 until August). Vaughn's natural scoring and shooting ability may eventually pay off big time as long as the team is patient in developing him. While there are some similarities between him and Nick Young, Vaughn has the potential to be a better defender and plays with an intensity that Swaggy P doesn't possess. While it is a tough call, with a pick so late in the first round the Lakers can afford to gamble a bit, and as such Rashad Vaughn is the guy I would go with.
Jameson (ranked him #1): The Nick Young comparisons here are fair to a degree, as plenty of Vaughn’s long range attempts seemed to be of the classic "no no no no…yes!" variety, and his ability to rise up for a jumper and silkily balance himself midair certainly recalls images of the former Trojan. Vaughn also exhibits supreme confidence (sometimes to a fault) and appears to have real NBA range in spite of so-so percentages, not to mention the ability to cancel out good defense with superior elevation on his jumper. He has good size for a guard, but isn’t quite big or long enough to spend much time at the three spot, which, in today’s increasingly positionless league, does limit his versatility. However, his defensive abilities in the backcourt offer some intrigue, as he has good lateral quickness and strength, but he’ll need to be more consistent on that end to be considered a true difference maker.
Dakota (ranked him #1): As most of my colleagues have already stated, Rashad Vaughn is similar to Nick Young in the way that they're not afraid hoist up a shot whenever they desire. He has a lot of moments where he seems to forget that he's playing on a team that features four other teammates. However, the young talent has a pretty solid shooting stroke that already stretches out to the NBA three-point line. His 56 percent true shooting percentage is also impressive when you consider the flaws that he has. While it may take a year or two in the D-League to work those kinks out, it may be worth it as he has the potential to be a valuable bench scorer for the Lakers.
For the staff's individual selections, observe the following table:
|Ben Rosales||Harrison Faigen||Trevor Lane||Jameson Miller||Dakota Schmidt|
|1||Delon Wright||Rashad Vaughn||Rashad Vaughn||Rashad Vaughn||Rashad Vaughn|
|2||Terry Rozier||Delon Wright||Delon Wright||Jonathan Holmes||Delon Wright|
|3||Rashad Vaughn||George de Paula||Guillermo Hernangomez||Delon Wright||Jordan Mickey|
|4||Guillermo Hernangomez||Aleksander Vezenkov||Alpha Kaba||Anthony Brown||Aleksander Vezenkov|