The success of the Los Angeles Lakers’ scouting staff in finding gems in the late first and early second rounds has made discussions of picks in this range far more interesting for LA’s rebuilding fortunes than in past years, even with news of Ryan West possibly decamping to the Clippers to join his father.
This year offers a new wrinkle into the mix of having the shape of a future core come more clearly into focus with Lonzo Ball as the likely top choice to pair with D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram, thus also offering clarity on how the team can best build around this trio.
For the following questions, the Silver Screen and Roll staffed have been asked for their top choices for the Houston pick, using the mock draft at Draft Express as a basis. This isn’t necessarily an endorsement of the accuracy of the Draft Express board (insofar as these things can ever be accurate) but it is useful as a consistency measure.
Assuming the board of the Draft Express mock draft, who would be your first choice with the Houston pick?
Chinmay Vaidya: My first choice for the pick at 28 would be the Tyler Lydon of Syracuse (ironically this is the guy Draft Express has the Lakers taking). At 6-10, 225 lbs., Lydon has great NBA size and can stretch the floor at the power forward position. Lydon hit nearly 40 percent of his threes and college and his defensive skills are solid.
The Lakers would be able to use Lydon immediately to space the floor on the second unit. Due to Syracuse's underwhelming season, Lydon's stock took more of a hit than it should have and the Lakers have a chance to grab him late in the first round. LA needs shooting at all levels and Lydon provides that.
Craig DePriester: Lydon is I think the right choice here, assuming the other players are off the board. The Lakers could use some depth at small forward, particularly someone who projects as a multi-tool player on offense. Lydon can help the Lakers space the floor (39% from three), is a good cutter off the ball, and will readily move the ball around in Walton’s offense. Although he has room to fill out at 6’10” and 225 pounds, he’s also been deceptively productive on defense, averaging nearly 3 combined steals / blocks. He’s not the most athletic player at his position and is a bit of a gamble in terms of long-term upside, his shooting ability should translate immediately.
Gary Kester: Derrick White from Colorado. At 23-years old, he's certainly an "old" prospect, but I think he can make an impact very early on. He has the skill set and size to play either guard position, which won't really be a need if the Lakers draft Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick, but having White on board would allow them to really shop Jordan Clarkson on the trade market. I like to think that at least a few teams would be willing to give up a fairly enticing return for him, hopefully in the form of another wing player or at least someone that is a better roster fit.
Ben Rosales: Jordan Bell. This mock unfortunately pushes Michigan’s D.J. Wilson off the Lakers’ board but given these constraints, I would go with one of the most interesting defensive prospects in the draft who has as ideal of a defensive profile for the modern game you can get other than size. Bell is supremely quick and athletic, easily possessing the speed (if not the ability quite yet due to defensive discipline issues) to stick with guards on switches while defending the rim and rebounding. He even offers a nice nod toward Luke Walton’s motion offense by being a capable short roll passer, although capitalizing on the occasional signs of mid-range utility would allow him to take a more significant step forward.
Who would be your second choice?
Chinmay: My second choice for the pick would be Bell. He wasn't exactly a big factor during the regular season, but really emerged in the NCAA Tournament when Ducks starter Chris Boucher went down. Bell averaged 12.6 points, 13.2 rebounds and 6.8 blocks per game during Oregon's Final Four run. He burst into the spotlight against No. 1 Kansas in the Elite Eight with 11 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks. Bell can protect the rim and finish in transition. He's not a floor spacer, but he's a high-energy guy who can provide a spark.
Craig: Frank Jackson. Although it might be a bit of a reach in the first round, former McDonald’s All-Americans coming from loaded college programs can blossom when given additional room to spread their wings. Jackson has the potential to be a prototypical SG with his 6’8” wing span and freakish athleticism. Although his defensive intensity waxed and waned at Duke, he has the toolkit to be a credible defender at the NBA level. On offense, he’s a solid slasher than can finish around the basket, but also shot 39% from 3 last season. He’s limited as a playmaker, but that shouldn’t be a problem next to Lonzo in purple and gold.
Gary: Bell. The Lakers need defenders in the worst way and Bell would provide them with a big man that is an excellent athlete with defensive versatility. Bell would allow the Lakers to switch a lot of things defensively when he's on the floor and his athleticism could help him be an effective shot blocker, as well as a great lob target on the other end of the floor. Although the Lakers already have a ton of bigs, Bell's defensive prowess would still bring value to the roster.
Ben: Derrick White. This has to be coupled with a Clarkson trade to make much sense from a rotation standpoint (and an upcoming piece will explore that notion), but White has been criminally undervalued on most boards for a player who excelled in so many things during his one year at Colorado.
Although he lacks ideal explosion, White is an excellent shooter at every level, can run an offense while still being capable of working off ball, and even had some defensive chops he showed at both guard positions thanks to his instincts and good feet. As a player who can work off of and set up Russell and Ball, he’s about as ideal of a fit as you could find in the draft.
Who would be your third choice?
Chinmay: My third choice would be Caleb Swanigan out of Purdue. Swanigan was an absolute beast in college. He scored 18.5 points per game and pulled in 12.5 rebounds per game and dominated opposing big men in the paint. Swanigan also connected on 44 percent of his threes, showing his ability to space the floor. He's slightly undersized for the center position and doesn't have the rim protection ability the Lakers would want at the position, but he could do serious damage if he played with another floor-spacing big.
Craig: Bell. I love his unbelievable athleticism, shot-blocking ability, and ability to play small ball 5 at the next level. He averaged 3.6 (!!) combined blocks / steals last seasons and might have had the most impressive NCAA tourney of just about anyone. He’s no shooter, but he shot nearly 70% from the free throw line and has room to improve. He also provides Julius Randle insurance in case Randle’s price tag is too high or he is used as trade bait for Paul George.
Gary: This one is probably a reach, but Wesley Iwundu is intriguing to me and the cupboard will be extremely bare for wing players at this point of the draft. He is currently 55th in the Draft Express mock draft and there are certainly some considerable kinks to iron out in his game, but the Lakers need another wing player.
Obviously if the Lakers draft Josh Jackson we can cross Iwundu off the list, but I still think Ball is their guy on draft night. At 6'7" with a 7'1" wingspan, Iwundu has solid size out on the wing and he's a capable shooter from the perimeter. With some work, he could be a three-and-D guy the Lakers desperately need behind Brandon Ingram at small forward.
Ben: Jonah Bolden. I gave thought to Sindarius Thornwell here, one of the few options available to the Lakers in this range who could address wing defense while still bringing some offensive upside depending on how much of his senior year numbers translate, but there has been growing buzz about Bolden as a first round option among draftniks as of late.
Although you wonder how much of Bolden’s numbers from the Adriatic League are transferable to the NBA, he offers a rare switching defense and shooting package in the frontcourt that very few prospects in this draft can attest to providing. Bolden pairs this with some ball skills and court vision, making him an especially interesting option in what will be a super high octane offense with Ball in the fold, and one wonders whether that UCLA connection will be borne out on draft night.
Again, assuming the Draft Express mock, who would be the player that was taken before the Houston pick you wished dropped to the Lakers instead? How would you rank this player as versus your three other choices?
Chinmay: My first thought with this question was Luke Kennard, but Draft Express has him going at No. 11 and it's unrealistic that he will fall. Semi Ojeleye would be the pick for me and he'd rank above my other three choices.
Ojeleye is the perfect hybrid forward who is versatile on both ends of the floor. He can play either forward position and has the offensive skills to score at every level. Defensively, he can keep up with faster forwards and hold his own against bigger ones. Ojeleye has a good blend of quickness and strength and can be an immediate impact player on the Lakers if he falls a few spots.
Craig: Ojeleye, who went at 25. He would be absolutely perfect as a Laker, with the ability to play both the 3 and the 4. He rebounds, he shot 42% on threes, and he can leap out of the gym as an elite all-around athlete. At SMU, he did a bit of everything, stretching the floor and showing he can create his own shot. He was also elite at getting to the free throw line, averaging nearly seven attempts per game at the collegiate level. Although not much of a playmaker, he’d be a real steal if the fell to the Lakers.
Gary: Even though he is coming off a major injury, I have a hard time seeing OG Anunoby fall too far in this draft. Nevertheless, Draft Express has him slipping all the way to Brooklyn at 22. If he falls that far, then his medicals are probably pretty ugly, but I'm a believer in the Lakers swinging for the fences with this pick if they can.
Anunoby has multiple physical traits that you just can't teach. He's still relatively raw, but the positional versatility he can offer defensively combined with his potential 3-point shooting and athletic ability would make for a worthy gamble, even if his medicals don't check out. If by some divine miracle Anunoby is on the board at 28, the Lakers have to take him. He would be the top choice for me in comparison to the other three prospects.
Now, if we are talking someone that has a more realistic chance of being there for the Lakers at 28, Ojeleye is another prospect I like. I'm a little skeptical that he can consistently guard NBA wings, but he's a versatile player that can at least ease the burden off of Ingram a little bit and hopefully eat up some of Deng's minutes at the three.
Ojeleye also shot 42.4 percent from three last year on 4.9 attempts per game. The Lakers could certainly use the shooting and floor spacing. I would put Ojeleye slightly behind White, but I could certainly understand why people would have him higher on their boards.
Ben: I will echo Gary above in that Anunoby would be a coup for the Lakers, bringing a multi-positional defender into the mix who would drastically lift the burden off Russell and Ball to check top perimeter scorers and pair with Ingram on the wing as a super long and disruptive defensive pairing. But the notion of him falling all the way to the Houston pick seems a bit far-fetched, likely requiring a trade to move up.
In lieu of this, I’d go with D.J. Wilson, who is one of the other primary options in the draft past Bolden offering a switching defense, rim protection, and shooting combination in the frontcourt. Certainly a late bloomer and not on the radar of most draftniks until the tournament, Wilson certainly possesses all the tools a modern big requires, pairing excellent length with good feet and a frame that should allow him to play both the four and the five as he fills out. He addresses basically every need the Lakers have in the frontcourt in one package presuming he pans out.
Who do you think the Lakers should go with? Let us know in the comments below!