As the NBA regular season starts winding down, the Los Angeles Lakers will shift their attention to what awaits them in the summer, including free agency, where they’re hoping to make a splash, and the 2018 NBA draft.
While the Lakers don’t have their own first round pick after giving it up in the now infamous 2012 Steve Nash trade, they managed to acquire the Cavaliers’ first-rounder at the trade deadline in the package deal that brought Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye to Los Angeles.
The pick is top-three protected, but even if the Cavs lost every game for the rest of the season, they’d still finish with a winning record and the Lakers would still get their pick. That’s the good news. The bad news is the Cavs won’t stop winning.
In their last three games, the Cavs have beaten the Chicago Bulls, the Milwaukee Bucks and the No. 1 seed Toronto Raptors. Only five of their 11 remaining games will be against teams currently seeded for a playoff spot and with Kevin Love back in the starting lineup, there’s a good chance they finish the season strong.
Regardless, the Lakers will end up with a pick in mid-20s, an area they have had great success with in recent years, drafting players like Larry Nance Jr. and Kyle Kuzma.
Here’s who the experts around the association have them picking this year:
Bleacher Report: Aaron Holiday, UCLA
ESPN: Aaron Holiday, UCLA
SB Nation: Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State
Sports Illustrated: Mitchell Robinson, Chalmette HS
The most popular name in these mock drafts is UCLA’s Aaron Holiday, younger brother of Jrue and Justin Holiday, and former teammate of Lonzo Ball. The 21-year-old point guard just ended his junior season with the Bruins, his most successful individual season to date, averaging 20.3 points, 5.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game.
A crafty scorer, Holiday would provide a nice spark off the bench for the Lakers and could see big minutes right away in the likely event Isaiah Thomas walks this summer. He also has the potential to be a capable defender at the next level with his length at the point guard position.
Holiday has not declared for the draft yet, but it would be shocking to see him return to UCLA for his senior year. Holiday declared for the draft last year, but ultimately decided to withdraw his name and it ended up being the right move for him.
Other names to appear in the most recent mock drafts include 6’7 forward Keita Bates-Diop, who had a breakout season in his redshirt junior year with the Ohio State Buckeyes, and Mitchell Robinson, an exciting but unproven 19-year-old prospect that decided to skip out on college to pursue his NBA dreams.
Keep it locked in here for updates as draft season quickly approaches.