While 16 teams are just getting their postseason started, 14 other teams are looking ahead to the 2018 NBA draft, including the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers won’t have their own pick because of the ill-fated 2012 Steve Nash trade, but they will have the Cleveland Cavaliers’ pick, which is now locked in at No. 25.
Over the past few years, the Lakers have had great success picking in the mid-to-late 20s with picks like Larry Nance Jr. in 2015 and Kyle Kuzma just last year. Will the next draft night steal be available when Los Angeles is on the clock on June 21?
Let’s take a look at what the experts are saying in our latest mock draft roundup:
SB Nation: Jacob Evans, SG/SF, Cincinatti
ESPN: De’Antony Melton, PG/SG, USC
Bleacher Report: De’Anthony Melton, PG/SG, USC
Sports Illustrated: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland
Yahoo Sports: Jontay Porter, PF/C, Missouri
In our last mock draft roundup, the Lakers were linked to UCLA star Aaron Holiday, but at the time the Cavaliers’ pick was projected to be in the low-20s. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has Holiday going as high as No. 17 overall, so it’s looking less likely he’ll be on the board when the Lakers pick.
Luckily, there are expected to be a number of intriguing point guard prospects late in the draft, including controversial USC star De’Anthony Metlon.
After a promising freshman year with the Trojans, Melton was ruled ineligible by USC in December because of his alleged involvement in the ongoing FBI probe of bribery and corruption throughout NCAA basketball. Two months later, Melton announced his decision to withdraw from USC and focus on preparing his game for the 2018 NBA draft.
I would like to announce pic.twitter.com/H2EDvQyZfg— DeanthonyMelton (@DeAnthonyMelton) February 21, 2018
A 6’3 guard with a 6’8 wingspan, Melton’s defensive versatility alone will earn him a spot on an NBA roster. In his freshman year at USC, Melton averaged 2.8 steals, 1.5 blocks, 7 rebounds and 5.1 assists per 40 minutes, according to sports-reference.com.
If even a fraction of that translates to the NBA, he will have a good chance of carving out a role as a defensive specialist. However, if he wants to take his game to the next level, he has to improve as a scorer, starting with his jump shot.
Melton shot just 28.4 percent from behind the arc on 74 attempts in his freshman year with the Trojans and when you look at the mechanics of his shot, it’s not hard to understand why. But there’s reason to be optimistic about Melton’s potential as a shooter, highlighted by this video of him shooting courtesy of ESPN’s Mike Schmitz.
Spent the afternoon watching De’Anthony Melton workout here in Atlanta. Interview, workout footage, and article coming soon on ESPN. pic.twitter.com/DaLWI7SNCd— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) March 26, 2018
If Melton shows flashes of being a two-way playmaker in his pre-draft workouts, expect the Lakers to take a hard look at him with the No. 25 pick.
With Isaiah Thomas’ future up in the air and Lonzo Ball’s health a question heading into his sophomore season, the Lakers could do worse than to bolster their backcourt with a 20-year-old point guard with defensive upside.
Stay up to date with all of the latest Lakers news by giving us a follow on Twitter at @LakersSBN.