The Los Angeles Lakers brought in six potential draft prospects to their practice facility on Monday as they continue their preparations for the 2018 NBA Draft.
According to Ohio State forward Keita Bates-Diop and Nevada guard Caleb Martin, there was one thing the team was very clearly evaluating them on from the moment they got the the UCLA Health Training Center.
“They put a real big emphasis on defense. That’s something that they preached from the first words they said when they brought us together. Defense, moving the ball, that type of stuff,” Bates-Diop said. “And shooting, obviously.”
Martin said the Lakers put the prospects through one-on-one drills to measure their defense, as well as forcing the six players to play three-on-three. Martin said the Lakers did the latter in an effort to see how the players defended when having to cover more ground due to there being fewer players on the floor, as well as to see how quickly they could make decisions on ball screens.
“(Defense is) one thing that they keyed on right when we got in the door. We all got to this level because we know we can put the ball through the hoop, but there is another thing that separates yourself and that’s playing defense,” Martin said.
The Lakers made huge progress on defense last year, jumping from last in the league in defensive efficiency during the 2016-17 campaign to 12th during the 2017-18 one.
Given the Lakers’ goal of getting back into postseason contention next season — regardelss of if they add a superstar like LeBron James or Paul George this summer — it makes sense that they would be looking for young players that can contribute right away.
As Martin noted, the best way for rookies to do that is on the defensive side of the ball, and it appears that whoever the Lakers pick with their 25th and 47th selections will likely be a player the team feels can at the very least be competent defensively.