The Los Angeles Lakers have already worked out James Palmer of Nebraska and Milik Yarbrough of Illinois State, and will take a look at Zach Hankins of Xavier in the weeks before the 2019 NBA Draft, according to Bryan Kalbrosky of the USA Today Sports Media Group.
Palmer is ranked by ESPN as the 97th-best prospect in the draft, while Yarbrough and Hankins are not ranked among the top 100 players in the network’s rankings of draft prospects. That means that these are likely more players the Lakers are looking at for undrafted free agency, which has been the case for the majority of their workouts that we know about so far.
Kalbrosky offered more details on the three players in his post — including that Yarbrough and Palmer reportedly worked out against one another — but the bigger news here, with all due respect to these three players, is not that they worked out. It’s that the Lakers are continuing to operate like an organization that either already knows who they want to take with their pick, isn’t planning on having a pick, or is shutting the media out of the process almost entirely.
That last scenario is the most unlikely, as the team did publicly work out Jarrett Culver, which would seem to indicate that they are going to make it known when they look at players that are candidates for the No. 4 overall pick, as is normal.
The Lakers reportedly “really liked” what they saw from Culver, which could make him one of the favorites for the first scenario, in which the Lakers already know who they’re picking. That same status could also apply to Darius Garland, whom the Lakers are rumored to have promised to select if he fell to them, and who has also been connected to the team in various other ways.
But perhaps the most intriguing scenario is the second one, in which the Lakers are proceeding as if they don’t have a pick. Yes, they currently have the No. 4 overall choice in the draft, but we all know they’re engaged with the New Orleans Pelicans on a possible trade for Anthony Davis, and that Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin is operating as if he wants to get a deal done before the draft so he can select any and all picks he acquires himself.
It’s probably too far of a leap to think a deal has already been reached, but the Lakers’ publicly behaving like a team that doesn’t have a high pick — or isn’t planning on using it — will certainly perk ears up around the league, and might suggest they’re confident that the main way they’re going to use their pick is to acquire talent through a trade. It’s possible they still select someone, of course, but all signs are pointing towards this choice being treated more as a trade asset than as a possible addition to the young core.
But anyway, maybe one of these guys — or any of the several other undrafted free agency candidates the Lakers have worked out — can help the team. The organization has certainly shown an eye for talent later in the draft, and even outside of it. Players like this being the bulk of the workouts, though, seems to indicate that there are other factors at play other than looking for the best player to take fourth overall as the draft approaches.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. An updating list of every player the Lakers have worked out so far can be found here. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.