With the Lakers jumping all the way up to the fourth slot in the 2019 NBA Draft lottery, their caliber of options has increased considerably, and they’re currently in the throes of the pre-draft scouting and evaluation process.
One of the high-caliber prospects strongly linked to the Lakers has been Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland, who most mock drafts have projected to be bound for L.A., with Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated being the latest to report that the Lakers are thought to be leaning towards Garland (emphasis mine):
This pick is the draft’s first big inflection point, given that it’s most valuable to the Lakers as a trade chip. No. 4 would figure to be a major piece of any Anthony Davis trade package, and there’s heavy impetus for Rob Pelinka and his front office to accelerate the team’s winning timeframe. They could also use this spot to move down in the draft, aggregating more talent and/or picks and offering other teams a chance to move in front of the pack to select Garland or Jarrett Culver. Garland still isn’t fully healthy after tearing his meniscus in the fall, but is clearly one of the more promising shot creators in the draft and fits well next to Lonzo Ball. If L.A. keeps this pick, Garland is thought by many around the league to be their preference.
But while Garland’s talent is undeniable, he also missed the majority of his one-and-done season at Vanderbilt after suffering a meniscus injury to his left knee during the team’s fourth game of the season.
The Lakers’ medical staff will surely be thoroughly evaluating every realistic draft prospect, but coming off of a season-ending injury and surgery will always shine a brighter spotlight into a player’s past, present and future health — particularly at the top of the draft where the stakes are even higher.
To give you a better understanding of the Lakers’ likely medical evaluation process of Garland — I only ventured into the musculoskeletal realm since that’s my scope of practice — and his specific injury, I made the following video:
To sum up how all this will probably go: The Lakers’ will take all the information from Garland’s injury history, type of meniscus surgery, rehab, current progress and overall health and mold that into a calculation of risk/reward. The team will weigh any yellow or red flags that may come up — such as the potential for increased wear on his knee cartilage in the long-term — against the scouting department’s judgement of his basketball acumen. Only time will tell if they make the right or wrong call.
Dr. Rajpal Brar has a doctorate in physical therapy from Northern Arizona University, and runs his own sports medicine and performance business, 3CB Performance, in West LA and Valencia, CA. He also works at a hospital — giving him experience with patients in the immediate healthcare setting and neurological patients (post stroke, post brain injury) — and has been practicing for 1.5 years. Brar is additionally training at UCLA’s mindful awareness research center (MARC), and analyzes the Lakers from a medical perspective for Silver Screen and Roll.