The 2020 NBA Draft is quickly approaching, and it’s still not clear what the Los Angeles Lakers will do with the 28th pick on Nov. 18. Will they try to take a player who they think can help them defend their title? Or use the player they select to try and sweeten a trade for more immediate help?
We likely won’t know the answer to those questions for a few more weeks, but one thing that has become increasingly obvious is that if the Lakers do decide to keep their pick, they will likely select a guard. With Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope expected to hit free agency — and Avery Bradley having a player option that would allow him to do the same — the Lakers might need some backcourt reinforcements, which may be why basically every mock draft available projects them as taking a guard.
But because teams haven’t really been able to do anything but interview players at this point, we have a lot less news about who the Lakers might like — or even who they’re looking at — than we would in a normal year in which the draft is just weeks away. But one player we do know they interviewed? TCU guard Desmond Bane, who told Trevor Lane of Lakers Nation that he not only talked to the team, but felt like it was a good chat:
“It went really well. I got a really good feel from the call, and I feel like there was mutual interest in the call. Unfortunately Rob (Pelinka) and Frank (Vogel) were in the middle of practice so I didn’t get to meet with them, but Mr. Buss (likely Assistant GM and Director of Scouting Jesse Buss) told me that Rob was sending his best regards and that he’s watched a lot of my tape and film, so you know that’s a good thing.
“And you know, playing alongside (players) like LeBron and AD, who obviously have won championships and are striving to win more would be a good way to start my career.”
Now, to illustrate that this doesn’t necessarily mean anything, Bane said that he’s talked to 29 of the 30 NBA teams, with an interview with the 30th scheduled for next week. That means that the Lakers have probably talked to a lot of other players who just haven’t let it be known publicly.
But with that noted, Bane actually projects to be a great fit, and might be a bit of a steal, should he fall to the Lakers. He said he’s not paying attention to mock drafts, but a brief perusal of them would tell you that he seems to be a player whose stock is on the rise. ESPN ranked him as the 41st player in the 2020 class, but our own Ricky O’Donnell projected Bane to go with the 20th pick in his initial, post-lottery SB Nation mock draft, and he explained why that night:
Bane flew under the radar as a senior at TCU, but he was quietly one of the better two-way wings in the country. A dynamic shooter off the catch, Bane hit 44 percent of almost 200 attempts from deep this past year. He’s also a more skilled finisher than the other top shooters in this class, able to absorb contact in the paint and lay the ball in with either hand. Defensively, Bane should be more advanced early in his career than many of his peers with a combination of high-IQ, strength, and discipline. Bane’s draft hype hasn’t matched his production to this point, but some smart team should scoop him up in the first round.
Ricky acknowledged to me in a Slack message this morning that Bane probably has the biggest gap in evaluation between what “draft twitter” thinks of him and how front offices actually view him, but it seems that teams are coming around. The always-excellent Sam Vecenie of The Athletic projects Bane going with the 21st pick in the draft, and it’s because his stock has been rising for a while:
This is a bit of a spike for Bane up to No. 21. Sources around the league have begun noting that they’d be surprised if he got out of the first round right now, simply because almost every team at the bottom of the first round could make a reasonable case for selecting him. Miami really values shooting and is said to be a fan. Denver could use another wing shooter. Utah could use another wing shooter and two-way player. Milwaukee could certainly use another reliable shot-maker next to Giannis. Boston tends to value these big, strong wings with size and shooting ability, and they have two picks in this range. The Lakers will continue to work to surround LeBron James and Anthony Davis with shooters going forward. And of course, no team could use shooting more than Philadelphia, who desperately needs to surround Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid with more floor-spacing.
In his four years at TCU, Bane made 43.3 percent of his near-600 3-point attempts. He also improved a lot this year as an option with the ball in his hands. The big concern here is that he’s 6-foot-6 with a negative wingspan that hinders him when contesting shooters both on-ball and when closing out. However, he has good strength and knows where to be defensively. He should turn into a solid role-playing floor-spacer at the next level, and I have a late first-round grade on him. He’s been a riser throughout the pre-draft process for a lot of the reasons mentioned above. He’s gone into interviews and has been impressive with his understanding of how he’s going to operate at the next level. The name Joe Harris has come up a lot from front offices.
And as if all the reasons above weren’t enough for the Lakers to fall in love with Bane and how he might help their team, he also said in his interview with Lakers Nation that he grew up a fan of the purple and gold, and was even cheering the team on in the Finals while he prepared for the draft in Miami.
The possibility of trying to help the team chase another title clearly appealed to him:
“It’s exciting. It’s encouraging. I’ll be able to learn from guys who have done what all of us dream to do. First your dream is to play in the NBA, and then once you get there your dream is to win a championship. So being able to play alongside guys that have done that and are looking to do that in the following year screams excitement to me.”
Now, given Bane’s status as one of the winners of the pre-draft process, he may not last all the way until the Lakers’ pick, so it’s probably worth tempering all of our excitement for how he could fit. But if you want to start diving in to what he’d bring, Spencer Pearlman of The Stepien did an excellent and in-depth scouting report on what Bane brings to the table.
Best non-PG passer in the draft, Desmond Bane, example clip number _______ (I lost count).— Spencer (@SKPearlman) October 22, 2020
Live action/one-handed, cross-court, perfectly accurate, quick read pass.
You'd be hard pressed to find a better example of quick processing on the fly than this. pic.twitter.com/bQ0uxdDiT1
Will he actually get to join Talen Horton-Tucker in a developmental backcourt that grew up rooting for the team they currently play for? We’ll just have to wait a few more weeks to see, but given how much the Lakers seem to value guys who like being a Laker, it certainly can’t hurt his case should he fall to them.