The Los Angeles Lakers brain trust is out in full force at the 2021 NBA Draft Combine, with general manager Rob Pelinka, head coach Frank Vogel, Joey and Jesse Buss, and director of pro personnel Nick Mazzella all sighted in the stands in Chicago (you can see them in the center of the photo and in the left corner):
That group has surely been busy watching prospects, gathering intel and conducting interviews, and thanks to the various media members in attendance, we know at least three players that they’ve sat down with so far:
Corey Kispert of Gonzaga says he's interviewed with about a dozen teams including the Lakers, Clippers and Thunder. He did not mention the Wizards, who need a player like him and will be picking in his range.— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) June 24, 2021
Virginia wing Trey Murphy III said he has interviewed with the Knicks, OKC, Sacramento, Lakers, 76ers, Warriors, Grizzlies, and Suns so far. He went No. 23 in @Sam_Vecenie's latest mock draft.— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) June 24, 2021
Neemias Queta said he's talked to the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, and Portland Trail Blazers at the NBA combine.— Ben Anderson (@BensHoops) June 25, 2021
Queta is likely just due diligence for the team, either for undrafted free agency for their summer league roster, as a potential name for their G League team in South Bay, or if they buy a pick in the second round again. Queta is mocked 55th by Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, and not on the board by Jonathan Givony of ESPN.
Kispert, though, is certainly an interesting name for a team lacking in the shooting department. Here is a quick scouting report from our own Ricky O’Donnell’s mock draft, in which Kispert is projected to go 20th to the Atlanta Hawks.
Kispert saw his draft stock explode in his senior season playing for a powerhouse Gonzaga team that fell one game short of an undefeated season. The 6’7 wing is arguably the best shooter in this draft class, hitting better than 43 percent of his threes on high volume for the second straight season. Kispert isn’t going to create off the dribble and will have to prove himself defensively, but it’s easy to envision him slotting into a bench shooter role from day one.
However, as the Lakers learned the hard way in the playoffs, there is a premium on shooting in the current NBA, and Kispert may not last all the way to the Lakers, who will be picking at No. 22 in the first round (they do not currently have a second-round pick). Givony has Kispert going 10th to the New Orleans Pelicans, and Vecenie has him going 15th to the Washington Wizards.
Murphy almost certainly projects to be in the Lakers’ range, however. O’Donnell didn’t have him in the first round of his latest mock, and Givony and Vecenie have him 25th and 23rd, respectively. In any of those scenarios, he would be an option for the Lakers, and here’s what they’d be getting in the 6’8 20-year-old, per Vecenie:
Just a tailor-made 3-and-D fit for today’s NBA. Murphy hit 43,3 percent from 3 and 92.7 percent from the foul line this year at 6-foot-9. He has extremely clean mechanics that project exceedingly well toward success at the next level. But more than that, he’s also a strong defender who moves his feet well and can slide to cut off penetration from opposing drivers. He’s switchable onto perimeter players right now, and as he keeps getting stronger — he’s a late bloomer physically who was 5-foot-8 as a freshman in high school — he has some potential to slide up the lineup defensively. He’s a name that I’ve heard a lot of enthusiasm about from teams as we near the draft.
With over a month to go until the draft takes place on Thursday, July 29 in Brooklyn, these will likely be far from the last names we hear the Lakers connected to. But for a team that is likely to have limited means to improve their shooting this offseason, looking for relatively cheap options in the draft may be one avenue where the Lakers can try and finagle some floor spacing.