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Early mock drafts see Lakers taking Chris Duarte, Cameron Thomas

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The senior guard out of Oregon has the potential to come in and make an immediate impact for the Lakers from behind the arc.

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Oregon v USC Photo by Jack Dempsey/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Since the Los Angeles Lakers became a championship-contending team again, the NBA Draft has been an afterthought to most fans of the team and understandably so.

Not only did they trade two future first-round draft picks to the New Orleans Pelicans in the Anthony Davis trade but, last year, they traded their first-round pick and Danny Green to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Dennis Schröder. The last time the Lakers made a selection in the first round was in 2018, when they drafted Moritz Wagner with the No. 25 overall pick.

This year, the Lakers will draft No. 22 overall — the highest they’ve drafted since 2017 — and because of the Stepien Rule, they can’t trade the player they select until 30 days after he signs his contract. So, even if it’s only for 30 days, they’ll make a pick on July 29.

To familiarize ourselves with the prospects that are likely to be available when the Lakers are on the clock, we’re going to do a roundup of mock drafts from the best draft experts in the league leading up to the 2021 NBA Draft. Here is the first, post-lottery edition:

SB Nation: Cameron Thomas, guard, LSU

Bleacher Report: Cameron Thomas, guard, LSU

The Athletic: Chris Duarte, guard, Oregon

ESPN: Chris Duarte, guard, Oregon

The Ringer: Chris Duarte, guard, Oregon

There are two names that standout because, well, there are only two names, but we’re going to focus on Chris Duarte, who’s quickly become my favorite player for this pick.

Oregon v Iowa Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The first thing we need to address is Duarte’s age. Duarte turned 24 years old in June and is expected to be the oldest player selected in the 2021 NBA Draft. It’s also worth noting that Duarte only played at Oregon for two years because he played basketball at the junior college level before that.

But even with those things working against him, he’s one of the most interesting prospects that’s expected to be available in the late first-round. While his upside might not be high, his floor as a shooter is something that a lot of teams. including the Lakers, might value.

In his senior season with the Ducks, Duarte averaged 17.1 points per game on 53.2% shooting from the field and 42.2% shooting from 3-point range. His impressive numbers earned him the Jerry West Award, which is awarded to the best shooting guard in the nation on an annual basis. He was the first player in Pac-12 history to win the award.

Duarte still has a little ways to go as a playmaker and an on-ball defender, but it’s totally reasonable to think that his shooting will translate to the NBA and that the spacing of the NBA game will allow him to use his physical gifts to become a more dynamic scorer.

Again, there are higher-upside picks and Cameron Thomas, who’s only 19 years old, is one of them, but if the Lakers plan to keep their pick, they’ll likely be looking at someone who can come in and make an impact right away; Duarte has as good of a chance as anyone to do that.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.