As the 2021 NBA draft nears on Thursday, the flow of trade rumors is constant and rapid, with every team in the league involved in some way or another. The Lakers have been oft-mentioned in those rumors, and are reportedly interested in moving from the No. 22 pick, though which direction they want to go remains unclear.
Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report reported on Tuesday morning that the Lakers have their eyes on Oregon sharpshooter Chris Duarte, and are attempting to move up in the draft to acquire him.
The demand for Oregon’s Chris Duarte has risen, and there is a good chance he doesn’t make it past the Washington Wizards at No. 15. He recently worked out for the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks. I reported the Golden State Warriors brought him back for a second workout this past weekend. The Los Angeles Lakers have also shown interest in Duarte and have made calls to try to move up. The 24-year-old is considered a surefire rookie contributor with valuable shooting skills and defensive toughness.
Sam Vecenie of The Athletic offered a similar report on Tuesday as well, but added that the Lakers’ lack of assets will make it difficult to move up in the draft.
Duarte is thought to be the guy the Lakers want to fall. I’ve heard some sources discuss that they’ve looked into moving up the board. But it might be tough to do that given their current asset cache.
Duarte has been oft-linked to the purple and gold during the pre-draft process, with teams even believing the Lakers had given him a promise to draft him. In the week since that report, Duarte’s stock has continued to rise dramatically, as he’s gone from a player in the Lakers’ range with the No. 22 pick to a borderline lottery selection, thus leading to the attempts by Los Angeles to move up in the draft.
Given his skill set, it’s not a surprise Duarte has been targeted by the Lakers. Last season, he shot 42.4% from the 3-point line on six attempts per game. Per Synergy, he ranked in the 94th percentile in spot-up possessions, the 98th percentile on unguarded catch-and-shoot opportunities and the 94th percentile on jump shots off the dribble. After the Lakers bowed out of the playoffs in the first round while shooting 29.9% from the 3-point line, a player with Duarte’s shooting ability makes sense for the team.
At the same time, these rumors of the Lakers looking to move up in the draft come days after rumors of the team looking to move down. Jonathan Givony of ESPN reported on Sunday that the Lakers could look to move out of the first round and net multiple second-round picks.
Given all that context, it appears the Lakers are focused on Duarte in the first round and, if he’s not available, may look to be out of the round altogether (or at least to move back in it). Or this could all be an attempt for the Lakers to obfuscate their intentions and keep some form of leverage in a trade before Thursday. We’ll find out in the hours and days to come.