The Los Angeles Lakers hosted their first crop of 2021 NBA Draft hopefuls on Wednesday, and while none of the players they worked out are expected to be their pick in the first round, they’re worth getting to know because they could get training camp invites or offers to play for the Lakers’ G League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers.
Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Illinois
If you’re looking for jaw-dropping offensive stats from Bezhanishvil, you’re not going to find them. The 22-year-old big men only had one standout season on offense at Illinois where he averaged 19.9 points per 40 minutes.
Where Bezhanishvil has the potential to make an impact is the defensive end. He’s a bit undersized for a center at 6’9, but he has a 7’2 wingspan and good shot-blocking instincts. He’s also shown he can space the floor, so there’s definitely something to build on with him.
Matt Coleman III, Texas
After a successful four years at Texas, Coleman declared for the draft in April. Now, he’ll have to show teams that he can be the offensive weapon he was in college against NBA defenses.
Coleman thrives with the ball in his hands and is adept at creating his own shot, but he’ll have to do more than just score if he wants to stick on an NBA roster. At the very least, he’ll need to adapt to playing off of the ball more, which shouldn’t be a problem considering he shot 38.6% from 3-point range in his last two seasons at Texas.
LJ Figueroa, Oregon
If LJ Figueroa makes it in the NBA, it’s going to be because of his 3-point shot. During his three-year college career, Figueroa shot 37.4% from 3-point range while attempting 4.9 3-pointers per game. Couple that with his knack for poking the ball loose and you the makings of a late-draft 3-and-D prototype that teams love so much.
Alan Griffin, Syracuse
There’s a lot to like about Griffin’s game offensively, especially after his lone season at Syracuse, where he showed he’s much more than just a spot-up shooter. However, when his shots aren’t falling, he struggles to make an impact on the game outside of a few hustle players. He’ll need to be a lot more disciplined on defense if he wants to succeed in the NBA.
Jason Preston, Ohio
Preston can shoot the ball. In his last two seasons at Ohio, he shot 39.8% from behind the arc on 173 attempts. But what makes Preston an intriguing prospect is his ability to make plays out of the pick-and-roll at his size (6’4). If he goes undrafted, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Lakers offer him an Exhibit 10 contract.
Cody Riley, UCLA
Traditional big men are hearing their names called less and less every year at the NBA Draft, but they’ve still managed to find their way on NBA rosters and Riley, a Southern California native, will be hoping to do the same.
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