For the last month and, realistically, the entire season, the focus of the Lakers has not been on the 2023 NBA draft for several reasons. Obviously, when LeBron James and Anthony Davis are on the roster, the focus is on the playoffs and title contention and not the prospects the team could be adding.
There was also the added factor of the Pelicans having the right to swap picks this year and the grim reality that, for much of the season, New Orleans would benefit greatly from the Lakers’ ineptitude. The small win of the Lakers moving up the playoff standings and perhaps finishing above the Pelicans in the Western Conference is not swapping picks with New Orleans this season.
With Monday’s national title game marking the end of the college basketball season and the NBA season in its final week, the focus now will turn to mock drafts, of which many have recently been released. Here’s a roundup of some of those notable drafts and who the Lakers are projected to take.
No. 17 pick - Jordan Hawkins, Guard, UConn
There will be a recurring theme in these picks and it’s wings and guards that can shoot. It represented the Lakers’ biggest weakness for over half the season and you can never have too much shooting.
Here’s what Kevin O’Connor said when mocking Hawkins to the Lakers:
Jordan Hawkins shined during Connecticut’s run to a championship with his exceptional movement shooting ability. Although his skinny frame limits his ability to drive to the basket, he’d thrive in an offense where that skill isn’t needed—such as that of the Lakers, who saw Danny Green thrive as a spot-up shooter during their 2020 title run and are now playing their best basketball of the season with better shooting. Hawkins would give them an instant rotation player.
No. 17 pick - Jordan Hawkins, Guard, UConn
Hawkins was one of the biggest risers of the tournament and showed up big in the national title game, which he could parlay into becoming a lottery pick.
Kyle Irving noted why this could be a steal of a pick for the Lakers:
Simply put, Hawkins has a flamethrower. The UConn sophomore shot the lights out during the NCAA Tournament, elevating his draft stock in the process. Hawkins showed his ability to knock down 3s in a variety of ways, converting at a lights-out 50 percent clip on 38 attempts. He’s constantly moving without the ball and has a lightning-quick release, rarely phased by defenders closing out on his shot.
It would be a dream scenario for the Lakers if he fell out of the lottery range.
No. 17 pick - Brice Sensabaugh, Guard/Wing, Ohio State
Unlike Hawkins, Sensabaugh did not get a chance to improve his stock during March Madness. While Ohio State had a Cinderella run in the Big Ten Tournament, injury limited Sensabaugh to only two games in the postseason.
On the season, Sensabaugh averaged 16.3 points on 48% shooting from the field and 40.5% from the 3-point line on 4.5 attempts from range. Listed at 6’6”, Sensabaugh has the makings of a future 3-and-D type of player.
No. 17 pick - Jett Howard, Guard, Michigan
Son of former NBA player — and friend and former teammate to LeBron James — Juwan Howard, Jett Howard showcased his scoring ability for Michigan this year.
Here’s what Krysten Peek said after projecting Howard to the Lakers:
Howard had a rocky end to the season after suffering an ankle injury. He has great size at the guard position and has excellent shooting instincts, particularly from 3-point range where he excels at creating space. He’s not too aggressive when the ball is in his hands. His athleticism doesn’t shine through like other prospects in this draft class, converting on only three dunks this season.
No. 14 pick - Dereck Lively II, Center, Duke
This mock draft from Sam Vecenie is not one published in the aftermath of the national championship game but it’s still recent and also offers a different path for the Lakers in the draft.
Lively is still in the same range as the Lakers with the 17th pick and he is one of the top defensive bigs in the draft. Here’s part of Vecenie’s take on having the Lakers draft a big.
Dereck Lively had a monster end of the season that reminded scouts and decision-makers why he was so highly rated coming out of high school. By the end of the season, he was arguably the most impactful defensive player in the country, as a 7-foot-1 center with a 7-foot-6 wingspan who was an elite rim protector, a versatile ball-screen defender and contested rebound retriever.
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