The future is bright for this franchise, and it’s been a while since we could say that. In last year’s draft the Lakers landed Julius Randle and found a diamond in the rough with Jordan Clarkson. They also claimed Tarik Black off waivers from the Rockets, and he proved he can be a nice bench player moving forward.
Not only did the Lakers add some dynamic young talent last offseason – some draft lottery luck will now allow them to add Karl Towns or Jahlil Okafor to their young core. Combine that to $22M in cap space this offseason should they decline Jordan Hill’s team option, and perhaps north of $60M (!!!) of cap space in the summer of 2016 and the Lakers could be back into title contention within the next few years. A thought which seemed like a pipe-dream before the draft lottery.
Let’s also not forget that the Lakers also have two other picks in this draft. Houston’s first rounder – the 27th pick in the draft – and their own second round pick – the 34th pick in the draft.
However, adding three rookies to the roster might be a bit tricky to an already super-young roster, and Mitch Kupchak mentioned recently that there’s a possibility that they don’t use all three picks for that very reason.
Ignoring this, since you know, GMs aren’t always telling the truth, the Lakers have five different directions they can go in with these two picks, in my opinion.
1) Use both the 27th and 34th picks
Since the Lakers are already geared towards looking to the future and already have two promising players in Clarkson and Randle, and will add another with the player they chose second overall, why not continue to stack up on young players? Realistically, the Lakers aren’t going to make the playoffs next year. Next season should be about developing the rookies and second-year players and instilling some continuity moving into the summer of 2016 — Durant is going to need a supporting cast after all!
Plus, more picks = a higher chance of finding a diamond in the rough.
The counter to this is that it would make the Lakers “too young” of a team. Because if they use all three picks they’re going to have three second-year players in Clarkson, Jabari Brown, and Tarik Black, and four rookies (Julius Randle is a rookie in my mind). Even though the goal next season isn’t to necessarily make the playoffs and the young players should get a ton a minutes, it’s still important to have some veteran leadership.
Rookies still need to learn the ropes of becoming a professional. Veterans can also help with player development too. Steve Nash working out with Clarkson, for example, likely helped Jordan develop his point guard skills over the course of the season. And for every rookie you add, you take away the chance to bring in a veteran.
Besides, we don’t want Kobe to be stuck on squad full of newcomers. He might self-destruct and that’s not good, unless you’re Charmin and you get free publicity.
DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT ADVOCATING FOR THE RETURN OF CARLOS BOOZER. THERE ARE SURELY SOME OTHER VETERAN PLAYERS OUT THERE. THAT GUY NEEDS TO GET AWAY FROM MY TEAM.
But anyway, let’s say that we believe that having a surplus of young talent is the way to go and decide to use both of the later picks. Screw veteran leadership!
With this assumption that the Lakers will be taking a center with the #2 pick, there becomes one thing the Lakers desperately need on their roster: 3-and-D wing players. We’ve had to watch Wes Johnson for the last two years and I’ve had it with that. The dude is trash and we need to move on.
If we’re assuming that the Lakers’ core moving forward will be Clarkson, Randle, and Towns/Okafor, they’re going to need wings that can effectively space the floor and are solid perimeter defenders.
Or….. LA might be better off simply selecting the best player available. There are worse things than picking a player that might not exactly fit, because there’s still the possibility that the player can turn out to be a valuable piece. And you can always make a trade later if need be.
This can be easier said than done though. What if the best player available is a frontcourt player? How would that player conceivably get minutes with Julius Randle, Tarik Black, Okafor/Towns, and Ryan Kelly already getting minutes? If a player doesn’t get minutes he won’t be able to become valuable enough to trade for anything worthwhile.
So let’s just say the Lakers can pick the best player available, given that it is NOT a frontcourt player.
There is probably only one exception I’d make to this rule though, and that’s if Robert Upshaw falls to #34. Hell, I might even take him at #27. You can never have enough rim protection in today’s NBA.
Anyway, here are the list of players that I’d love to see selected with picks #27 or #34 that might be “3-and-D” players down the road:
With pick #27:
- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – his jumper needs A TON of work. Best perimeter defender in the draft though.
- Justin Anderson – might be the best and most ready 3-and-D player in the draft.
- R.J. Hunter – great shooter and scorer, but can he improve defensively? Not a great athlete.
- Rashad Vaughn – Shot nearly 40% from 3, nice athlete, but his shot selection has been compared to Nick Young’s.
- Anthony Brown – Similar to Anderson in that he already has the attributes to be a good 3-and-D player. Needs to add strength though.
With pick #34:
- Michael Qualls – jumper also needs work. Ridiculously athletic and nearly has a 7-foot wingspan. Tenacious defender.
- J.P. Tokoto – can’t shoot much, but is an elite athlete, and has a 6’10” wingspan.
- Michael Frazier – elite shooter, but a bit undersized and limited athletically.
- Norman Powell – can be a productive player if he can improve his jumper. Could contribute from day-one.
Getting at least one of these players is critical. You could decide to go best player available with pick #27 and then go with a 3-and-D guy at #34, or vice-versa. But you HAVE to get at least one wing.
2) Package both picks to move up in the draft
One issue with where the Lakers’ two later picks fall is that the talent-level of the prospects in this year’s draft really seems to head south right around the 24th, 25th picks. Unfortunately, this could mean the prospects they could be choosing from might be on a lower tier than ones just a few picks before.
Let’s fix that. Remember Mitch’s warning that three rookies might be too many? Well, let’s try two instead.
Now, the 27th and 34th picks don’t hold THAT much value. You’re not going to be able to land another lottery pick. Instead, you might be able to get into the high-teens, or early-twenties at best. But honestly, that’s okay.
If the Lakers could come away with a wing like Justin Anderson or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson along with Jahlil Okafor or Karl Towns, that’d be a near perfect draft, in my opinion. Since Anderson and RHJ are doubtful to be available at #27, the Lakers are going to have to trade up if they really want one of the better wings in this draft.
An ideal trade would be #27 and #34 for let’s say, pick #18 or pick #20. Even pick #22 might suffice. It doesn’t appear that the Lakers would be getting a great deal since they’re giving up a top second round pick to move up only a few spots, but again, the talent-level difference between #27 and say, #20, is a lot different. If you want a wing, at #20 you can likely get Anderson or Hollis-Jefferson, at #27 you’re getting Anthony Brown.
And if the Lakers decide they want to move back into the second round, they could always buy a pick like they did last year, when they bought the Wizards’ second round pick. A pick which of course turned into Jordan Clarkson.
3) Use one of the picks to move Nick Young’s contract
Maybe you’d rather have more cap flexibility instead of a young talent. One way to create more cap space is to move Nick Young’s contract. Swaggy P is scheduled to earn about $5.2M in 2015, $5.4M in 2016, and then has a player option for $5.6M in 2017. This summer, the Lakers are projected to have about $22-23M in cap space assuming Jordan Hill’s team option is declined.
If they offer the 27th or 34th pick along with Nick Young’s contract to a team with cap space, there’s a chance that the Lakers could create an additional $5M in cap space. If they sign a 25% max player like Tobias Harris or Khris Middleton, that extra $5M in cap space could come in quite handy. After signing one of those players, the Lakers would have only about $6M in cap space if Young WAS on the roster. If they move him, that figure would increase to about $11M. Enough to sign another high priced free agent, or two mid-level free agents (maybe you want to keep Ed Davis around?). Or they could roll the cap space over to the next year. After all, the summer of 2016 is supposed to be THE summer for the Lakers.
But I’m against this trade, because I actually still believe in Nick Young. I don’t know why since he usually drives me crazy, but if he returns to his 2013-2014 form, he’s well worth his contract. He averaged 18 PPG on 44% shooting, while hitting nearly 39% of his threes. Granted he doesn’t do much else, but that type of shooting and scoring ability is worth more than $5M per year. Not to mention that the cap hit his contract comes with will be so minute when the cap rises in 2016.
And by packaging a pick with Young, you’re not only losing Young’s scoring, you’re losing a young, controllable prospect for years down the road.
“Draft-and-stash” refers to picking an international player, but having the player continue playing overseas instead of coming to the NBA right away. This is very, very common in the second round. Remember Ater Majok and Chuchu Maduabum? I swear I’m not making those names up. Those were draft-and-stash prospects that the Lakers selected in the second round. They obviously never panned out, but that doesn’t mean they never do. Some examples of draft-and-stash players that have panned out recently are: Nick Calathes, Nikola Mirotic, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Kostas Papanikolaou.
It kinda sucks because you don’t get the immediate gratification that a rookie who plays in his first season brings, but it’s still a way to get a young prospect without having too many young players on the team at once.
Potential prospects in this year’s draft that could be “stashed” are:
Aleksandar Vezenkov, Nikola Milutinov, Mouhammadou Jaiteh, George De Paula, and Guillermo Hernangomez among others.
The Lakers have done this in the past, and Mitch has mentioned the possibility of picking a European in the draft quite frequently already, so this seems like it has a pretty solid chance of happening.
5) Trade one of the picks for a future draft pick
This is another way to avoid having too many rookies on this year’s team. Say there is a prospect that the [insert team here] really like at #27 and they offer the Lakers their 2016 1st round pick for the 27th pick. Would you do it? It would obviously depend on the team, but you could essentially be trading the 27th pick in the 2015 draft for a pick in a similar position in the 2016 draft. Maybe you get lucky and it ends up being the 18th or 19th pick. The odds would be in the Lakers’ favor since it’d be pretty unlikely that the pick would fall lower than 27th, since that’d mean the team they traded with would have to have a top-3 record.
Deciding to trade for a future pick would also depend on which prospects are on the board when it’s the Lakers’ turn. If there are none available that they’re high on, it just might make more sense to try again the following year and trade one of the 2015 picks for a future pick.
Keep in mind that the Lakers likely will not have their own first round pick in 2016 as it will be conveyed to the Sixers if it falls outside the top-3. So this might be one of the few ways the Lakers could get a first rounder in next year’s draft.
The downside is that you would be delaying the arrival of a prospect, which is important to note because most prospects take a few years before they are high-impact players. Instead of your prospect reaching his third season in 2017, he wouldn’t be reaching his third season until 2018. If the Lakers are planning to compete for titles in 2016 and 2017, losing that year is actually a pretty big deal.
Additionally, many regard next year’s draft as weaker than this year’s, and if that’s true, the player the Lakers could get at #27 may be a better prospect that one they get with the 23rd pick in the 2016 draft. And on top of that, they’d also be delaying the arrival of the prospect.
If it were up to me, I’d go with the second option and try to package the 27th and 34th picks to move up for either Justin Anderson or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. If that’s not possible, then I’d just go with the first option and use both picks.
To me, having more young talent with upside is always the best option when you’re not going to be competing for a title. I’d consider going with the 5th option and trading for a future pick, but I’d only do that if the draft board is completely barren when it’s the Lakers’ turn.
Comment below which direction you’d prefer the Lakers choose!