Before I dive into one of my hotter takes in recent memory, let’s make a couple things clear as we head into the NBA Draft Lottery, which is just days away.
- This Draft Lottery, unlike last season, is not a do-or-die situation for the Lakers. The Lakers have a core they can build around with D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Larry Nance and, to a lesser extent, Tarik Black and Anthony Brown.
- This draft, outside of the top two, is very meh. And even the top two prospects in Brandon Ingram and Ben Simmons (in some order) are not world beaters like previous years. While both would be considered top 10 picks in last year’s draft, they would be at the lower end of that range.
- Should the Lakers lose their pick, not all hope is lost. Sure, last season, in some ways, will feel like a waste, but the Lakers will hold on to their pick in 2017 which will be a much deeper and more talented draft than this year’s. And most importantly, the pick will have no protections or stipulations on it, so there will be no sweating out lottery nights.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s imagine that the Lakers do maintain their pick, but slide down one spot to the third pick. At this point, it’s assumed that Ingram and Simmons will go 1-2 in some order. Not even the 76ers could mess that up.
From there, things get interesting, and not necessarily in a good way. There is a steep drop-off to the next level of prospects, which includes the likes Dragan Bender, Kris Dunn, Jaylen Brown and Jamal Murray. However, the one name I’ve left out of that group is the one that is a divisive prospect, but one I think the Lakers should be leaning toward drafting.
Hield is someone whose draft stock skyrocketed throughout the season and into the tournament, where he lit up the court and wowed fans and scouts alike. Now, he’s made a clear case for being draft in the top 10 and even within the top 5.
What we know about Hield is that there is not a better shooter/scorer in this draft class and there may not be a harder worker in this draft class.
Hield hit 147 three-pointers this year at a clip of 46%, both astounding figures. The 147 made threes is the most in college basketball since some kid at some random school in North Carolina named Steph Curry, who buried 162 in 2008.
His quick release and fast trigger as well as his ability to not only hit catch-and-shoot jumpers makes him a threat offensively and someone who will be the focus of defenses.
You can label him a gunner, but he’s an elite one at that. He can hit shots from all different spots on the court and isn’t limited to just three-pointers. He has a deadly mid-range game as his ball-handling improved throughout college.
Which brings up the other big takeaway from Hield, which is his work ethic. Anyone who watched Oklahoma during the season last year probably heard about Hield’s crazy work ethic, which drew comparisons to the Black Mamba himself.
Hield improved drastically throughout college, going from an 8-point per game scorer and 24% three-point shooter his freshman year to a 25-point per game scorer on 46 three-pointer shooting his senior year.
One of the obvious reasons against drafting Hield is that the Lakers already appear to have a back court of the future in Clarkson and Russell.
However, what we also know is that those two don’t fit perfectly and that Clarkson may be better suited as a sixth man off the bench.
Hield could alleviate many problems that Clarkson and Russell have had offensively. Hield doesn’t need the ball like Clarkson does to be effective as he can come off screens and draw the focus of defenses. Hield is also a more natural fit next to Russell as a floor-spacer, something that the team lacked at times with Clarkson’s up-and-down shooting throughout the year.
By drafting Hield and inserting him into the starting lineup, the Lakers can move Clarkson to the bench where he can come in for either Russell or Hield and all three can have their minutes staggered.
Simply put, Hield is a more natural fit and the versatility of both Russell and Clarkson make this selection a possibility.
Obviously, there are other prospects that could and likely will be taken over Hield, but there are numerous questions with each.
We know very little about Dragan Bender’s game as an overseas prospect and his fit into the Lakers’ lineup is unsure with Randle penciled in as the power forward going forward.
Jaylen Brown fills an obvious need at the small forward position, but has lots of questions about his offensive game both in his jump shot and his consistency. Physically, he fills the part of an NBA player but there are many question marks surrounding him.
Jakob Poeltl is a tradition, back-to-the-basket seven-footer, but with the league going smaller, what will his role on an NBA team be going forward? Can you afford to draft a player like Poeltl third overall knowing that you can’t play him down the stretch against a team like the Warriors?
Jamal Murray is another version of Buddy Hield, only not as good offensively and simply more raw than Hield. He’s also younger, so you’d be drafting him likely on potential more than anything, but knowing that he’d be a couple years away from being a major contributor.
Kris Dunn is a great point guard talent, but by drafting him, you have another combo guard who likely takes the ball away from Russell even more. Do the Lakers want three combo guards with similar games going forward?
Hield, admittedly, is the safe pick. But you know what you’re getting with Hield, which is elite shooting, and in today’s NBA (and really every era of the league), that’s an asset that is desired in players.
His combine measurements did him some favors as he measured 6’5″ with a wingspan just over 6’9″. He won’t be guarding small forward likely any time soon or maybe ever, but he’ll be able to exceed as a shooting guard.
With Luke Walton, a young and open-minded coach, coming in to take over the Lakers, imagine seeing Hield get the looks that Klay Thompson gets on a regular basis. Or imagine Russell or Randle running a fastbreak with Hield stepping out to the three-point line, ready to bury a dagger.
If the Lakers are lucky enough to hold on to their pick, they should lean toward Hield who can step in a contribute right away as opposed to taking a risk on a handful of iffy prospects.