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With the Los Angeles Lakers in the final stages of their season, the main (and only) focus of the team is their future draft pick and the need to tank.
With that in mind, our recent call out for mailbag questions was chock full of NBA Draft-related questions.
We’ll start off at the top with the first three picks. The names everyone recognizes at this point: Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Jackson.
Much like Ben Simmons last year, Fultz’s draft stock has taken a bit of a hit because of recency bias. Fultz was hands-down the best prospect for much of the season, but a strong finish to the regular season by Ball and a strong tournament from Josh Jackson have them both in the discussion now.
In reality, Fultz is still the top prospect. He scores, drives, shoots, passes, rebounds, defends, blocks, steals. He does all of it incredibly well.
He’s essentially a better version of D’Angelo Russell and would complement him nearly perfectly.
Ball, meanwhile, has the star appeal that Fultz does not possess. As everyone’s favorite cliche goes, he has the “it” factor. Paired with Russell, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better young offensive duo, especially in the back court – think CJ McCollum-Damian Lillard lite. Defensively, it’s going to be very bad. Offensively, it’s going to be very good.
Lastly, Jackson is arguably the best perimeter defender in the draft and, at worst, one of the three best. He’d come in and instantly be the best defender on the Lakers. He’d be a great fit in the Lakers’ offense with his playmaking ability. He’s a great rebounder for a wing/perimeter player and does a lot of the small things that make a difference.
His concerns come from his shot, which looks something like Shawn Marion’s push shot, only not as exaggerated. He hits shots at a fairly consistent level, but there are still worthy concerns.
For me in regards to the Lakers, Fultz is the clear number one, Jackson is two and Ball is three due to the latter’s defensive concerns and offensive limitations as a result of his jumper.
However, I’d be very surprised if the Lakers didn’t take Ball no matter where they’re at. The allure of a hometown kid with big time star appeal coming in and taking over the point guard position is hard to pass on.
Avoiding the obvious takeaway of somehow comparing D’Lo to Michael Jordan and Jackson to Scottie Pippen, this is an interesting comparison.
I realize that Russell and Jackson aren’t and won’t be to the level of Jordan and Pippen before I even start this comparison. However, there is some merit to the idea that Russell and Jackson complement one another.
Jackson would come in and take the top defensive assignment and excel as a secondary playmaker that the Lakers desperately need. If his shot improves, Jackson could even become a two-guard and take the opponent’s best backcourt player.
Regardless, the defensive and secondary play-making Jackson would provide are strong reasons why he should be considered top three by L.A.
Moving on the darkest timeline with the Lakers losing their pick and fans preparing for the worst.
First, the non-draft decisions.
The first question if the Lakers miss out on their pick is whether they should put together an offer to land Paul George. My answer to the question of whether they should trade for him sans-pick would be no.
While I’m a proponent of trading for a player even one year prior to him hitting free agency, the asking price for PG would be too high without being able to include a top-3 pick.
That said, if the price is right – say, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance and some type of pick – then you pull the trigger. I guess, in the end, it simply comes down to Indiana’s asking price.
So, for those unaware, if the Lakers keep their top-3 pick this year, they lose their second rounder to Orlando as well as their 2018 second (though they have a second rounder coming from Denver via the Calderon trade).
If they lose the pick, they retain their second round picks in both seasons.
With that in mind, if the Lakers lose their pick, they’ll have a pick late in the first in Houston’s and their own. As we’ve seen in previous years, the crop of talent for both of these picks will be largely the same.
If you want an extensive look at the first round options, I’d recommend taking a look at this piece over at Silver Screen & Roll.
First, we can’t project if a team reaches and if a player falls, obviously. That being said, the names I’m most intrigued in with a little about them:
Sindarius Thornwell – After making a name for himself during the tournament run, many people are familiar with Thornwell’s name now. He’s a great defender and a better offensive player. LA desperately needs a two-way guy.
Dillon Brooks – Another name of a player who made a run. Those who didn’t see Brooks during the season and only watched his tournament would be surprised Brooks was named Pac-12 Player of the Year, but Brooks was a great stretch four option for the Ducks this year. The Lakers desperately need wing men, so Brooks makes a lot of sense.
Semi Ojeleye – Another big wing player, Ojeleye would fit into the Lakers’ style of small ball and pace and space. Ojeleye hit 42.4 percent of his threes and grabbed 6.9 rebounds per game.
Josh Hart – Unlike the others mentioned, Hart is not a SF/PF hybrid, but instead a PG/SG hybrid. Hart can create while also knocking down shots and could be a cheaper alternative to Nick Young.
Monte Morris – The Lakers badly need a secondary playmaker and ball-handler and there were few better than Monte Morris this year. Morris averaged a ridiculously low 1.2 turnovers and 6.2 assists this year and would instantly be a better backup PG option than Tyler Ennis (low bar).
Now, away from draft questions!
The Lakers have a big man problem namely in that they have too many of them. With Timofey Mozgov locked up long-term alongside Julius Randle, Larry Nance and Ivica Zubac and guys like Luol Deng and Brandon Ingram needing minutes at the four, the Lakers really don’t have room for another big man.
So if we’re discussing Thomas Robinson vs. Tarik Black, we’re talking about an end-of-the-bench big man who plays in times of injuries and on random off nights that the team needs a boost.
With that in mind, Black’s bigger contract and it being non-guaranteed means he’s the more likely candidate to be cut. Robinson would certainly not make the money Black would and seems like a better option moving forward.
This is actually something I mentioned during the Clippers game. Nwaba looked fantastic which is astounding considering he can’t shoot a jumper consistently.
The number one thing Nwaba should work on over the summer is a corner three-pointer. If he can consistently knock down threes from the corner, he becomes exponentially more valuable considering his high level of defense.
Now, CAN he develop that shot? I have no way of knowing that. It sure seems like he’s a hard worker. And his shot doesn’t look unsalvageable. But, as previously stated, if he develops this summer, he could be a key piece to the Lakers’ young core.