In a series of conversations that began with discussing draft strategy and Zhaire Smith, our own Jacob Rude and Mike Garcia continue their draft talk by breaking down some of their personal favorite options for the Lakers with the 25th pick.
Jacob Rude; It’s unlikely the Lakers make a move for Smith, which means they’ll stay at No. 25. With the pre-draft workouts, combines and measurements all but done, what would the top five on your big board look like if you were in the Lakers war room on draft night?
Mike Garcia: The NBA draft is so unpredictable. Some guys skyrocket into the lottery, while other guys get left hanging in the green room much longer than expected. That being said, I’ll list the five guys I want the Lakers to draft in order.
I think these guys are the best players available at the #25 slot. All five can defend wing positions while providing varying levels of elite passing, shooting, slashing, or defense.
JR: Fans are likely familiar with each of those names and we’ve profiled four of the five names listed. Divincenzo, though, is one we haven’t. Fans will remember him for out-shining consensus National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson and likely lottery pick Mikal Bridges in the championship game for Villanova, but he didn’t come out of nowhere. What would he bring to the table if the Lakers were to draft him?
MG: Divincenzo would bring a certain basketball maturity onto the floor that comes from Villanova players. We saw that in Josh Hart, who was there No. 1 option at ‘Nova, but as a 3-and-D type excelled, developing his 3-point range, rebounding abilities and ability to compete defensively against bigs. Divincenzo brings two-way ability on the floor. He simply has a knack of hitting contested shots out to NBA 3-point range while playing with a high motor and awareness defensively.
JR: Three-point shooting and defense are skills every NBA team looks for and it makes sense why Divincenzo is high on draft boards. Those two skills are two of the primary factors in my own big board, which looks something like:
Do any of those names stick out for good or bad reasons?
MG: Hutchison I like a lot, especially because he’s a self-developed player that has trained with Damian Lillard’s trainer, Phil Beckner. I think the right trainer not only helps a player develop their skills quickly but potentially raises their overall NBA upside as well. His ability to attack the hoop and finish at the rim with touch really stands out.
Melton is going to enter the league as an NBA level defender right now. He communicates, moves his feet, creates contact with his chest, anticipates steals along the perimeter, digs on post players, stunts well defensively and he recovers to contest and block shots. We may be unsure of where his jumper is at this point, but it’s been in development with Drew Hanlen, so it can’t be that bad.
Brown Jr. is a personal favorite because he brings point guard skills in a wing-sized frame. In a world where getting open shots is the most important thing on offense, Brown won’t do that necessarily with a drive-and-kick game, but he’ll absolutely do it with court vision and accurate passing. Like Melton, his shot has changed too, with promising results.
Bates-Diop looks like a solid combo forward with further developed 3-point range, but I don’t see the upside as high as the aforementioned prospects. At Ohio State, he got a lot of post up/isolation opportunities and he may not get the opportunity to display that at the next level. He’s not expected to be a No. 1 or No. 2 option out of the gate.
Thomas is a strong dude with incredible length and hits a high percentage of contested and uncontested shots, but he lacks shot creativity and isn’t a drive-kick guy like Hutchison or Melton. I’d really like to see greater shot diversity between different plays, coming off screens rather than just spotting up.
JR: Maybe subconsciously, my list is full of guys who do a bit of everything. Bates-Diop carried Ohio State much of the season doing it all. Having watched him numerous times during the season, he’s a Swiss army knife that I think can help the Lakers in many facets.
For Thomas, he’s definitely not a lead creator type of guard and more of a 3-and-D guard. But as a Defensive Player of the Year last year and a proven three-level scorer, he has skill sets to build on. As for the other three, you hit the nails on the head on each. Brown Jr. and Hutchison would provide valuable depth and creation on the wing and if Melton’s improved shot mechanics are legit, he could become a steal at No. 25.