The Los Angeles Lakers jumped up in the draft lottery last week and will now have the fourth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. While the team has yet to announce any of its pre-draft workouts, high-ranking members of the organization were present at the draft combine in Chicago in the days after the lottery and have begun to meet with several prospects.
One of the several players linked heavily to the Lakers is Darius Garland, the point guard who played in just five games in his freshman season at Vanderbilt due to a season-ending knee injury. Garland left the combine early, fueling speculation that he had already received a draft promise.
According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, league executives believe one of two teams made said promise to the young guard:
Garland, who played in only five games before a meniscus injury ended his lone college season, left the draft combine this week with an alleged draft promise from a lottery team. Multiple league executives assume it’s from the Lakers or Suns.
Both teams make sense for different reasons:
The Suns are desperately in need of a point guard. Ja Morant is expected to be the second overall pick, making Garland arguably the best point guard prospect left in the class. Drafting a guard would take the pressure off Devin Booker to be a playmaker and let him be more of a pure scorer.
The Lakers, meanwhile, don’t have a positional need but Garland could fit into the backcourt with Lonzo Ball or replace him if he is traded away. He is also signed with Klutch Sports and given the injury history that teams will be hesitant about, Rich Paul and co. could push his way towards LeBron James and the Lakers solely by keeping his records away from teams ahead of the Lakers. That may not be an issue, however, given that most people believe Zion Williamson, Morant and R.J. Barrett will be the top three picks.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that draft promises are hardly a guarantee. Lakers fans know this all too well after numerous reports pegged Mitchell Robinson as their choice last year before they passed on him to draft Moritz Wagner. Regardless, many of these reports do have merit and can lead to the understanding of the team’s thought process or, in this case, how the rest of the league perceives them.