Final Pick in 2012 NBA Draft Limits Lakers’ Current Options

It’s all over for the Los Angeles Lakers, who must now turn their attention towards an off-season full of questions.

Will the Lakers blow up their roster or do they still believe that they’re a piece or two away from booking another trip to the NBA Finals? What does the future hold for power forward Pau Gasol? Is bringing back Lamar Odom or Trevor Ariza an option? All are valid questions that could be answered in the next couple of months.

There is one particular question, though, that I’d like to ask that few haven’t at this point in the off-season. Will the Lakers trade up during the 2012 NBA Draft in hopes of landing a player who’s ready to produce?

Currently in possession of the final pick in the draft (No. 60 overall) which they acquired from the Chicago Bulls, the Lakers won’t have too much talent to choose from when they’re finally on the clock. Considering that 59 players will have already come off the board at that point, the talent pool will basically be drained down to D-Leaguers and NBA longshots.

Before the 2011-2012 season began, the Lakers had possession of their own first and second round picks. That was until they traded away their No. 55 pick to the Dallas Mavericks as part of the Odom deal. Then they shipped their first round pick (No. 24 overall) to the Cleveland Cavaliers when they landed point guard Ramon Sessions at the trade deadline. It quickly went from looking like they had some tools to reload with to now their only pick gives them priority over no one.

With a month to go before the 2012 NBA Draft (June 28), there are several lingering issues that the Lakers need to address this off-season. They need to find some depth at small forward, especially with Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes potentially headed out of town. If Ramon Sessions opts out of his 2012-2013 player option, they could be in need of another young point guard. The Lakers might also fail to bring back big man Jordan Hill, which could leave them thin at the four and five spots.

Considering all of those potential holes, is the final pick in the draft really the best spot to be in for the Lakers? I’m going to say no. Apparently, though, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is keeping his options open about possibly moving up on draft day.

“I can’t imagine us being in a position to simply step into a first-round pick,” Kupchak told the media. “But there may be a way to get up to a little bit better position in the draft.”

Now I’m not saying that the Lakers can’t find a diamond in the rough with the 60th pick, but odds are slim that anyone who’s available at that point will be ready to contribute during the 2012-2013 season. Best-case scenario: they draft a raw, young talent who’s nothing more than a project for the next couple of years.

It all boils down to whether or not the Lakers are happy with staying put and hoping for a steal. They don’t have too many pieces to use during trades, but moving up is more dire of a need than it seems. The Lakers can’t continue to slide by while letting the “lack of youth” issue sit on the backburner.

The Lakers’ age has caught up to them; it’s time to put some more eggs in the draft basket.

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