The 2020 NBA Draft will take place at some point.
The date remains unknown as the NBA and sports leagues around the world continue to try and figure out whether or not a return to play is feasible, but it will happen which means the Los Angeles Lakers will have the opportunity to add a prospect who can help them.
Contrary to popular belief, the Lakers did not give up every possible draft pick in the Anthony Davis trade and do own their first round pick in this year’s draft. Some have called this year’s draft a ‘weak’ class, but that is mainly due to the lack of a true game-changer at the top of it. However, in terms of depth and potential role players who can make a difference on an NBA team, there are plenty, which bodes well for the team.
This time, we take a look at the guard position, which is undoubtedly a need for the Lakers. LeBron James was the main point guard for the Lakers and they struggled with playmaking whenever he was not on the floor. Alex Caruso is the only guard with a guaranteed deal for next season and he is more of a combo guard than a true playmaker and not the most reliable shooter.
Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley both have player options for next season, but it is no guarantee they will return. Bradley has been excellent defensively and an improved shooter, but does not bring much playmaking while Rondo is the opposite, capable of setting others up but doing little else. Both have been wildly inconsistent this season.
It is very possible the Lakers target a guard in this year’s draft and here is a look at five they may be looking at either with their first round pick or by trading into the second round:
Leandro Bolmaro, FC Barcelona
Bolmaro is one of the more unique and intriguing prospects in this entire draft class. He has the size of a wing (6’7″ with a 6’8″ wingspan), but is a pure playmaking point guard with outstanding instincts and feel that one just cannot teach. He has a great handle and can make every pass one can think of with either hand.
Additionally, Bolmaro gives great effort defensively, using his size and length to bother the opposition and understanding how to rotate in a team concept. Unlike other playmaking-centric guards, he is also capable of playing off the ball, being able to read defenses to cut and slash and having a number of floaters and layups to finish.
The major concern with Balmaro is his complete lack of shooting. In three seasons overseas, he is shooting an abysmal 28 percent from the three-point line and only 66 percent from the free-throw line. He has also had some issues with turnovers and his lack of elite athleticism could cause some problems against the length of the NBA.
Regardless, Balmaro is extremely talented with a skillset unlike most guards. It will be a matter of whether his positives outweigh the very concerning negatives. If so, he could be worth a shot in the second round, though his stock is rising in some circles.
Tre Jones, Duke
As the ACC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, Jones is a well-known commodity amongst those who followed college basketball this season. Jones is an outstanding on-ball defender, which is undoubtedly a need with the level of scoring point guards in the NBA today. Anyone who could potentially make life tough on the Steph Currys and Damian Lillards of the world is worth consideration.
However, Jones was a two-way player who greatly improved his scoring and shooting while remaining a reliable playmaker who always looked to set up teammates. He averaged 16.2 points and 6.4 assists but most importantly improved his three-point shooting to a respectable 36.1 percent.
There will still be concerns about his shooting (especially off the dribble) but on this Lakers team, excelling in spot-up situations is the more necessary skill. He also lacks elite size and athleticism which limits his upside in the eyes of many who view him in the same way they did his older brother Tyus Jones, who has been a backup in his NBA career so far.
What Jones may lack in upside, he makes up for in the ability to contribute immediately, which could be what the Lakers are looking for as they are in win-now mode. He is a two-way point guard, a floor general on one end, and a stout defender on the other. Most importantly, Jones is a winner, which is what the Lakers are all about.
Kira Lewis Jr., Alabama
This might be a bit of a reach as — like many prospects in this draft — Lewis’ range seems to be anywhere from the late lottery to the end of the first round. Nonetheless, if he does begin to drop, his speed, athleticism, and shot creation make him undoubtedly worth a look for the Lakers.
The All-SEC First Team selection averaged 18.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.8 steals showing off his all-around game. He knows how to use his speed and athleticism to get to the rim and finish and is adept at running the pick-and-roll in the halfcourt to get shots for himself and others. His speed also bodes well for him defensively, but he will need to get stronger in order to handle some of the league’s bigger guards.
Concerns for Lewis lie in whether he is truly great at any one thing. He is a good, but streaky shooter who has some issues off the dribble. He is a solid playmaker, but can often be erratic with his passes. His speed and athleticism can sometimes lead to recklessness which can cause turnover issues. He has the tools to be a great defender but is often too reliant on them instead of the fundamentals which lead to him being beat.
While Lewis has not quite put it all together, he has the tools to be a serious contributor. But whether he meets the team’s current timeframe is another question.
Nico Mannion, Arizona
Mannion is a tough prospect to get a gauge on as his actual numbers do not quite match with what his strengths should be, most notably his shooting. He shot under 40 percent from the field and just 32.7 percent from the three-point line despite being a perceived shot-maker.
Aside from that, he is another high IQ playmaker who knows how to run the pick-and-roll expertly to shots for himself and others. He has an array of ways to finish around the rim, which makes up for his lack of size and is an active and committed defender who gives great effort on that end.
The concerns for Mannion lie in his halfcourt game as he does not quite have enough explosiveness to attack the basket consistently, which often leads to more difficult runners and floaters. His lack of size (6’3″ with a 6’2″ wingspan) also hinders his ability to defend multiple positions. It will be difficult enough for him to defend point guards in the NBA, let alone having to switch on wings.
Nonetheless, Mannion has a great feel for the game and potentially the ability to light it up from deep which is always a need for the Lakers. The ability to play both on and off the ball is always a great fit for a team with James, but the concerns could bring some doubt.
Grant Riller, Charleston
These days, older college players tend to be overlooked as teams focus on younger projects with higher potential. Riller stands to be one of the exceptions as he has shown himself to be an outstanding player capable of contributing immediately to a team. An apt comparison would be Fred Van Vleet.
Riller averaged 21.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.9 assists while also knocking down 36.2 percent from the three-point line. Quite simply, Riller just knows how to get baskets and has the tools to do so at the next level with his excellent ball-handling, finishing ability, and body control in the air. He is a solid but not great athlete, but understands the basics of defense and should be able to hold his own.
The obvious concerns with Riller would be his age and upside as many will view him as a finished product. There is also the fact that he played at Charleston, not seeing much top-flight competition. His shooting has also been streaky at times, so there is concern that his range may not extend to consistent NBA range.
Riller is unlikely to be a first round draft pick but could be someone the Lakers trade into the second round for. There have been many cases when the focus is too much on the negative, but Riller’s skills have the potential to make him an immediate player and possibly the steal of the draft.
Others To Watch
Desmond Bane, TCU
Devon Dotson, Kansas
Malachi Flynn, San Diego State
Skylar Mays, LSU
Payton Pritchard, Oregon
Tyrell Terry, Stanford
Cassius Winston, Michigan State