With the NBA Draft being less than a week away, the Lakers will have a big decision when it comes time for them to make their selection. It is unlikely that the team has settled on a pick, but a few players have begun to stand out as possibilities.
Chief among them is Kentucky power forward Julius Randle. One of the most NBA-ready prospects in the draft, Randle could immediately step in and start for a Lakers team that has very little on the front line right now. He had a very impressive workout for the team earlier this week.
Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart has been invited back for a second workout, and is one of the best defenders in the draft. One of the most tenacious players in college basketball, Smart could be the answer to the Lakers defensive issues against opposing point guards.
Arizona forward Aaron Gordon is one of the best athletes in the draft and possesses the ability to guard multiple positions. While not as polished as Smart or Randle, Gordon is believed to be one of the hardest workers in the draft, and has also been invited back for a second workout.
And just when things seemed to be clearing up, expected top pick Joel Embiid suffered a stress fracture in his foot and will require surgery. Now there is a chance that he could drop to the Lakers and at number seven, his upside could be worth the risk.
So we asked our panel of experts, who should the Lakers draft with the seventh pick? This is what they had to say:
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): With Julius Randle potentially available once the Los Angeles Lakers are on the clock, I believe the team taking a chance on the undersized forward is a no brainer. Although some still question whether Randle’s right foot will require surgery, the Kentucky product has maintained that he’s fine and proved that fact in a workout with the team on Tuesday.
Obviously, with any lottery pick, there’s a fair amount risk. There’s no guarantee any draftee will pan out on the NBA level including the top tier players like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid.
With that being said and considering the current status of the Lakers franchise, it is time to roll the dice with a prospect like Randle.
If Randle isn’t available at No. 7, I believe the Lakers can’t go wrong with Marcus Smart out of Oklahoma State, but I’d take Randle if he’s there to help bolster a frontcourt.
Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman will likely leave Los Angeles this summer in free agency meaning that the frontcourt will be a major area of concern for the Lakers and something that would potentially thrust Randle into the rotation immediately.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): The smart and logical selection for the Lakers is Julius Randle. He can contribute immediately, and the Lakers have a big hole at power forward.
But as the draft process has gone forward, Aaron Gordon has really grown on me.
One quote in particular really stands out for me. Gordon in essence said that he’s psychotic about basketball in the same way Kobe Bryant is. I want anyone on my team who shares the same mindset as Kobe.
He is obviously not as skilled as Randle offensively, but on defense, he can guard three positions. The Lakers have issues guarding the pick-and-roll and Gordon is the type of big man who can switch on to a point guard and stick with him.
He reminds me of Shawn Marion and I could see him coming in and putting up 10 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and over a steal and block immediately. And he will put in the work to improve every night. The Lakers need to swing for the fences and this is the guy to do it on.
Russell Valenzuela (@Russval4): It’s no secret the Lakers need help everywhere. Steve Nash is already signed on for the upcoming season, and it is possible the team could keep Kendall Marshall or Jordan Farmar. Still, the Lakers will need to address and improve their point guard situation.
With the seventh pick, former Oklahoma State combo guard Marcus Smart could very well be available. Drafting Smart should be the plan the Lakers choose to pursue on Thursday. Smart has the skill to start immediately.
The biggest advantage Smart brings to the Lakers is his defensive tenacity. With plenty of talent among starting point guards in the NBA, the Lakers need someone to matchup against the likes of Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, and all the other playmakers around the league.
Smart is also a skilled scorer and was second in the Big-12 by averaging 18.0 points a game during his sophomore season. The Lakers will need some help with scoring.
When he has the ball in his hands, Smart has the speed to get into the paint easily and the strength to finish at the rim. Not only can he score at will, he is capable of dishing it off and finding teammates. During the 2013-14, Smart’s 4.8 assists per game ranked fourth in the Big-12.
One important intangible for Smart is his competitiveness. He will able to mesh well with Bryant and learn from him over the next two years. Smart could become a key piece in the team’s future plans after Bryant’s retirement.
Kevin Chan (@Kevin_Cruiser): The Lakers should draft Julius Randle with the seventh overall pick. Let’s back up and see how we get here. It’s hard to project exactly who will be available at seven, but let’s break it down pick-by-pick.
Most experts would agree that Embiid, Parker, and Wiggins will be drafted in the top three. Exum is likely to go next and then it gets very gray. At this point Marcus Smart, Noah Vonleh and Julius Randle are in the next tier of available draftees.
The Jazz own the fifth pick and could really use another guard, so I could see them taking Smart there. They’re unlikely to draft a power forward since they already have Derrick Favors firmly entrenched in that spot. They also have quite a bit of frontcourt depth with budding big man Enes Kanter and Rudy Gobert (last year’s first round pick). So I think it’s fairly logical to conclude that they won’t draft Vonleh or Randle.
At number six, the Celtics are looking to rebuild their roster through the draft. Their roster is wide open and they could use a player at pretty much any position. Vonleh is projected as a slightly better prospect than Randle at the moment so I’ll guess that the Celtics nab him and make use of his ridiculous 7’4’’ frame.
That leaves the Lakers with the option of Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine. While Gordon and LaVine both possess intriguing athleticism, their games aren’t nearly as developed or polished as Randle. Randle is a threat to score and rebound from the get-go. Ultimately, I think Randle will be able to contribute much sooner than the other two prospects and he also has comparable upside.
MyNBADraft.com – Marcus Smart