It is pretty much safe to say that every member of Lakers Nation is ready for the season to start. After one of the best off-seasons in Lakers history, expectations are extreme and Laker fans around the world are eager to see what unfolds out on the court. Anticipation for a new season is always high for any sports team, but it seems like October 30th simply can’t come soon enough in Lakerland.
The Lakers reloaded this summer with the additions of Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Antawn Jamison and a much improved bench. LA also mixed up their coaching staff a bit by reportedly bringing in Eddie Jordan, Bernie Bickerstaff and Steve Clifford to compliment Mike Brown’s Princeton offense effort and the newfound presence of Dwight Howard.
Yet, before free agency and before these headline trades in Los Angeles, there was the NBA Draft. Yes, the Lakers have a long established record of obtaining low draft picks and have a tendency of either not utilizing the picks or trading them away to other teams as a part of trade packages.
The Lakers seemed to call the new collective bargaining agreement’s (CBA) bluff and still found ways to attract and sign some of the best talent in the league. However, with the objective to sign younger talent at a more desirable price in order to balance out the high contracts of the Lakers payroll (Bryant, Howard, Gasol, Nash, World Peace), the Lakers will need to depend on their draft picks and the development system to achieve this goal.
The Lakers’ draft picks from this year were Darius Johnson-Odom (55th pick) from Marquette and Robert Sacre (60th pick) from Gonzaga. Johnson-Odom, or DJO as the basketball media has nicknamed him, was originally picked by the Dallas Mavericks who then sold his rights to the Lakers for $500,000.
Robert Sacre had a decent Summer League where he showed a bit of a preview of his abilities in each of the five game in Las Vegas. Sacre averaged 9.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game on 35.9 percent shooting from the field. The seven foot center is noted to be an “old-school” center with multiple post moves in his pocket. He is a solid shot blocker who uses his size to his advantage on defense. Sacre has a very credible defensive mentality who can defend against the screen and defend around the high post as well.
Despite being able to get the charity strike and convert at a high rate there for a big man, Sacre has shown a lack of aggressiveness, hesitation and tendency to pump-fake too much around the rim. He struggles with the double-team and even though he can use his body on defense, he doesn’t use his body or size to position himself deep in the post on offense.
DJO had a less-than-impressive stint in the Summer League in Las Vegas averaging 3.8 points, 1.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game on a dismal 23.1 percent shooting from the field. However, it is no secret that the Lakers had a terrible Summer League performance as a whole and the belief is that DJO has much more skills and abilities in his arsenal than seen in Las Vegas.
Although he is quite undersized for his position as a shooting guard at 6’2″, 215 pounds, DJO has athleticism (40-inch vertical), length (6-foot-7 wingspan) and speed to guard opposing point guards and fill in some needs for the Lakers and their bench. However, he struggles at handling and distributing the ball, which will cause him to play off the ball on most possessions.
The Lakers are running out of roster space as they near training camp, which begins next month. Right now, there is one spot remaining on the roster. While both draft picks (Sacre and DJO) have traits, skills and abilities that can be certainly used by the Lakers, it appears that Darius Johnson-Odom seems to be a better fit and has the edge in this race. Eric Pincus of HoopsHype recently wrote on Twitter,
“The Lakers, as constructed, seem to be very well built. I could argue they need a guy like Darius Johnson-Odom who is an athletic guard off the bench. DJO actually tested as the most athletic player at the Chicago combine – tops. He may be raw & has a lot to prove (undersized) but if he can use his athleticism as a defender, he could help LA in a role Nash, Blake, Duhon & even Meeks may not be built for. Devin Ebanks also has potential as a young defender. LA needs that along with the vets.”
Recently, the Lakers have seen real game time contribution from their draft picks such as Devin Ebanks, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock. Of course the Lakers starting lineup is filled with veteran superstars. However, as stated before the Lakers must balance their superstar contracts with younger, more financially desirable ones. Signing and developing their draft picks is more important than ever for the Lakers.
Additionally, these young players can answer the organization’s need to get younger, quicker and more athletic. Darius Johnson-Odom appears to be one of these answers for the Lakers. After all, the team has already invested $500,000 into obtaining his rights, and with dollars at a premium thanks to the new CBA and high-priced payroll, that could be enough.
In case you missed it – AC Green talks Lakers, NBA, etc.