Top Prospects Lakers Should Consider With No. 17 Pick In 2023 NBA Draft
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The wait is over; the 2023 NBA Draft is finally here. The Los Angles Lakers, despite making it to the Western Conference Finals, have pick 17 in the first round and pick 47 in the second round.

In today’s article, I will list my five favorite prospects for the Lakers to select if they decide to keep the 17th pick.

I should mention that regardless of what the Lakers decide to do with their draft selections, the front office has earned the benefit of the doubt. The Lakers organization has a tremendous track record of acing their draft selections. The most recent instance was last year’s draft when they selected Max Christie in the second round.

Cason Wallace

When scouting, you’re told never to scout the jersey, only the player. However, it is tough to do that when scouting Kentucky guards; it’s so hard not to acknowledge Kentucky’s track record. Cason Wallace is an intelligent tenacious defensive guard who can defend 1-3 and makes a ton of high-IQ plays off-ball. Offensively, Wallace shows excellent flashes of on-ball playmaking and operating out of ball screens. He ranked in the 77th percentile in college basketball last season at Pick & Roll Ball Handler PPP (points per possession), per Synergy. You combine that with Wallace shooting 35% on catch-and-shoot looks from three and you now have a versatile offensive player and a defensive pest, the perfect combination to pair with LeBron James. Unfortunately, he’ll likely be gone before pick #17.

Nick Smith Jr.

Nick Smith Jr. has evolved into one of “my guys” throughout this draft evaluation process. He definitely has some concerns, as does every draft prospect. He’s a little too chaotic, which leads to unnecessary turnovers and he doesn’t put enough pressure on the rim for my liking, which could limit his ceiling.

However, he has an ELITE runner, especially when he can get to his right hand. He also shot 35.5% on catch-and-shoot opportunities from three last season at Arkansas. His mechanics are fluid, and he has a quick release, so I expect his shot to translate to the NBA level. Defensively he cares and is the ultimate competitor.

Jordan Hawkins

When discussing which player best fits the Lakers, the answer must be Jordan Hawkins. Not only is Hawkins the ideal fit next to stars like James and Anthony Davis, but he is also exactly what the Lakers coaching staff needs to continue to unlock the offensive playbook.

The Lakers’ ball-screen attack struggled when they faced Drop Coverage or “ICE” Coverage against the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets. Hawkins’ off-ball gravity as a movement shooter could help unlock that. Hawkins shot an incredible 42.4% on threes coming off of screens. While also shooting a ridiculous 44.4% on guarded catch-and-shoot opportunities. Hawkins is an absolute flamethrower and someone the Lakers desperately need.

Noah Clowney

When discussing potential fits next to Davis, Noah Clowney is a player that intrigues me. He played in a modern pro-style offense at Alabama orchestrated by head coach Nate Oats, which includes a ton of Modern 5-Out Motion Offense principles. Including designed step-up ghost screen actions and incredible floor spacing to optimize driving attacks.

Clowney shot 34.9% on open catch-and-shoot 3-pointers for Alabama last season while also being an excellent rim finisher. Clowney shot 67.2% at the rim last season, while defensively, he allowed only 36.2% at the rim. His upside defensively to be able to switch out on the perimeter while being a good enough weakside rim protector is a desirable skill set in the modern NBA.

Kobe Bufkin

The theme of this article thus far has been the need for versatile players. That’s just how the modern NBA is played. Kobe Bufkin offensively provides unique versatility that can fit nicely next to James. Bufkin has grown incredibly as an on-ball playmaker and decision-maker, especially in the second half of his sophomore season. Bufkin is also one of the premier finishers at the rim in the draft class amongst guards, finishing at an absurd 71.1% rate at the basket.

Bufkin has the ability to be dynamic out of ball screens, coming off handoffs, and also has upside as an off-screen shooter as well. Bufkin also does a good job defensively, especially off-ball, where he uses his instincts to make plays on the ball.

The Lakers have an opportunity to make significant improvements to the roster on draft night. Whether the Lakers stand pat at pick 17, trade back in the first round, or ultimately trade out of the first round. It will be a fun night, and Lakers Nation will keep you posted on all the latest draft news and rumors.

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