The 2014 NBA draft is quickly approaching and, with the lottery now in the books, the Los Angeles Lakers have received the seventh selection. The number 7 has been synonymous with luck over the years, especially for NBA teams who possess the seventh pick. For the Lakers, this pick represents the opportunity to add a potential new franchise talent that will add another championship ring to Kobe’s collection.
Over the last ten years of the draft, the seventh pick has proven to be a great position to draft a quality starter. The players selected seventh are the “glue guys” for their respective teams and most of them are still impact players to this day. Generally these are players were potential lottery picks that fell for one reason or another. In 2004, the Chicago Bulls drafted Luol Deng who has been one of the best defensive small forwards in the game over the last 8 years. The best of the sevens to be drafted was Stephen Curry (2009) who this past year took the league by storm averaging 24 ppg, 8.5 apg, and 4.3 rpg. The only seventh pick that was considered a disappointment was Toronto’s 2005 pick of Charlie Villanueva, and he had six respectable seasons before injuries cut his career short.
Realistically, the top four picks of Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Dante Exum will be off the board by the time the Lakers select. With the Lakers’ seventh pick, the team will be evaluating four players that can provide an impact in their rookie year. Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh and Aaron Gordon are the prime candidates for teams currently selecting five through nine.
After the Lottery was announced, the wild card in my mock draft is who Utah picks at the 5 spot because they don’t have a clear need for any of the above players. My current assessment is that the Jazz select Vonleh because he is too good to pass up and there are concerns that Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter can’t play together in a starting lineup. Another potential direction, consistent with Jazz draft history, is to select Aaron Gordon and groom him to be their next small forward.
With the Lakers’ lack of strength at the point (no offense to Steve Nash), they would be smart to grab a strong physical point guard that can run the offense and play tenacious defense. Marcus Smart brings a unique dynamic to the team, a versatile floor general that can help the team with distributing as well as being a consistent scorer. His size and strength will help with his physical adjustment to playing in the NBA and, if he can improve his shot selection and turnover ratio, he could develop into an All-Star. A red flag could be his decision to strike a fan while his team was playing at Texas Tech.
Another potential selection is Julius Randle who is coming off a sensational season with Kentucky. Randle is probably the most NBA ready forward in the draft; he can come in day 1 and start for the Lakers. With his strength and outstanding physical play in the paint he can give the Lakers Zach Randolph-type numbers (17 ppg/10 rpg). His downside is that he is a bit undersized at 6-9 and he will need to develop some better low post moves and a midrange jump shot to truly be the impact player he is capable of being. The path to the playoffs run through teams that can control the boards and Randle is the Lakers’ best option to dominate the boards.
If Randle isn’t available, Aaron Gordon could fit with his strong rebounding and low post defense as one of the top freshmen at Arizona. Gordon is viewed as an undersized power forward at the next level with exceptional athletic ability and has upside potential. His biggest weakness is that he lacks any real NBA offensive game at this point. If he can develop some offense, he could be the next Kenneth Faried, which is pretty impressive, but the NBA benches are littered with athletic talent that never took their game to the next level.
The Lakers’ have the potential to make their “Lucky 7 ” pick be a future All-Star. The key to the team getting lucky with the seventh pick in this year’s draft is to be smart in evaluating their hand, playing the odds, and not reaching.