Los Angeles Lakers: Analyzing first round targets

With the deepest draft in years, the Los Angeles Lakers are in an outstanding position with the seventh pick in the upcoming NBA draft. It’s time to look at which players will still be on the board and which are the best picks for a team that has many needs.

They probably should add a power forward to strengthen the 4 -5 positions with Noah Vonleh or Julius Randle. But maybe the team needs a versatile athlete with big potential like Aaron Gordon or a physical point guard like Marcus Smart to run the offense.  All offer the team something different but they all have the makings of a quality NBA starter in the league.

Randle Julius Randle is the power forward that most analysts expect to drop a bit but that gives the team exactly what they want. Randle just finished a fabulous freshmen season at Kentucky where he led his team with 15PPG, 10.4 RPG and 50% shooting. He is easily the most NBA ready player coming out of college.

The Lakers would get a power forward that bullies his way to the basket and is a fiery player. He is a bit one-dimensional at the next level as he can only drive to his left at the moment but he has the strength to make it to the basket. At 6-9, 250 pounds, he is a big bruiser who can develop his game by adding a mid-range jump shot, working on his defense in the post, and developing his ability to use both hands.

Randle has the ability to be a high volume scorer and reliable rebounder right off the bat but his ceiling is limited. The closest NBA comparison would be Carlos Boozer as he seems to dominate on the offensive side but is limited by his defensive liabilities at this time. The Lakers would benefit from a tough physical power forward like Randle who can dominate under the glass and score in traffic.

Noah Vonleh is a freakish talent with a 7-foot-4 wingspan that is the prototype PF/C of the future. He can be an instant starter with the Lakers and make an impact on both ends of the court.

At Indiana, he had a solid freshman year averaging 11.3 PPG, 9 RPG and 1.4 BLKS, showing flashes of his ability to dominate at both ends of the court. Noah is the second youngest player in the draft (18) combined with a 6-9, 247-pound frame and a monstrous 37-inch vertical jump, he has NBA executives drooling. A workout warrior with great mobility for his size, he should be able to develop into an All-Star in the NBA.

I suspect the Lakers would use him at the four position due to his aggressive rebounding skills on both sides of the floor, plus he has shown flashes of brilliance in the post. His weaknesses at this point are a lack of confidence that could be attributed to his youth, his ball handling in transition that has led to being very turnover prone, and his inexperience on the defensive end. His future with the Lakers could be bright but he is a development project that could take a few seasons to really show his potential.

The more obvious choice for the Lakers would be to select a point guard for the future and Marcus Smart should be available at 7. He is coming off an underwhelming sophomore season with Oklahoma State where he averaged 18 PPG, 4.8 APG and 2.9 STL.

Smart has great size (6-3), strength, and instincts that directly translate to the NBA. He is a high-energy hustler who plays tenacious defense and has the ability to play the floor general while being able to drive consistently to the basket.  The Lakers need his wide 6-9 wingspan and 36-inch vertical jump to defend the taller guards in the league and make it difficult for them to get off an open shot.

At this point his major weakness is outside shooting where he averaged 29% from 3-point range. Smart should also work on better shot selection and reducing his turnovers at the next level. His ceiling is quite high at the next level, as numerous analysts compare him to Dwyane Wade with a bit less athleticism.

A player that every team will consider but has the biggest chance of falling in the NBA draft is Aaron Gordon. Gordon is coming off a great season with Arizona where he averaged 12.4 PPG and 8 RBG. He is undersized for the power forward position (6-8, 220 pounds) but he is a tenacious defender and one of the most athletic players in the draft.

Gordon comes with a big asterisk though as he is a boom or bust prospect who has relied on his athleticism and high motor to make plays. He comes to the NBA with the biggest weakness of any potential lottery pick in his inability to muster consistent offense. In order for him to be successful in the NBA he will have to develop sharper shooting skills. If he can develop a consistent offensive game, he could very well become the ultimate glue guy for a championship team.

Mitch Kupchak is heading to a make or break decision for the Lakers in this draft and needs to come away with a solid immediate starter that can upgrade the PG, PF or C position. The good news is there a number of solid players in this draft that could the fill the Lakers’ needs and impact a return to the playoffs.