The Los Angeles Lakers first major decision of the offseason looms ahead as the 2014 NBA draft kicks off June 26th. Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family have decided to wait until after the draft to select their new coach, which leaves the team in an interesting predicament with the 7thpick.
There are rumors swirling that the team is shopping the pick with Steve Nash’s expiring contract for the likes of Klay Thompson in the Kevin Love sweepstakes. We’re days away from the draft and the goal remains the same: get Kobe a strong supporting cast to make it back to the playoffs and a shot at a ring.
My mock draft for the top 10 has drastically shifted with Joel Embiid’s recent foot fracture. It looked as though he was headed for the #1 pick but now could fall all the way to the Lakers at the seventh pick. As tempting as Embiid would be for the Lakers, history of big men recovering from foot injuries (see Greg Odom) is too great a risk with the Lakers’ depleted roster. I’m going to stick with the mentality that the Lakers will be conservative and select Marcus Smart with the seventh pick.
Marcus Smart offers the team the point guard they’ve been dreaming of since they made the trade for Steve Nash in 2010. Smart will be a day one starter who can help space the floor with his consistent scoring ability and be an immediate success on defense with his tenacious skill to shutting down perimeter players.
With only one selection in the draft and big need for players to fill out the roster there are a few undrafted players the team will be seeking to sign as soon as the draft is finished.
The power forward position is the other big need in this draft and the Lakers need to focus on finding a player who can quickly adapt his game to the NBA. Cameron Bairstow (6-9, 250) was easily one of the most improved players in the college game last year for New Mexico. He’s one of the most intriguing inside-out players with an excellent mid-range jump shot that make him hard to defend. With a strong upper body and ability to move well without the ball, he has the ability to create his own shots without the offense running plays for him. The Australian has great shot blocking skills and if he can improve his three point range, he will have many teams clamoring for him.
At the small forward position they could go after Melvin Ejim (6-6, 200) or Fuquan Edwin (6-6, 215). Ejim is coming off an impressive season with Iowa State where he was named the Big 12 player of the year over top pick Andrew Wiggins. He has a high basketball IQ, is strong on the offensive glass with a good nose for the ball and has an excellent work ethic. Edwin, a star player for Seton Hall, is an effective defender who has improved every year but needs to be more consistent on the offensive side at the next level to contribute.
At center, the team already has Robert Sacre who earned ample playing time this last season but will probably never be more than a role player. The team can certainly take a flyer on a guy like Jordan Bachynski (7-2, 248) who is an interesting prospect with excellent shot blocking and the ability to run the floor.
The Lakers are hoping to use this draft to attract a top coach dependent on who upper management decides to draft. Marcus Smart offers the best choice for a position that is very important to the team. If Embiid’s slide manages to somehow continue past the Orlando Magic, the Lakers will have a difficult choice to pick a high-risk high reward player in Embiid or go with the (Marcus) Smart choice.