The Lakers and their front office have some big decisions to make today. Staff writer Nelson Espinal discussed how the terrible trade on Tuesday by the front office showed their true colors, but it was applauded by talking heads for getting rid of Timofey Mozgov’s contract and attaching D’Angelo Russell to facilitate the salary dump. What this trade did was create or exacerbate holes within the roster. This would appear to have changed the direction of the rebuild that they had preached about, so a lot of things are up in the air.
These holes that need to be filled are issues that the Lakers need to address regardless of their plan, but due to having three picks and no trade announced, it will revolve around tonight’s NBA draft.
Rumors were swirling about who LA is going to take, but the popular favorite would still appear to be UCLA PG/SG Lonzo Ball. Several weeks ago, I was against taking Ball, but recently I have succumbed to Lonzo being the right pick.
While watching the tape of Lonzo, there are things that his teammates are able to do that helps Lonzo excel. On offense, Lonzo is able to play at his style when there is athleticism, shooting, and a good roll man to catch lobs. When it comes to defense, Lonzo is at his best when he can rely on a big man that can protect the rim and switch on screens, as well as wings that can switch and defend the point of attack.
Some of these issues are helped by players on the current roster, but not all. Brandon Ingram is now the gold child, so these issues also pertain to helping him play up to his full potential.
That is why I think the Lakers should use this strong draft to look at getting these ancillary pieces. The Lakers can use the two picks they have at 27/28 to either address these later, or attempt to trade up. There is also an option that they could buy a second round pick. That may be pushing it with incoming rookies, but with so many holes and new 16th and 17th spots for two way contracts, the new front office may want to address these needs in young, cheap talent.
Specifically, there are five guys I would like the Lakers to take a look at.
OG Anunoby – SF/PF – Indiana
OG is sliding due to knee concerns, but this could become an opportunity that the Lakers should take a flier on. He may not actually drop a far as 27, but there were some draftniks this week that were saying he could see a slide.
OG is a potentially elite perimeter defender at the small forward/power forward position. Some believe he could be one of the three or four prospects that will end up the best defender in the draft. OG projects to be able to defend 1-4 (point guards through power forwards), and if you believe Jonathan Tjarks, OG could see real minutes at the small ball 5 (center). When healthy, OG is a very good athlete, who moves his feet well. There are no concerns with him filling out or being pushed around, as he is strong and already 215 pounds.
The offensive side of the ball is a real concern, but he could be able knock down the corner three and make straight line drives. With his athleticism and wingspan, he would also be a great roll man and lob guy for Lonzo.
The Lakers may need to trade up a bit for him, but he would address some real concerns with perimeter defense. It all comes down to if teams are to frightened or impatient in waiting for his knee to recover. LA has time (well, we think), so providing him time to get healthy would be a great move.
Oh, did I mention that he reportedly talked to Magic Johnson about defense for an extended period of time at the NBA combine?
Ike Anigbogu – C – UCLA
The youngest player in this draft, Ike is a player that fits the mold I am looking for in a 5. He can protect the rim, defend a bit on the perimeter when it comes to screens, and be a good roll/lob guy. This is not the “UNICORN” that everyone obsesses over, but it is a highly important archetype for the position in the modern NBA. Anigbogu would also provide a difference at the 5 from Brook Lopez, and Ivica Zubac, who are more offensive-minded.
At 6’10” and 252 (5.4% body fat!!!!), with a 7’6.25” wingspan, and measuring out to a 9’2.5” standing reach, his measurables are excellent. Add in his athleticism and powerful 32.5” max vert, Ike is an imposing figure at the rim. Ike also is quick enough that he is able to defend on the perimeter, at least in containing the pick and roll.
He is a real project right now, but there is an added benefit in bringing in Anigbogu. At UCLA, Ike developed a very solid chemistry with Lonzo Ball. With his freakish length and large hands, he was the receiver of several lobs from Ball. The Lakers have focused on making young head coach Luke Walton comfortable with their coaching staff, so bringing in a former UCLA teammate for Lonzo could be looked at as well.
His inexperience, previous injury issues, and project status have teams starting to drop him some on their boards, but this is the type of center that teams should be focusing on if they are unable to find a unicorn. Previously he was in the 15-19 range, but he recently stumbled into the 20s, just like OG. The only team after 19 that could use a center and a flier like him could be the Nets at 22. After Brooklyn, he could be available for LA.
Terrance Ferguson – SG/SF – Australia
Originally, this was going to be Ferguson, then I decided upon Derrick White, but he has gotten a lot of helium, so I am back to Ferguson. He isn’t the solid, all-around, experienced wing like Josh Hart or Wesley Iwundu, but this is a bet on his youth and potential.
Ferguson really struggled while he was in Australia (he smartly got paid instead of going with the NCAA), but a lot of people seem to forget that he just turned 19 years old, so struggling against grown men is not a real surprise for such a raw prospect. It will take time for him to develop, but he has intriguing tools and athleticism if his skills are developed properly.
Currently, Ferguson is primarily a spot up shooter (a big need for LA), but he could potentially be a decent ball handler, able to attack closeouts, straight line drive, and defend (despite his lack of length). He really is a ball of clay for the Lakers staff to mold to their liking. With Ferguson, it is all projection at this point since he performed so poorly while playing internationally.
This may not be a very popular pick due to his struggles in Australia, but at one point, Ferguson was a potential lottery pick. Sometimes, you need to try and get those talents that fell on rough times and see if you can recapture the appeal.
Wesley Iwundu – SG/SF – Kansas State
Iwundu saw his stock crater after the NBA combine scrimmages. He was a real option at 28, then fell down to 58 on Draft Express. After working out for teams, he has seen his stock creep back up. This makes the pick more feasible if the Lakers are not able or think of buying a second round pick.
Iwundu can be looked at as a swiss army knife. The Kansas State senior was able to handle the ball, defend, and run the offense. In the NBA he won’t be looked at as a primary ball handler, but his ability to be a secondary guy is intriguing. He does have concerns with shooting (37.6% in 2017), as this was the first year he started taking more than one attempted three point shot a game (2. 4 in 2017). With less of a workload and more focus on this aspect of his game, I think he could see his shooting improve.
On top of the skills, he has the tools. He is a good athlete with intriguing measurables (6’6.75/7’1’). His length will allow him to swallow up guys that may be able to beat him initially, but he can recover using the length. The combination of skills and tools, make him the type of wing that the NBA covets currently.
A lot of these things could be said for Josh Hart, but with less size and length, and more shooting.
Jonah Bolden – PF/C? – International/UCLA(formerly)
Bolden is a player that has seen his stock rise a lot recently as NBA teams have begun diving for the diamonds in the rough. While Bolden has some question he needs to answer in regards to work ethic, effort, and consistency, the potential is clearly evident. The question is, do the Lakers select a player with these questions, along with likely needing to move one of Larry Nance Jr. or Julius Randle. The logjam at the 4 spot is going to be tricky to deal with for Luke this season. The potential is intriguing, and with Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. as players who were not drafted by the current regime (like D’Angelo Russell), one of them may be shipped out to bring in a handpicked talent like Bolden.
At 6’10”, an unofficial 7’3” wingspan, and above average athleticism, Bolden is a fit for the modern NBA. Jonathan Tjarks called him a lottery talent, who could go in the second round. He is offensively skilled, has solid defensive potential, and would be very intriguing with Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram.
The skills and instincts appear to be something that would fit with what the Lakers are wanting to “build” (I say this lightly for now). He could potentially play small ball 5, spread the floor, rim run, defend, etc. The questions of his ability and consistency make it hard to determine, but the potential is there to add an extremely talented asset.
I go back and forth on Bolden, but if the front office wants to make a change, Bolden’s talent and potential (as well as the UCLA connection – I am only half joking) could be something the front office desires. Watching film on Bolden, his strengths are really intriguing, but the weaknesses stand out to me. He has the issues that were mentioned before, and for a front office that does not appear to put up with these issues, it may not be in the cards.
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*Stats and body measurements according to Draft Express.