In between the blowouts, comebacks, Michael Jordan memes of the 2016 NBA Finals, the Lakers are quietly preparing for the personnel acquisition stage of the off-season. While Luke Walton chases a second ring to show off to his new young team, his proxy Brian Shaw has been doing due diligence with draft prospects in collaboration with the front office.
The number two pick is all but finalized. Reports have surfaced that the Sixers’ front office is almost a lock to pick up Simmons, and Dragan Bender’s stock has fallen inside the Lakers front office. The Croatian power forward was likely a reach at two anyway, but now it’s almost a certainty that Brandon Ingram will be joining the Lakers’ young core.
The only real mystery of the draft for the Lakers (barring an unforeseen draft day trade) is the destiny of the 32nd pick. The Lakers have found value in the second round before, most recently in standout guard Jordan Clarkson, and possibly in wing player Anthony Brown. Jim Buss has stated that adding even more young players to a team so filled with youth isn’t optimal for when the team wants to contend. But the Lakers’ scouting ability combined with their shortage in both depth and talent likely mean that second-round pick has a future in Los Angeles.
So who could Los Angeles select early in the second round? Though the Lakers could use talent in all forms at this point, the team’s most glaring holes are at the small forward and the center position. With so many young players on the roster, especially ones like Randle, Ingram, and to an extent Russell who will need specific coaching and attention, the best option might be to pick someone at 32 who is a known commodity rather than a project player. While a player like Thon Maker might pan out well, the Lakers have had far more luck picking experienced players later in the draft like Clarkson, Nance, and Brown.
The team needs two positions and two skills: small forward and center, and shooting and defense. Sitting that high in the second round, Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss will most likely be able to pinpoint those areas of needs and make an impact in at least one of them. Let’s look at a few prospects who could make an immediate contribution alleviating some of the Lakers' perimeter issues.
- Malcolm Brogdon
The four-year letterman out of University of Virginia just might be the perfect 3-and-D prospect for the Lakers. Picking him at 32 might be ambitious, but Larry Nance at the 27th pick of the 2015 Draft was a reach as well. That selection obviously panned out well, the Lakers shouldn’t fear picking whoever they want at this point in the draft.
Last year’s ACC Player of the Year led UVA to the Elite Eight last year, filling in the leadership and productivity void left by Justin Anderson’s departure to the Spurs. Brogdon’s an efficient scorer; he was one of the few players to score over 1.00 points per possession last year, while using over 17 possessions per game. What’s even more relevant for the Lakers is that most of those points came out of off-ball screen actions and spot-up threes, an almost perfect fit for both Luke Walton’s offense and D’Angelo Russell’s likely ball dominance in the future. Brogdon shot almost 40% from three last year, and his 90% free throw rate forecasts nothing but good things in the NBA. While his shooting stroke is effective, it does lack some arc and could use some form work. Additionally, his offense is somewhat limited; he’s not a crazy athlete and won’t be blowing by defenders off the dribble. But he’s a smart, unselfish player on offense who knows how to make the right play (his senior year assist/turnover ratio was 2.21).
Defensively, he gives the Lakers exactly what they need: a long defender with big hands and tenacity. His height isn’t the prototype for a lockdown wing defender at 6’5’’, but his 6’10’’ wingspan lets him play a little bigger. His stats don’t show his true defensive potential; he doesn’t gamble for steals and won’t be blocking too many shots. Also, his lack of lateral quickness might stop him from being able to consistently stay in front of some of the more elite guards. But he’s a smart defender who can especially excel in a good defensive system, which we all expect Luke Walton to implement.
Maybe being from Virginia is shading my perspective, but I think this is the exact type of pick the Lakers need to round out the backcourt. He’ll be 23 on draft day, so there’s limited upside; we already know what he brings to the table. Fortunately, he brings exactly what the Lakers need.
- Jake Layman
Layman is another four-year player, coming from a pretty up-and-down career at Maryland. He scored less, took less shots, and rebounded less his senior year than he did his junior year. The biggest knock on Layman is his inconsistency. That Maryland team had plenty of other options offensively (including likely first-round picks Diamond Stone and Melo Tremble), and Layman almost seemed content to let others do the work offensively. That’s not to say he can’t be an offensive force; in Maryland’s January victory against Ohio State, Layman scored 16 points on 5-7 shooting, going 4-5 from deep. He also pulled down ten rebounds that game, much higher than his 5.3 a game average.
Those are the reasons why he’d be available at #32. Why would the Lakers pick him? Because he has the potential to be a prototypical forward in the modern NBA. He’s 6’8’’, super athletic, long, and has potential to be whatever the Lakers need him to be. He could be a great shooter at the NBA level (40% 3P, 85% FT, 64% TS), and averaged at least a block and a steal every year of his collegiate career. His advanced defensive statistics project him to be useful on that end as well, especially if Luke Walton and team can help focus his energy on that side of the ball.
With proper defensive coaching, his athleticism and length could allow him to guard three positions, possibly even using him as a Draymond Green type of player in small ball lineups. Layman isn’t even close to the same league as Green when it comes to playmaking, but Green didn’t have the same vision he has now as a rookie.
His consistency and motivation are the two biggest question marks here. If he’s properly locked in, he could be a versatile player for the Lakers to mold. Both Walton and Shaw have experience building relationships with players and motivating them to their full potential. If they see promise in Layman, he could be player worth taking.
- Michael Gbinije
Source: Rich Barnes
Full disclosure, I played against Michael Gbinije a couple of different times in high school, so there might be some more bias here. The Syracuse product sticks with the theme of four-year players; Gbinije transferred to Syracuse after spending most of his freshman year on the Duke bench. He showed continuous improvement in his time playing for the Orange, and Jim Boeheim even had him playing point guard during certain points in the season.
I don’t know if his ball-handling and playmaking are good enough to be a point guard at the next level, but they certainly will help make him more effective as a two guard or a three. He’s a smart player; even though he averaged almost three turnovers a game, that’s likely a result of the load he was asked to carry offensively for Syracuse.
As a playmaking wing, he has promise as a shooter, despite not having the most fluid shot. He can make catch-and-shoot threes and also can hit shots off the dribble. He would most likely learn to find his shots a little better with someone like Russell managing the ball, but could also serve as a secondary or even tertiary ball-handler to take some of the load off the Lakers’ main playmakers. He had a few instances of being a little too aggressive at times and taking poor shots, but again, next-level coaching is primed to handle those issues.
Gbinije’s lack of length could put a cap on his defensive potential, but he showed solid lateral quickness at the top of Syracuse’s zone, and reportedly showed some promise as a one-on-one defender with the Nigerian national team.
His age and experience make him an attractive option for the Lakers. He likely has the least upside of either of the three prospects discussed, but, like Layman, has tools that allow him to possibly play multiple positions in time.
Brogdon, Layman, and Gbinije all have the type of versatility that’s attractive to NBA scouts. Layman and Gbinije will probably have a lot of incentive to show up during their workouts and impress some coaching staffs; that may affect their availability come draft day. But really, it’s Brogdon who the Lakers should most covet. He brings two NBA ready skills with no questions about motor or motivation. He’s a hard-worker with a full body of work to back it up. If he’s still on the board at 32, he would be more than worth the Lakers’ pick.