2014 NBA Draft: 5 Players The Los Angeles Lakers Should Target
5 Players The Los Angeles Lakers Should Target
Calling the Los Angeles Lakers' 2013 campaign a disappointment is an understatement. From the outset of the season injuries decimated the Laker roster, and like a cruel practical joke, ailments consistently hindered the team all year long. The truth reared its ugly head, making it obviously apparent that the team's veteran core of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Steve Blake was too aged to sustain an 82 game season.
Fortunately for the team, general manager Mitch Kupchak has shown a propensity for orchestrating quick Laker turnarounds. In years past, Kupchak has made key high-profile trades and free agency additions to keep the team perennially championship competitive.
The current Laker problem, however, a decrepit roster in desperate need of an infusion of youth, seems to be more deep-rooted, but nevertheless addressable. Los Angeles consistently remains one of the most attractive options for NBA free agents due to the Lakers' storied legacy, Los Angeles' friendly climate and glamorous stigma. By 2015, the Lakers will have the opportunity to rid themselves of the unwanted contracts of Pau Gasol and Steve Nash and aggressively pursue high-profile players such as Rajon Rondo, Lamarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, Roy Hibbert, Marc Gasol, Al Jefferson, DeAndre Jordan or Brook Lopez through free agency.
The Lakers' chances of securing one or multiple marquee players in 2015 (and subsequently returning to the play of a championship caliber team) largely depends on their ability to cultivate young talent through the 2014 NBA Draft. As of today, Los Angeles sits tied for the fourth worst NBA record, putting them in excellent position to select a future cornerstone player from a draft class stacked with lottery-talent. Given the Lakers' current record and situation, these five scenarios are the most likely to occur in Los Angeles on draft day.
5. Julius Randle
Along with fellow freshman Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, Julius Randle's name has been frequently mentioned in the top five of most NBA Mock Draft Boards. Randle will likely be the last of the three to get drafted because he is the least developed on defense. However, Randle's natural offensive talent and rebounding abilities make up for his defensive deficiencies. If the Lakers sign a natural scorer and rebounder like Randle, I believe they will look to augment his style of play with a 2015 interior presence like Roy Hibbert, Al Jefferson or DeAndre Jordan.
4. Noah Vonleh
The least polished out of all of the prospective high-lottery picks, Noah Vonleh is also a player with one of the highest potential upsides. At 6-foot-10, with nearly a seven and a half foot wingspan, Vonleh is one of the NCAA's most voracious rebounders. His low-post game needs improvement, but he can shoot over the top of defenders and is a capable mid-range shooter. Once Vonleh learns to improve his footwork on the interior, he will become a devastatingly effective player.
3. Trade Pick Away for Kevin Love
Since the beginning of the year, preliminary rumors have linked Love to the Lakers in 2015. A West Coast native who went to UCLA, Love already has an intimate relationship with Los Angeles and its culture.
Love recently discredited the Laker rumors, telling the media that the Minnesota Timberwolves has a "better foundation." If Los Angeles wants Love and the incredible skill set he brings, they may have to be more proactive in their pursuit. Trading away a 2014 lottery draft-pick would definitely sweeten the deal for a Minnesota team steadfastly disinterested in all trade inquiries.
2. Joel Embiid
At 7-feet, 250 pounds, Joel Embiid has both the body of a NBA center and all the skill attributes required to excel at the position. Embiid is an effective scorer with both hands, a shot-blocking force on defense, and hasn't nearly reached his full potential. Many scouts have already likened Embiid's game to Hall-of-Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon and proclaimed the freshman center the most talented player in this year's class.
Under the tutelage of Laker great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Embiid would quickly learn to master intricacies of the center position. In my opinion, he is perfect fit for a rebuilding Laker team with Kobe Bryant still at the helm. He just might not be available when the Lakers pick, and might not be available at all (Embiid has expressed some interest in returning to Kansas next season).
1. Dante Exum
The top-rated international player in the 2014 draft, Dante Exum and the Lakers seem to be a perfect fit on paper. Exum, a 6-foot-6 Australian point guard with a deceptively quick first step, creates all sorts of matchup problems for smaller adversaries. His long wingspan and height advantage also make him a formidable defender.
The Lakers desperately need a player like Exum to provide long-term stability at the point guard position and reports suggest that Exum hopes to end up with Los Angeles. In what seems like an attempt to push his own agenda, Exum recently signed with Kobe Bryant's agent, Rob Pelinka, and spoke effusively of Bryant. If Exum's pre-draft workouts raise no red flags, it seems likely to assume that he could likely be wearing purple and gold colors next year.
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