Lakers fans everywhere were anxiously awaiting the NBA Draft Lottery for the first time in years this past Tuesday. With the team having the sixth best odds of winning the top pick, there was hope that the team could at least move into the top-3 of the draft.
With top prospects like Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, and Dante Exum, a top-3 pick could have immediately changed the Lakers fortunes. Unfortunately for the team, and the fans, the Lakers were jumped by the Cleveland Cavaliers and will now select seventh overall.
This selection is the only one the Lakers own in the entire draft. While this draft is very deep, and the Lakers could find someone who will be a contributor on this team for years to come, the team has a number of holes and one draft pick will only help so much.
This begs the question, would the team be better off trading their draft pick for multiple assets? We asked our panel of experts, and this is what they had to say:
Suki Thind (@TheRealSuki): Given the seventh draft pick, it is up to management as to what direction they want to go in right now. Unfortunately, the Lakers did not acquire a top-3 pick, which would have made their decision(s) much easier. Now, they’ve got to think about whether they’d like to select a solid seventh pick and develop him, or trade him for multiple picks or even for multiple players.
The first decision they have to make is if they’re looking to compete at a high level now, or a few years down the road — which even if they had an answer to that, would still be a tough decision.
If they plan to compete now, then they could keep the pick in hopes that he would be an immediate contributor, and also hope to land a significant player in free agency to bolster the roster they’re building this summer. Or, they could trade for a couple of players who are already established or who are somewhat established but have some upside as well, in hopes of solidifying certain holes in the roster.
If they want to rely more on the free agency class of 2015 and start building a solid, younger team for the future, then they could theoretically trade for a couple of later-first round picks or even a first round and a high second round pick — or something along those lines.
If it were up to me, however, I’d keep the pick for now and only trade it if it would bring in a significant piece (or pieces) that would make an immediate impact. Otherwise, the draft is widely considered to be a relatively deep one, and whatever player the Lakers select could turn out to be a key player for years to come.
Maybe he won’t be an All-Star player off the bat, or even a game-changer right away, but add a solid young player with an older Kobe Bryant and an in-his-prime superstar — either from this year’s free agency or next — and the Lakers may be playoff contenders once again.
At the same time, Lakers’ management is always searching for the best possible ways to “win now,” as the demands also go with the fans, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Lakers trade the pick for a solid player who is proven and can contribute right away.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): This draft is one of the deepest in years, and the Lakers likely would be able to get someone from the Marcus Smart, Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle group of prospects.
All of those players could turn out to be outstanding pros, and could contribute to the team immediately. But these Lakers are not one player away from competing, they need players across the board, and that is why I believe it is best for the team to trade the pick if they get a good deal.
The Lakers need to begin building, and doing that with two or three guys is better than just one. Both the Phoenix Suns and Chicago Bulls hold two draft picks in the mid-first round. Getting one, or both, of those picks plus a young player would be an excellent haul for the Lakers.
If the Lakers could get a package like Tony Snell and the 16th or 19th pick from the Bulls, or Archie Goodwin and the 14th or 18th pick from the Suns, you’re talking about multiple young players who could be potential building blocks for the team.
There is not a drastic difference in talent of prospects the Lakers could select at seventh as they could at 14 or 16. If the team could pick up another piece along the way, they need to do that quickly.
Russell Valenzuela (@RussVal4): While the Lakers didn’t land a top-3 pick in the lottery, they are still set up pretty well for the draft.
With the seventh pick they won’t be able to draft anyone from the big three of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid. It is also likely the team will be out of the running for combo guard Dante Exum, whom many have linked to the Lakers.
Regardless, the Lakers could still benefit from keeping the seventh pick. Once the disappointment from dropping down in the draft subsides, there are still plenty of prospects with potential that could be available when the its time for the Lakers to draft.
After the four mentioned above, the general consensus of next best available include Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart, and Julius Randle. Assuming the team keeps their pick, one of these could become the newest Laker. Any of these four could contribute right away as the Lakers have needs at pretty much every position.
Finding talent through the draft is a crapshoot. But a quick look at the history of seventh picks shows a team can pick up a valuable piece, and these were during what were considered shallower drafts.
Any later pick makes that gamble riskier. The only trade the Lakers should accept for their current pick has to consist of a fringe All-Star and a mid-first round pick.
Since I don’t see anyone giving those up, the Lakers are better served standing pat and using their pick to draft a prospect they can develop.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): The Lakers didn’t get the most favorable result in the NBA draft lottery landing the seventh pick overall pick. Although the Lakers were expected to draft in the 6-7 range in the upcoming draft, the team’s front office was hoping to get in the top-3 to give them more leverage in terms of trades and the talent level available.
Personally, I believe trading the seventh pick may be the way to go for the Lakers. The reason for not trading the pick would be if there is a legitimate chance of landing Julius Randle or Dante Exum, but with those scenarios unlikely, trading for multiple picks is something the team can benefit from.
One trade that continues to get talked about is Kevin Love heading to the Lakers. This trade is highly unlikely with the Lakers falling to the seventh pick and having no other tradable assets outside of the pick in the top-10.
Love may ultimately land in Los Angeles in free agency next summer, but it seems doubtful the Lakers will be able to convince the Minnesota Timberwolves to make a deal with what they’d receive in return from Los Angeles.
Kevin Chan (@Kevin_Cruiser): I think the Lakers should keep their seventh overall draft pick and it mainly comes down to financial flexibility reasons. The Lakers need to maximize cap flexibility so they can have a chance at signing max player either this summer or the summer of 2015.
The Lakers don’t have any valuable trade assets besides their first round pick at the moment which means they only have their first round pick to offer in a trade. It’s possible that they could obtain a decent role player like Courtney Lee plus the Grizzlies’ 22nd overall pick. But does this really accomplish much given that the Lakers are clearly in a rebuilding stage? Not to mention that the veteran’s salary will be at least double the cost of their potential draft pick.
Let’s not kid ourselves, there’s no way the Lakers will be able to trade for a budding star plus a late first round draft pick. I’m sure the Bulls would be willing to unload Carlos Boozer and his albatross expiring 16.8 million dollar contract plus the 19th pick. But this type of scenario doesn’t help the Lakers rebuild either.
First round rookie contracts are three years guaranteed with a fourth year team option. The Lakers seventh overall pick will cost them about 7.8 million over three years. This years draft is very deep and the Lakers could potentially nab a future star like Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon or Julius Randle with their pick.
Let’s say the rookie pans by year two and does well. The Lakers would have a quality player on their roster at a substantial discount. Keeping their draft pick and drafting a promising young player rather than trading it away for a more expensive veteran would be a very prudent decision that will give the Lakers more financial flexibility to fill out the rest of the roster.
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