The Lakers have holes everywhere on their roster, but the frontcourt is arguably the team’s biggest need that must be addressed this off-season. Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill, and Chris Kaman are all unrestricted free agents and all could leave the team this summer.
As of right now, Robert Sacre is the only big man on the roster, and Ryan Kelly is likely to be brought back on a cheap contract, but both of those players are probably better off in reserve roles.
This draft offers a number of possibilities to fill a frontcourt need, particularly at the power forward position.
Julius Randle is NBA-ready, and had the most double-doubles in college basketball last season. Aaron Gordon is one of the best athletes in the draft and could be a defensive menace from day one. Noah Vonleh is raw, but has arguably the highest ceiling of any prospect outside the top-3.
Add in intriguing prospects like Croatian Dario Saric who reminds many of Lamar Odom, and Doug McDermott, one of the best scorers in college basketball history, and there are a number of ways the Lakers can go.
So we asked our panel of experts, which power forward should the Lakers draft? This is what they had to say:
Kevin Chan (@kevin_cruiser): I would love for the Lakers to draft Julius Randle in the draft as he is perfect for the small-ball lineups that are becoming increasingly popular in the NBA.
Randle has great strength and bulk weighing in at 250 pounds. It would behoove him to put additional work in the weight room to trim some fat and add muscle. He has a great frame and once he replaces his fat with muscle, he could conceivably play around 265 pounds.
At his size, he also possesses great quickness. Randle will be able to beat most power forward defenders off the dribble and his quickness also helps him stay with smaller players on defense. However, he’s a bit undisciplined and isn’t considered an elite defender at this stage. He has much to learn in that department.
Julius already has a decent post-game and gets most of his points on the block. He needs to continue to develop his jump shot which is inconsistent at this point, but one can imagine Randle contributing 15-20 points per night at some point in his career. He’s also a great rebounder already and led Kentucky with 10.4 rebounds per game.
Additionally Randle was seen sporting Kobe Nines throughout the NCAA tourney. So I’m sure he wouldn’t mind playing with and learning from Kobe.
Russell Valenzuela (@russval4): While Julius Randle may be the most NBA-ready available prospect, Noah Vonleh boasts tremendous upside and potential.
Randle had greater exposure as his Kentucky team went to the national title game while Indiana and Vonleh failed to survive the first round of the Big 10 Tournament. As such, there is a higher familiarity with Randle’s game.
On the court, Randle’s production even outshines Vonleh’s as the Kentucky product put up more points and rebounds per game than Vonleh. A key area where Vonleh bettered Randle was in the shot blocking department.
One of the reasons, scouts are in love in Vonleh is his 7’4” wingspan. With such length, it is natural for Vonleh to alter more shots. He is also quick on his feet and reacts really well when defending in the post making him one of the better defensive players available.
Although his shot is far from perfect and needs to improve, Vonleh is also better than Randle at shooting outside shots. Both can play down low, but what sets Vonleh apart is the ability to stretch defenses more effectively.
The rest of Vonleh’s offensive game is pretty raw. His footwork needs improvement, and he needs to develop better post moves. He has all the tools to become one of the top power forwards in the NBA in a couple years since his game is pretty versatile.
As the Lakers continue to rebuild, reaching Vonleh’s high ceiling will become more beneficial for the team.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): Over the last couple of weeks, Aaron Gordon has really grown on me. He strikes me as someone who will work as hard as possible to be the best, and that is something you can’t teach.
However, I have been on the Julius Randle bandwagon for quite some time now and nothing has happened to sway me yet.
Randle has been a top-5 prospect this entire year, and quite frankly, the only reason he looks like he is dropping to the Lakers is because the two teams in front of the Lakers, the Jazz and Celtics, each have good young players at the power forward position.
Randle already has an advanced post game, and while he didn’t get much of a chance to show it at Kentucky, he has the ability to consistently knock down the 15-footer. He also has an excellent motor, and averaged over 10 rebounds per game, which is a stat that translates very well to the next level.
He needs some work defensively, but Randle should be a contributor the second he steps on the floor. I believe he will end up being some combination of Zach Randolph and David Lee and that is someone I want on my team every night.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): If Julius Randle is still available at No. 7, a strong case can be made for the Los Angeles Lakers to draft the Kentucky product, but I believe the team should go with Arizona’s Aaron Gordon.
Gordon may not be on the same level talent wise as some of the other freshman coming out of college like Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins, but he’s definitely got the potential to be something special.
A comparison could be made to a young Blake Griffin. Athletic with all sorts of potential, but definitely needs to work on parts of his game to be a force in the NBA. Gordon needs polish and he may ultimately prove to be a bust on the NBA level, but his drive and athleticism might be enough to convince GM Mitch Kupchak and company to roll the dice on the 18-year-old out of Arizona.
There’s a very good chance Gordon falls to the Lakers at No. 7. Other promising draft prospects might also be there at No. 7 like Noah Vonleh (Indiana) and Randle (Kentucky), but Randle might be the best option.