Once the Lakers traded away fan favorite Eddie Jones in the middle of 1999 season, there has never been any doubt, Kobe Bryant is the shooting guard of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant has been entrenched in the position since, and the team has never had to worry about it. But now that Bryant will be entering his 19th season, the time has come for the team to start thinking about life after Kobe.
The shooting guard position is on something of a downswing in the NBA at this time. Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and Manu Ginobili are all on the downswing. Guys like Klay Thompson, Bradley Beal, and Demar Derozan are just beginning to find their footing in the league.
Only James Harden has established himself as a true superstar at the position.
This draft could allow the Lakers to pick their heir apparent, and have Kobe mentor a future superstar, the same way Jones mentored him in his early years.
Guys like Andrew Wiggins, James Young, Gary Harris, and Dante Exum are all exceptional prospects who could eventually fill Bryant’s shoes at the shooting guard spot. But who would fit best?
We asked our panel of experts, if you could draft one shooting guard to the Lakers, who would it be? This is what they had to say:
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): At this point in time, draft position for the Los Angeles Lakers is crucial as to whether the team will get a game-changer or a solid role player. If the Lakers get a pick in the top three to five, the storied franchise might be able to get their hands on Andrew Wiggins, Dante Exum, Joel Embiid or Jabari Parker, but if the pick is lower than that, the talent level drops off considerably.
With that being said, the top two players in the draft that could play the shooting guard position are Wiggins and Exum in my opinion. Exum has been labeled a point guard, but may ultimately evolve into playing the two spot on the NBA level.
As for Wiggins, playing on the perimeter might also be where he ends up. At 6’8, Wiggins has the height of a traditional small forward, but doesn’t have the strength to battle NBA-level small forwards.
In my opinion, the Lakers can’t go wrong with taking Exum or Wiggins if they’re looking to bring in another shooting guard. Both players can score and have the ability to play multiple positions. Versatility is always a valuable asset and players like these two may suit the Lakers’ needs more than any other players in the upcoming NBA draft.
So if the Lakers want to upgrade the backcourt in preparation for the post-Kobe Bryant era, Exum is the way to go. If the team wants a player that can play in the frontcourt or the backcourt, Wiggins might be the best fit.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): With the Kobe Bryant era set to come to an end soon, the Lakers will need to find their next star soon, and they have a chance to do so in this draft.
Their selection will undoubtedly have a lot to do with where they end up after the draft lottery. If the Lakers are fortunate enough to move in the top-3, Andrew Wiggins would be a big-time addition for the team. If the team stays at the sixth spot, or moves lower I would love to see someone like Nik Stauskas.
Wiggins’ potential is through the roof. He has all of the athletic ability you want, can play inside and out, and can become a premier defender. It is not too much of a stretch to see him learn from Kobe, much like Bryant himself did from Eddie Jones, before eventually moving into that starting lineup.
But Wiggins won’t drop out of the top three picks. If the Lakers can’t get him, someone like Nik Stauskas could be a solid choice. Stauskas is a big-time shooter, can play both guard positions, and was a winner in his two years at Michigan.
As someone who can bring shooting and versatility, I would love to see Stauskas in purple and gold. But that’s only if the team fails to bring in Wiggins at the top of the draft.