The small forward position is full of stars in this era of the NBA. The league’s biggest stars including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George are all considered small forwards.
Even teams without those big time stars are employing guys like Kawhi Leonard, Nicolas Batum, and Chandler Parsons, all of whom are blossoming into big-time players. Add that to veterans like Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza, and Paul Pierce and the small forward position is one of the deeper positions in the NBA.
The Lakers have struggled recently at the small forward position. After Trevor Ariza and Metta World Peace helped the team capture championships, we’ve seen players like Devin Ebanks and Wesley Johnson produce barely average results.
The Lakers need to get more production out of the small forward position and this could be the draft to do so. Guys like Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins are at the top of the list. But Aaron Gordon, James Young, and Rodney Hood could all be excellent players as well.
So we asked our panel of experts which small forward they would draft if they were the Lakers. This is what they had to say:
Corey Hansford (TheeCoreyH): Jabari Parker is my favorite player in this draft. I believe that he will be a star in this league. His offensive arsenal is NBA-ready, and hie tenacity and ferocity on the court are awesome.
Unfortunately, the Lakers have virtually no shot at landing the Duke product, barring some act of divine intervention, so it’s probably best to focus on someone more attainable.
The next tier of small forwards after Parker and Andrew Wiggins does not lack for talent, and of those players, I prefer Kentucky freshman James Young.
Young is one of the youngest prospects in the draft, but he has shown that he can do it all on the court. He can shoot the ball with range and attack the basket fearlessly, while also providing solid effort defensively and on the boards.
Just as important for me, however, is how much he stepped up during the Wildcats’ tournament run. In the final 3 games, Young averaged just under 17 points, while adding five rebounds and shooting 48 percent from the field and 54 percent from three-point range.
Kentucky is under more pressure than any other college basketball program and that experience would help Young succeed under the bright lights of L.A. If the team can’t get Parker, James Young would be the next best option in my opinion.
Russell Valenzuela (@RussVal4): This question basically boils down to the Andrew Wiggins versus Jabari Parker debate.
While Wiggins maybe one of the most athletic prospects out there, Parker is the best small forward available. Sure, Wiggins has all the upside in the world, and can jump out of the building, but Parker comes in as the most ready to contribute right away.
Parker may not attack the rim as well as Wiggins, but he can hurt defenses in a multitude of ways. His strong frame allows him to post up against defenders and he has shown he is more than capable of operating from the low block.
Throughout the season, Parker also flashed a vast array of moves that he already has in his arsenal. There is no doubt Parker can get his shot off against most defenses, and make some difficult shots.
Over the year however, Parker’s defense became a question. In his last game at Duke, Parker was held out at the end because he was seen as a liability. If Parker wants to improve his defense he would need to show the same effort on that end that he displays on offense.
Unless the Lakers can somehow pull off a trade to move up with their limited assets, Parker will be gone by the time they pick. Another option would be to trade down as most players likely available to them will by power forwards.
If that’s the case, they couldn’t go wrong with trying to target Parker’s teammate, Rodney Hood, who can score like Parker but has the same limitations on defense.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, if they remain small forwards heading into the NBA, are the best players at the position. It remains to be seen which player will emerge as the better of the two, but at this point the Lakers couldn’t go wrong by selecting either player.
Unfortunately, unless Mitch Kupchak pulls off some kind of miracle, the Lakers aren’t getting Wiggins or Parker.
With that being said, the best small forward option with the No. 7 pick in the upcoming draft will be Aaron Gordon. Although I’m not high on the Arizona product personally, I can’t argue with his potential and ability to possibly be a star as one of the best athletes in the draft.
Another option for the Lakers is Dario Saric out of Croatia. Saric made things interesting recently by making it known that he only wants to be drafted by the Lakers or Boston Celtics. Saric is a traditional stretch-four and could prove useful for Los Angeles.
So even though Lakers don’t have a pick in which they could land a top tier talent like Wiggins, Parker or Joel Embiid, the team still has a chance to select a player with potential. Gordon or Saric may turn out to be that player come June 26.
Kevin Chan (@Kevin_Cruiser): My favorite small forward prospect in the 2014 NBA draft is Jabari Parker. He’s probably one of the most polished offensive players in the draft pool.
Parker has a smooth stroke and is actually quicker than most people expect. His offense is very versatile and assuming he continues to develop, he should have no problem scoring in the NBA.
He already has a deadly step back and can pull up comfortably going right or left. Furthermore, his post-game is very good which gives him another way to score reliably. Parker can also score consistently off the dribble – in other words he can get his own shot which is an important skill to have for a potential franchise-level player.
In addition to being a skilled offensive player, he also has a knack for rebounding. With his seven foot wingspan he has a great reach, but also possesses great instincts for how the ball will bounce off the rim.
The main concern GMs have about Parker is his ability to defend at the NBA level. He doesn’t have great lateral quickness and often gets lost defending the pick-and-roll, but he does have a solid wingspan which will help. He’ll need to quickly develop his defense if he wants to have a chance at defending the Nicholas Batums and Paul Georges of the NBA.
Overall his offensive upside should make up for his defensive deficiencies, making Jabari Parker a relatively low-risk small forward prospect. He’s projected to go in the top three, so it’s unlikely the Lakers would have a shot at drafting him unless they trade up.