The NBA held their annual draft lottery Tuesday night prior to the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers Eastern Conference Finals game. In another bit of incredible luck the Cleveland Cavaliers won the top overall pick, giving them the option to pick between Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid. The Los Angeles Lakers, coming off one of the worst regular seasons in franchise history, will have the seventh pick in the upcoming draft. The Lakers had a 20% chance of getting the top overall pick, but that didn’t happen and now they’ll have to settle for a mid-lottery pick. The good thing about the 2014 draft is that it’s not an ordinary draft, with a deep pool of talent to pick from. Here’s a look at a few players that may be available when the Lakers pick seventh.
Aaron Gordon: The former Arizona Wildcat star has been speculated by many as a potential option for the Lakers. Although he possesses a raw offensive game, Gordon is an absolute physical freak, with a high basketball IQ and a polished defensive game. Gordon was one of the top individual defenders in college basketball this past season, with the lateral quickness to defend out on the court and the leaping ability and size to guard people in the post. He’s a strong rebounder and shot blocker. Gordon is limited offensively but is one of the rare types of players who can be a major factor in a game on defensive play and rebounding alone. Due to his leaping ability many like to compare Gordon to Blake Griffin, but at this point, Gordon’s offensive game has a long way to go to compete with the LA Clippers superstar. During the recent draft combine Gordon led all prospects in the “shuttle run” drill that tests quickness and the ability to change direction. Gordon was the only non-guard to finish in the top ten. Gordon had the top big man vertical leap at the combine, at 39 inches, indicative of his off-the-charts athleticism. Gordon’s vertical leap was the third highest ever for a player his size. Adding to Gordon’s value is the fact he measured at 6’9” in shoes, with a 6’11” wingspan. According to ESPN NBA draft expert Chad Ford, Gordon impressed teams in the interview process. One potential major barrier to drafting Gordon is the rumour that the Celtics, drafting 6th, are enamoured with Gordon’s potential.
Noah Vonleh: The former Indiana forward is one of the drafts highest risers. Vonleh had excellent athletic numbers at the combine, with a 37” vertical leap, as well as incredible measurements that include a 7 foot 4 ½” wingspan and the largest hands in the draft. Vonleh has a solid offensive game for a young player with the potential to be a difference maker offensively much faster than Gordon. Vonleh had a solid freshman year but was lost in the shuffle on an under-achieving Indiana team. He didn’t receive nearly as much attention as some of the more excited players in the draft, like Julius Randle of Kentucky. Depending on how the draft unfolds the Lakers may have an opportunity to draft Vonleh, giving them a talented young power forward. The other big question is whether or not the chance to sign or trade for Kevin Love will dictate who they take in the draft. Minnesota ended up with the 13th pick in the draft, a bit too late to select an impact player. The Timberwolves could be potentially interested in moving love to a team like the Lakers if they can get a player like Vonleh, Gordon or Julius Randle back to replace Love.
Julius Randle: The much ballyhooed Kentucky forward had a solid freshman year, but has fallen a bit in the draft projections behind Wiggins, Parker and Embiid. Randle has good size and an NBA ready frame. He had strong athletic numbers at the combine, albeit slightly below that of Gordon and Vonleh. Randle has a much more refined offensive game compared to Gordon but is not nearly the defender of the former Arizona star. If the Lakers are looking for a go-to power forward that can score in the paint, Randle is their guy. Vonleh probably has more upside due to his ability to shoot from the perimeter and room to grow as a player. Like Vonleh and Gordon, Randle would be an interesting piece to move in a trade to the Timberwolves for Kevin Love, giving Minnesota an instant replacement for their superstar.
Marcus Smart: Smart is an interesting player. If he had come out a year ago, he was a definite high lottery pick. Smart came back and had an up and down season including a high profile dispute with a fan that got home suspended this past season. Smart tested extremely well at the combine athletically, with a huge wingspan, great quickness and a big vertical leap. Smart is an unquestioned talent, but he may not be ready to be an instant contributor. Many teams question his maturity, due to his on the court issues.
Zach LaVine: The former UCLA guard is one of the big wild cards in the draft. LaVine is a high riser who was a late bloomer in high school before coming to UCLA and putting together impressive stretches during his freshman season. His athletic ability is off the charts, almost Russell Westbrook-like. According to multiple draft experts, LaVine looked extremely capable in the Chicago draft combine, handling the ball well and shoot extremely well in drills. From a sheer upside potential, LaVine is a potential superstar, albeit extremely raw. Seventh may be a bit early to select the former UCLA Bruins guard, but he may be worth the gamble.
The seventh pick in the draft isn’t typically seen as an impact spot, but this June’s draft is unique. Whether the Lakers are looking for an instant asset or a player who can be used as trade bait they’ll have several attractive options, with multiple players who can contribute immediately.