The NBA draft lottery was last night. The New Orleans Hornets will get the top pick in what’s said to be a very deep NBA draft. And where are the Lakers during all of this? Sitting with the absolute last pick in the draft at number 60. Not perfect for a team that needs to start thinking about the future sooner or later.
The trend with the Lakers and drafts over the last few years has been pretty consistent; they’ll normally trade their low pick, draft a guy you’ve never heard of (and never will see again) or end up trading their selections in a package deal – see the 2008 Pau Gasol trade.
You have to give credit where credit’s due however: the Lakers have done a good job scouting and selecting players despite their poor placement in the draft in recent years. For example, just last year they picked up two solid players in Darius Morris (#41) and Andrew Goudelock (#46) who showed promise throughout their first season. Either way, the Lakers’ draft night’s are normally kind of boring.
But, that’s because they’ve been a team for a while now who are at the top of the mountain with Kobe Bryant at the helm. There will come a time though – and now may be that time – when they have to seriously start thinking about the future, while still having a competitive roster that can challenge the league’s best teams.
It’s not an easy thing to do. You need to be able to keep Kobe and the fans of Los Angeles happy by building a contender while also looking towards the future years. This draft could be the opportunity the Lakers have been waiting for.
The Lakers look set to part ways with Pau Gasol this off-season. He was nearly traded before the start of the season and it seemed he was close to gone during the year at times, but this summer we’ll likely see him depart from Los Angeles. It’s not because Gasol can’t play anymore, but more because he is their most valuable trade chip, outside of Andrew Bynum, and he should be able to help the team get younger and deeper.
So, how about a trade with a team who has a top 15 draft pick this year? I posed this question a few days ago to NBA insider Sam Amico. Here’s his reply:
Yes, I’d say a chance. Keep eye on teams with 2 picks. RT @Lakerholicz Any chance Lakers look to jump into top 15 with a Gasol trade?
— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) May 29, 2012
The teams with two picks are: New Orleans, Portland and (if you go up to the 16th pick) Houston. Here are some possible trade scenarios:
A trade with New Orleans would seem unlikely. Their #1 pick would probably need Bynum heading to the Hornets, not Gasol. Their 10th pick could be interesting but would a rebuilding team really want Pau Gasol and his $19 million contract on the books? The Lakers probably wouldn’t get much back in terms of extra players in a potential trade with the pick either with Pau as the main piece.
Portland’s selections are 6th and 11th. How about a trade of Gasol to Portland for Nicolas Batum, Jamaal Crawford and the 11th pick? Batum – who will be a free agent in July and therefore this trade would need some ironing out – would be the active, young, three-point shooter that the team desperately needs. Crawford will likely leave Portland anyway this off-season and the Lakers could use his scoring off the bench. The 11th pick would get the Lakers a solid player for the future. Portland would get to team up LaMarcus Aldridge with Gasol down low.
Would this be enough to win now? Maybe. At 23-years-old, Batum is a rising star, but could he be a third option? If not, could Crawford? If the 11th pick could contribute a little, that would be a big help. But again, would Portland really want Gasol and his big contract? They likely won’t be making the playoffs for a few years, so taking on the ageing Gasol is unlikely.
A Houston deal could have legs, though. We already know that the Rockets have interest in our Spanish big man. Houston have the 14th and 16th pick in the draft this year. We know that Kyle Lowry is unhappy playing for McHale. How about Lowry, Luis Scola and the 16th pick for Pau?
Lowry’s a possible up-and-coming All-Star. Scola is solid. The 16th pick is projected to go to Terrence Ross, a 21-year-old 6’7″, athletic, scoring small forward/shooting guard from Washington. He could be a future asset for Los Angeles.
The Rockets would obviously finally get their big man, but you wonder if they’d try to do this trade either without Scola or the pick in the fold.
The Sixers are a team that don’t have two picks, but they do have the 15th pick, which is projected to go to Terrence Jones, a 20-year-old 6’9″ small forward/power forward from Kentucky. Outside of Jordan Hill – who might not even be back next year – the Lakers don’t have any young, promising prospects at the power forward position. He could be a good piece for the future.
There’s also been the reports of a possible Gasol-for-Andre Iguodala deal going down; Iggy was reportedly nearly dealt to the Lakers before last year’s draft for Lamar Odom. How about making a deal work a year later, with the Lakers sending Gasol and the Sixers packaging their 15th pick with Iguodala?
Moving even further away from the 15th pick, the Timberwolves have the 18th selection this year. That is projected to go to Quincy Miller, a 19-year-old, 6’9″ small forward from Baylor – another project for the future.
The Timberwolves are still thought to have interest in Gasol – imagine teaming him up with Kevin Love on the block, with his Spaniard teammate Ricky Rubio running the pick-and-roll with him. Derrick Williams and a resigned Michael Beasley, plus the 18th pick would be a very nice package for Gasol. But would the Timberwolves really give that much for him?
It’s unclear if Beasley is in Minnesota’s long-term plans, so he could be expandable to them. Therefore, in theory, they’re only going to be losing Williams, so maybe adding the pick wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. It all depends on how much they want to take on Gasol. He could make them a tough playoff team to beat.
The Houston and Philadelphia options definitely scream “win now” more than the other scenarios. The Rockets trade would give you solid players and depth. The Sixers trade would give you an All-Star and legitimate third option to play alongside Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum. Both trades give you options for the future, too.
The Minnesota trade could be more of a gamble. You’d get lots of young talent, but the question is whether that talent is ready to deliver on a championship-level team? Beasley is still young and has great potential. Williams is one of my favorite young players in the league. You’d definitely be set for the future with a core of Bynum, Williams and Beasley, but would that core be able to win now alongside Kobe Bryant?
The Lakers are normally pretty quiet on draft night. But this year, June 28 could be a very interesting night for Laker fans.