The Lakers are headed for one of their most important and franchise-changing offseasons in recent memory, potentially bringing in the likes of LeBron James and Paul George if they can clear enough cap space for two max contracts.
But that’s still a dream, best-case scenario at this point. What is certain is that the team will have the chance to add to its young, budding core of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Kyle Kuzma with the 25th and 47th overall picks in the 2018 draft.
The Lakers have a history of finding solid players at the back end of the first round (Larry Nance Jr: 27th overall, 2015; Jordan Farmar: 26th overall, 2006) and in the second round (Patrick Beverly: 42nd overall, 2009; Marc Gasol: 48th overall, 2007).
Which prospects could be the next entries on that list?
Mitchell Robinson, Center
It’s no secret the Lakers’ frontcourt is slow and plodding. Robinson, a 7’1 center, is anything but. He is an elite athlete with the potential to be an upper-echelon rim protector in the NBA.
He didn’t play college basketball last season, decommitting from Western Kentucky in August and then spending the year “training for the NBA draft,” which means there isn’t nearly as much game film of him as other prospects. But it’s entirely possible his stock would be much higher – like lottery-pick high – if he had.
He was a five-star recruit and ESPN’s #11 prospect coming out of high school; DeAndre Ayton and Mo Bamba were the only centers ahead of him. He won’t be NBA-ready next year, especially not after skipping his freshman college season, but, in time, he could develop into something much greater than most 25th-overall picks.
Chimezie Metu, PF/C
If Robinson is off the board before the Lakers get to the podium, USC product Chimezie Metu would be a nice consolation prize. He doesn’t have the size of Robinson (6’11, 225) and doesn’t project as the same type of rim protector. But he would be another athletic upgrade to a frontcourt that may very well be losing Julius Randle in the offseason.
After three seasons with the Trojans, Metu is a more polished scorer than Mitchell and has a reasonable mid-range game to go along with some skills off the bounce. He didn’t explode in his junior season, as many had predicted, but did up his scoring average to 15.7 PPG and started to take a few three-pointers, hitting at 30% on 1.2 attempts per game.
His defensive acumen is a little lacking, but his aforementioned athleticism portends significant progress in that area.
Donte DiVincenzo, G
While an explosive big is likely at the top of Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson’s wish-list, the Lakers are going to need to add to their guard depth as well, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Isaiah Thomas both potentially departing.
Enter Final Four hero Donte DiVincenzo.
If the 6’5 combo guard stays in the draft, he could wind up being a steal late in the first round or early in the second. Sportsbettingdime.com set the over/under on his draft position at #34.5, so getting him at #47 isn’t likely, but it’s possible.
DiVincenzo is one of the most well-rounded guard prospects in this year’s class: he has range for days, he has a decent handle, he has above-average passing skills, he can shoot a little of the bounce, he’s a solid defender. Without being too reductive, the Villanova sophomore is just a basketball player through and through.
His court-time was limited to 29 MPG this season because Nova had other NBA-level guards (Jalen Brunson & Mikal Bridges), but DiVincenzo’s loss may be LA’s gain. If he’d been spotlighted more this year, his draft stock would almost certainly be in the mid-first round.