No matter how the 2018 NBA Draft shakes up, the Los Angeles Lakers will have plenty of options with their first round pick.
The most important piece of the midseason trade between the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers will not play on a NBA court this season despite helpful talent being sent to each side. With no rights to their own first round draft pick this summer, the Lakers netting Cleveland’s first round pick in the trade gives them another chance to find a gem well outside the lottery.
In their first draft in charge of the Lakers, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka selected two players that are contributing this season and fit in perfectly with the style of basketball this organization wants to play in Kyle Kuzma (27th pick) and Josh Hart (30th pick).
It’s only one draft in what was considered a deep class, but I think this speaks to the system the Lakers are building. Their second round picks (Ivica Zubac, Thomas Bryant) in consecutive years have played few NBA minutes, but dominate the G League with skill-sets that fit into the Lakers’ rotation as serviceable players on cheap, rookie contracts.
Zubac is expanding his game, but at the very least can provide some low-post offense off the bench to be a secondary scorer on a second unit. Bryant’s skill-set fits the modern game with his ability to shoot 3s and protect the rim, and has shown the ability to take players off the dribble in the G League.
With this recent track record, the Lakers should have no problem finding a player that can be plugged in the rotation with their Cleveland pick that figures to slot in the mid-20s (currently No. 25). They targeted experienced players in Kuzma and Hart that wrongly slid late in the draft due to their age, and I suspect the Lakers would do the same this time around.
It doesn’t hurt that this upcoming draft class is deep in talent, something I noticed while watching the NCAA Tournament. Now I am not the biggest fan of college basketball in terms of style and quality of play, which increases difficulty of evaluating individual players, but this was the closest I’ve seen a tournament resemble the NBA in recent memory.
All four teams in the Final Four play four-out (and sometimes five-out) basketball, making the extra pass.and shooting a high volume of 3-point shots. If you’re the Lakers front office, there must have been plenty of players that can translate into their system seamlessly.
The Lakers are in a comfortable position with their roster outlook. They have massive amounts of cap space and young talent scattered across each position. Having this late first round pick allows them to add strength to a strength, and pick the best player on their board vs. reaching for a player to fill a need.
With another crop of experienced players destined to fall in the draft, the Los Angeles Lakers could take NCAA Player of the Year Jalen Brunson and reunite him with Josh Hart. His opponent in the National Championship game Moritz Wagner (University of Michigan) is a diverse big man offensively with a high motor that could be available when the Lakers select.
Maybe Robert Williams of Texas A&M falls and fills perhaps the Lakers’ one big need as a rim-running center. This isn’t even mentioning all of the players that play overseas or on teams that missed out of the tournament. There is talent to be found late in the draft, and the players I saw in this year’s NCAA Tournament makes me confident the Los Angeles Lakers can find another quality rotational player in the 20s.