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NBA mock drafts rarely highlight Lakers' picks

June 22, 2011 | 11:04 am

6a00d8341c506253ef015432ed85f6970c-320wiNBA mock drafts are a yearly ritual. But the only buzz you hear surrounding this year's draft are crickets, giving everyone more reason to mock the draft than actually make one (unless we're talking about Jimmer Fredette). 

Talk surrounding the NBA primarily centers on a collective bargaining agreement that expires in nine days. The uncertainty surrounding the 2011-2012 season prompted 41 players to withdraw their names from the draft. And in the case of the Lakers, any chance of the front office "blowing up this team" has a probability of nearly zero considering that their four second-round picks at Nos. 41, 46, 56 and 58 (unless of course the Lakers fall into David Kahn's trap in trading Pau Gasol to Minnesota, but plenty of reports indicate that would require them being held at gunpoint).

The Lakers' past draft history indicates, however, that the players they select at least have some chance to stay on the team's roster. Six of the 13 players the Lakers selected in the second round since 2003 currently played in the NBA last season. Below is a look at how those draft picks fared.

Luke Walton (drafted No. 32 in 2003 from University of Arizona)

The mere mention of his name creates mob-like hysteria for one very simple reason. Walton's 11.4 points per game on 47.4% shooting in the 2006-07 season truly indicated an average player playing with an average team. But it somehow convinced General Manager Mitch Kupchak to sign Walton to a six-year, $30-million contract.

The long-term deal has hurt the Lakers because Walton's extensive injury history kept him sidelined for 17 games in the 2008-09 season and all but 29 games in the 2009-10 season. Even with Walton at full strength, however, his value in understanding the triangle and being a good teammate nowhere near compensated for his lack of athleticism, poor shooting percentage and below-par defense. 

Walton's long-term deal also has hurt the Lakers because it significantly sapped them from making  moves that could've bolstered the roster. Walton's defense may be suspect, but his contract easily swatted down potential moves, such as the Lakers acquiring a backup center to help Pau Gasol absorb Andrew Bynum's injury last season, the team trading away Sasha Vujacic to the New Jersey Nets for Joe Smithand a $4-million cash profit, and the team's tightening finances in the 2010 off-season to the likes of Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher, Steve Blake, and Matt Barnes

The damage is far from over, with Walton still with two years remaining on his $11.48-million contract. But lost in this hysteria involves this reality: It's not Walton's fault the Lakers signed him to the deal. Point that finger at the front office. 

Von Wafer (drafted No. 39 in 2004 from Florida State)

Wafer left his mark with the Lakers leaving everyone abuzz on perhaps where he fits among the Laker greats. Everyone marveled at his longevity: he played 16 games with the Lakers in one season. Everyone wondered if opponents could figure out how to guard him: he averaged a point per game and shot 15.8%. And his career after the Lakers left everyone wondering what else could've been: He played one minute for the Clippers on a 10-day contract in 2007, averaged 1.3 points with the Denver Nuggets the following year as a late-season pickup and then took his talents to Portland in 2007 where he upped his average to 2.4 points.

Wafer provided a few reminders of what the Lakers could've had as a Houston Rocket in the 2008-09 season. He scored a career-high 23 points on 10-14 shooting in 39 minutes against the Lakers in a regular season game. He averaged a career-high 9.7 points in 19.4 minutes. And he provided 8.2 points in 13.9 minutes in the 2009 postseason. The payoff came in the form of a two-year, $10 million deal with the Greek Euroleague team Olympiacos Piraeus, but he was soon waived four months later and could only find work a year later when he signed a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks. 

Wafer may have joined the Lakers' arch rival as a free agent in 2010, the Boston Celtics, but the only impact he made with them involved getting into a locker room altercation with Delonte West. The Lakers have missed him indeed

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Ronny Turiaf (drafted No. 37 in 2005 from Gonzaga)

Any nostalgia surrounding his arrival with the Lakers quickly evaporated a month later when Turiaf was diagnosed with an enlarged aortic root and needed open-heart surgery. The Lakers provided moral support and allowed him time to recover, though Turiaf only needed six months before returning to the team.

From that point on, Turiaf soon became a crowd favorite for his high-energy effort en route to a career-best 6.6 points in 18.7 minutes per game in his third season during the 2007-08 campaign. Still, Turiaf would prove to be no more than just a role player. He averaged only 2.0 points in 9.8 minutes in the playoffs and had only 11 points and four rebounds in 10.3 minutes in the six-game NBA Finals series against the Boston Celtics.

After making $770,610 his third season with the Lakers, Turiaf agreed to a four-year, $17-million deal with the Golden State Warriors in the hopes that his larger paycheck also indicated a larger role. Though his playing time increased to 21.5 minutes per game, Turiaf's scoring dropped to 5.9 points while starting only 26 games, a five-game increase from the contests he started in his last season with the Lakers. After Turiaf's numbers dropped his second season to 4.9 points in 42 games the following season, the Warriors traded him July, 9, 2010 to the New York Knicks as part of a sign-and-trade deal for David Lee. After posting 4.2 points in 17.8 minutes, Turiaf's final season with the Lakers still marks his career-best effort.

Marc Gasol (drafted No. 48 in 2007 from Spain)

Marc Gasol never played a single game for the Lakers. But he proved to be a valuable pickup because Marc was one of the many pieces the Lakers used as trade bait to the Memphis Grizzlies for his brother, Pau, in February 2008, which immediately led to three consecutive NBA Finals appearances and two NBA championships. 

The trade at first sparked mass confusion from the Grizzlies end on why they would accept the likes of Kwame Brown,Aaron McKieJavaris Crittenton, two first-round picks and the rights to Marc Gasol, but that cap-space clearing strategy actually paid off. While the Lakers found their missing piece to a championship puzzle, the Grizzlies soon had enough money to eventually acquire the likes of Zach RandolphMike ConleyO.J. MayoDarrell Arthur, Shane Battier, Tony AllenHamed HaddadiGreivis Vasquez and Sam Young. That lineup, combined with Marc Gasol's 15 points and 11.2 rebounds per game in the postseason, helped spur the Grizzlies to a first-round upset against the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs.

Devin Ebanks (drafted No. 43 in 2010 from West Virgina)

Coming off back-to-back championships, the Lakers had modest expectations for the draft. But they were fortunate to find a player that many believed could've been selected higher and one that actually filled the Lakers' needs. Ebanks' stat line in the 2009-10 season may seem modest considering he averaged only 3.1 points on 41.2% shooting, but the Lakers see plenty of potential in his athleticism, defense and work ethic. 

Derrick Caracter (drafted No. 58 in 2010 from Texas El-Paso)

The Lakers thought Caracter might help give the front line some needed minutes. But he wasn't prepared. The Lakers thought he had matured past unspecified off-the-court issues that plagued him at Louisville. But Caracter was arrested at a local IHop in New Orleans for allegedly striking a waitress during the Lakers' first-round series against New Orleans. The Lakers thought Caracter would make the most of his opportunity even if a learning curve remained. But he admitted he didn't put the necessary work in during his rookie season, averaging only 3.1 points in 5.9 minutes in 20 games. ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin recently reported that it's unlikely the Lakers will bring him back next season. Should that happen, it'd hardly be a surprise. 

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-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: General Manager Mitch Kupchak has said he only wants to make "tweaks" to the current roster. Credit: Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times / April 22, 2008

Photo: Former Lakers power forward Ronny Turiaf gave the Lakers plenty of energy off the bench. Credit: Richard Hartog, Los Angeles Times / January 29, 2008


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