NBA Draft: Looking at Lakers draft candidates
The Lakers have four-second round picks -- at Nos. 41, 46, 56 and 58 -- meaning that it's unlikely any of these selections will dramatically affect the roster. But there are a few possibilities that could at least address some of those needs. ESPN.com's Chad Ford and DraftExpress provided a list of candidates whom the Lakers could select. Below is a look at some of those players and how they might fit in with the Lakers.
Nolan Smith (point guard, shooting guard, Duke)
Skinny: The Times' Broderick Turner reported that Smith impressed the Lakers with his workout, though it's possible he won't be available when the Lakers make their first pick. Smith is listed at 6 feet 3, so it's conceivable he'd play at shooting guard. Smith finished as the Blue Devils’ leader in scoring (20.6 points per game) and assists (5.1) as a senior and averaged 4.5 rebounds, filling a big void when teammate Kyrie Irving suffered a right toe injury. Smith has a high basketball IQ and good ballhandling skills, but he's not incredibly athletic or quick.
Malcolm Thomas (power forward, San Diego State)
Skinny: Thomas proved crucial during San Diego's 34-3 season, ranking second on the team in scoring (11.4 ppg) and rebounding (8.1). He had a team-high 75 blocks. Thomas has reportedly admitted his weaknesses to team officials during pre-draft workouts, acknowledging his desire to improve his perimeter scoring and his inside strength. But many consider him NBA ready as a defensive presence and a shot-blocker. He's listed at 6-8 but reportedly has a 7-1 wingspan to compensate for that lack of size.
DeAndre Liggins (shooting guard, Kentucky)
Skinny: The Lakers are in dire need of outside shooting, but they won't get that from Liggins. His offensive stats during his three seasons with the Wildcats were fairly modest -- he averaged 8.6 points per game. But the Lakers would benefit from his perimeter defense. Liggins was often assigned to cover the opposing team's best guard, and he led the Wildcats in steals (46, 1.2 per game) and earned various honors (Southeastern Conference all-defensive team, NCAA East Regional all-tournament team). He would be a solid pickup and could help solve the Lakers' problems with defending speedy guards.
Julyan Stone (point guard, Texas El Paso)
Skinny: Stone has acknowledged that the Lakers seem "extremely interested" in his services. He cemented himself as a playmaker, finishing as Conference USA's and Texas El Paso's all-time assists leader and becoming the lone player in school history to record at least 500 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists. He's not known particularly as a scorer, but more as a playmaker. The Lakers thought they filled that need when they signed Steve Blake last off-season to a four-year, $16-million deal. But he remained mostly tentative his first season. Selecting Stone could provide the Lakers an insurance policy for that issue if Blake's play remains the same.
Shelvin Mack (point guard, Butler)
Skinny: It's uncertain if Mack would be available, considering he has plenty of exposure from Butler's two consecutive NCAA championship game appearances. But if he happened to be available by the time the Lakers make their selection, it'd be a no-brainer to select Mack. He's technically a point guard, but as the second-leading (16 points per game) for the Bulldogs last season mostly came off the ball. He has shown strong abilities in running the pick-and-roll, an essential ingredient to Coach Mike Brown's style that will partly center on getting Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol receiving the ball inside off those plays.
Jordan Williams (center, Maryland)
Skinny: He might be a good alternative to Derrick Caracter, who faulted himself for not losing enough weight and lacking the proper preparation to become a reliable backup center. As indicated by the Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel, Williams managed to lose 20 pounds by abstaining from cookies and ice cream. That means the concerns over weight and quickness should improve and complement his already strong presence on the boards and in the paint. He wouldn't be suited to manage plenty of responsibilities, but he could become a project that continues to grow while providing reliable minutes off the bench.
Jereme Richmond (small forward, Illinois)
Skinny: Whether it is fair or not, teams could pass on Richmond because of his maturity issues, including a confrontaion with teammate Brandon Paul after Illinois' loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Conference tournament and his antagonistic Twitter message to Illinois fans when he announced his candidacy for the draft. So it's possible he'd be available by the time the Lakers make their pick. It wouldn't be problematic for the Lakers since the veterans would quickly rein him in.
Richmond may have a scorer's mentality, something that's not exactly needed considering Kobe Bryant's on the team. But he's proved to be versatile in getting offensive rebounds, spreading the floor and converting on hustle plays. Picking him up, however, would be a necessity only if the Lakers decide to trade Lamar Odom. The small-forward spot is already loaded with Ron Artest, Odom and Matt Barnes.
Greg Smith (center, Fresno State).
Skinny: Plenty of college coaches and scouts reportedly think it would be better for Smith to stay for his junior season at Fresno State to further develop his game. Again, it's possible he could be a better alternative than Caracter. It remains uncertain how much the Lakers could rely on him as a backup center, but Smith provides enough athleticism, speed and power to make up for his limited moves and experience.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak has said he only wants to make "tweaks" to the current roster. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times