What needs should the Lakers try to satisfy with the NBA draft?
"You have to know every player, you have to have an opinion on every player, and you have to know the likelihood that you’ll make a deal," Kupchak recently told Lakers.com's Mike Trudell. “But the likelihood is that you’re going to end up drafting where you have your picks today, so that’s where we spend most of your time."
But where should the Lakers spend most of their time addressing their draft needs? Keep in mind the Lakers aren't exactly going to secure a star player in what many consider to be a weak draft. They also have four second-round picks at Nos. 41, 46, 56 and 58, meaning it's conceivable they won't really be able to accomplish much out of the draft. But below are some ideas.
1. Draft based on talent, not on need.
Kupchak argued to Trudell it's better to follow that formula and it makes sense for various reasons. The Lakers arguably have needs at every position, ranging from point guard, outside shooting, athleticism and front-court depth. So it's conceivable that drafting the best pick will fill some type of role for the Lakers.
As the Lakers have faced in the last few years, it's very unlikely any draft prospects will make an immediate impact on the team given the Lakers' core appears very much intact. With the Lakers eager to make "tweaks" to their lineup, having a more talented prospect could come in handy should the team try to put together a trade package.
2. Draft to find replacements for Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter.
The Lakers have team options on both of those players worth $1.6 million and drafting a player to replace them could help the team save at least a little money. But honestly, this should only be done if the Lakers' picks are more talented than Ebanks and Caracter, an unknown reality considering they were steals in last year's draft.
Despite his limited run, partly because of a stress fracture in his left leg that sidelined him for the last six weeks of the season, Ebanks was highly touted in the Lakers' organization for his athleticism, unassuming manner, work ethic and potential as a Trevor Ariza-type player. It's more conceivable to find someone better than Derrick Caracter, who faced commitment issues his first year with the Lakers, ranging from his off-court arrest for an altercation at a New Orleans-based IHOP, appearing out of shape and admitting to not being prepared when he was granted minutes.
3. Don't trade the team's core lineup for a high draft pick.
With the Minnesota Timberwolves holding the second pick of the draft, ESPN.com's Chad Ford reported that "they're hoping that a team comes along and offers them an impact veteran", including Lakers forward Pau Gasol for the team's second-round pick. Keep in mind that the report mentions this is what Minnesota hopes to do and not what other teams, including the Lakers, plan to do. Kupchak repeatedly mentioned his belief that the team should keep its "core" lineup and even went so far as to tell Trudell that it's unlikely he'd trade any of the frontline players.
Minnesota is expected in many mock drafts to select Arizona's Derrick Williams and he'll likely be successful in the pros. But no rookie is going to be able to replace any of the Lakers' marquee players. It's more understandable if the Lakers try to trade some of their bench players for a higher draft pick, but given the strength of this year's class, that approach might also be unrealistic.
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Photo: Lakers 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