Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On the Lakers and the 2014 NBA Draft (Get the Point, Not the Size)

For the first time in nine years, I'm watching the NBA Draft to see what happens to the Lakers. The three-year back slide since the 2011 playoff sweep by the Mavericks has led to this and I guess all year, we've been waiting to see what happens.

Mostly, I've been praying that with some of the questionable personnel moves that Lakers management have made, they do the right thing on Thursday. Avoid getting a big man and get a guard to finally move into the 21st century NBA. With no second round pick this year or any draft picks for 2015 as of right now, this pick means a lot which is why they need to go small than big.

The Lakers have lacked a great, young, dynamic point guard for 15 years. While Ron Harper, Derek Fisher, Gary Payton, Smush Parker and Ramon Sessions were solid, Nick Van Exel was really the last one they've had. In this era you need a strong lead guard to be able to do anything in the West.

That's why the Lakers need to pray Dante Exum or Marcus Smart are available.

Both have their weaknesses - shaky jump shots for one - but they know how to run an offense. They don't have to score right away. Just get others involved, be able to defend, attack the basket and show flashes of dynamic decision making. You can find pieces around them to make that transition easier so they don't have to carry the team.

I've liked Smart since last year because he's dynamic, built with an NBA body and can shine on both sides of the ball. He's well-rounded and even though he cost himself money coming back, he proved that he can be an effective combo guard who doesn't give up on defense.

As for Exum, I had to watch a bit of film on him cause admittedly, I was bothered by the extra push folks made to bring him here. I didn't know if the game was worth all of that but watching a few tapes, I liked what I saw. He has a great feel for the court and I liked his length/IQ/passing ability. He's also long enough to be a solid defender as he works on improving his shooting.

I admit, however, there's a chance both could be gone. If they are, then I think they need to gamble on Elfrid Payton Jr. from Louisiana-Lafayette. He's the mystery riser that's been wowing in workouts and since the Lakers have seen him twice, they might need to surprise folks and pull the trigger.

From what I've read and seen, he knows how to attack the paint and is a defensive pest. He also has a drive to show people he's not just a mid-major star and while he can work on his shooting, he'd be a great fit learning from perhaps one of the best in ferocious drive in Kobe Bryant.

Yes Pau Gasol is probably gone and it's tempting to take Julius Randle - who I like for his post presence but has some injury issues. But the new NBA is dictated by tempo and you need to be great on the perimeter more than the post. Assuming Kobe is somewhat healthy, the Lakers' new guard doesn't have to be a 1st option scorer but they need to be able to score, dictate tempo, defend and make an impact.

Smart, Exum and Payton have the ability to do that and whoever the next Lakers' coach is, they can trust one of the three to run an offense and be developed into the next cornerstone. Besides, they usually find their great big men via trade or free agency than the draft. With rebuilding mode in full swing, the smart move is to get the point instead of being swayed by size.

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