In a perfect world, the Los Angeles Lakers won’t make a single pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft. With LeBron James now 36 years old, the Lakers are firmly in win-now mode, and should therefore be shopping their No. 22 overall pick to any team with a veteran capable of helping them compete for the 2022 championship. General manager Rob Pelinka is surely canvassing the league right now for such a veteran.
But if he can’t find one, he can rest easy knowing that his scouting staff thrives in this exact situation. The Lakers have found plenty of gems outside of the top 20 in recent years, including Kyle Kuzma (No. 27), Larry Nance Jr. (No. 27), Josh Hart (No. 30), Ivica Zubac (No. 32), Jordan Clarkson (No. 46) and Talen Horton-Tucker (No. 46). The Lakers may be known for collecting superstars, but when they’ve had late picks, they’ve typically done quite well with them.
They’ll have to again on Thursday if they do wind up making their lone pick. Here, we’ll break down what to expect from the Lakers in the 2021 NBA Draft, which is Thursday at 8 p.m. ET (watch live coverage on CBS Sports HQ).
Team needs and potential fits
Via CBS Sports’ Colin Ward-Henninger, who broke down all teams’ needs here:
The Lakers’ flaws have essentially been the same for the last two seasons — the halfcourt offense can get stagnant at times due to a lack of shooting and playmaking. It’s hard to find that combination in one player, particularly at No. 22, but there should be some solid options that could fit the bill. Anybody the Lakers select will also have to be able to hold their own for the league’s best defense, which is no easy task for a rookie.
Potential fits: Jared Butler, Miles McBride, Ayo Dosunmu
Two-Round Mock Draft
CBS Sports’ Kyle Boone released his final two-round mock draft Wednesday, and here’s what he had to say for the Lakers’ lone pick:
No. 22 — SG, Chris Duarte, Oregon: Chris Duarte is the oldest prospect in the draft but he is also one of the most NBA-ready prospects, too. Great size, great shooter, great defender — and a great match on a Lakers team that could put him to work right away as they try and extend their championship window.
One Trade Idea
Rumors have linked the Lakers to Sacramento Kings shooting guard Buddy Hield all offseason. The Athletic’s Sam Amick called such a deal “the most promising” the Lakers have discussed thus far, and a deal could materialize time for the NBA Draft. Ideally, the Lakers would send Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell to Sacramento for Hield, but Harrell has a player option that he has not yet picked up. If he doesn’t they may have to send out the more valuable Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as matching salary. For now, we’ll go with that possibility.
Lakers would get: Hield, No. 39 overall pickKings would get: Kuzma, Caldwell-Pope, No. 22 overall pick
The Lakers ranked 25th in the NBA in made 3-pointers last season. Only Stephen Curry made more 3-pointers than Hield last season, so he’d immediately inject the Lakers with some badly-needed spacing. Kuzma, meanwhile, thrived under Luke Walton when he was coaching the Lakers. In his first two seasons, Kuzma averaged 17.3 points per game compared to the 12.8 he’s put up under Frank Vogel in a smaller role. The move would allow the Kings to embrace Tyrese Haliburton as the long-term backcourt partner for De’Aaron Fox and get off of Hield’s pricey contract.
It’s not the blockbuster that Lakers fans might be hoping for, but it’s a sensible deal that fills a major need. It’s hard to do much better when you’ve dealt as many assets as the Lakers have over the past several years.