Draft Night: Lakers do well without influencing their title hopes
June, 23, 2011
In the end, Draft night for the Lakers went pretty much as expected. There were no blockbuster deals, and G.M. Mitch Kupchak suggested the trade buzz, whether around Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, or Lamar Odom, was generated not by the team itself but by other squads around the league and player agents fueling the rumor mill. (That, and a comment during the playoffs from a "prominent member of the media," Kupchak's not-so-thinly veiled dig at Magic Johnson, who said during ABC's broadcast of the Dallas/Lakers series L.A. needed to "blow up" its roster.)
Obviously Kupchak isn't going to sit before us and declare he shopped his players like a Black Friday sale, but his storyline is also the most realistic for a team with a very solid core still well positioned to contend if necessary improvements can be made around them.
Still, exciting as draft night can be, the question of what the Lakers can do this offseason to improve is barely related to the question of whether or not they had a good draft. If at all. Forget finding contributors, given where they picked (the first selection coming at No. 41) if the Lakers finished with a player or two capable of making next year's roster, the evening has to be called a major success.
Along those lines, the Lakers did well, seeming to merge skillfully the always wise approach of finding the best player available with a nod towards need. In Darius Morris, they grabbed a long (6'5") PG ESPN.com draft guru Chad Ford said "might be the purest point guard in the draft." Morris struggles mightily with his outside shot, but was forcasted by many as a first round pick this year, and had he stayed another season at Michigan almost certainly would have vaulted his way into the top 30 a year from now. Andrew Goudelock is a bit of a tweener in the backcourt, but is a top end collegiate shooter (and a killer interview, for what it's worth). Imperfect players for sure, but perfection isn't available in the 40's. The Lakers believe they found, for this draft anyway, first-to-near-first round talent in the second round, and there's no reason to dispute the contention.
At the same time, they addressed a pair of skill sets (point guard production, perimeter shooting) in which help was needed and added depth in the backcourt, a hedge against an expected opt-out from Shannon Brown. (They also added a potential prospect to stash over in Europe for a while in 6'10" Ater Majok. I've never heard of him and neither apparently has ESPN.com, though if you need someone to pick a ball up off a chair and score, he's the guy.) That's about all you can do.
As it relates to filling the team's holes in pursuit of a championship next season, now the real work begins.