Thursday, June 23, 2011
The McTen: What the Draft means
By Dave McMenamin
The Lakers have only had six first-round draft picks in the last 10 years and only one of those (Andrew Bynum) was a lottery pick, so L.A. fans have been able to kick back and watch David Stern shaking hands on draft night for the last decade without thinking the night's events would have long-term ramifications on how the franchise fares.
This year's draft should be quite the same, as the Lakers have zero first-round picks but four in the second round (Nos. 41, 46, 56 and 58). Yet, it feels very different this time around as the Lakers aren't coming off a Finals appearance, they're rather coming off their first exit in the playoffs via a 4-0 sweep since 1999 when they lost to San Antonio in the second round.
There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the Lakers leading up to the draft, especially for a team that has no first-round picks, but there is reasoning behind most of the rumors that have surfaced.
Trying to make some sense of it all before the draft begins on Thursday, here are 10 thoughts behind why you're hearing what you're hearing ...
1. Why is Lamar Odom being linked to multiple trade scenarios?
Odom is the Lakers' most tradable asset. He is coming off a stellar campaign, earning him Sixth Man of the Year; he's owed $8.9 million next year and could be bought out the year after that for only approximately $2 million so he's being paid a fair market value and if he depreciates suddenly as he creeps a year further into his thirties, he can be let go of relatively painlessly; he can literally play all five positions on the court (which is why he wore No. 5 as a freshman at Rhode Island); and plus, he is a well-liked, affable guy with a great reputation around the league.
It's no wonder that he is being talked about more than someone like Bynum or Pau Gasol, because both of those players are harder to trade. The bigger the contract, the less teams to covet it.
2. Why would the Lakers want to trade Odom to Minnesota?
As first reported by the L.A. Times, the Lakers dangled Odom in front of Wolves general manager David Kahn and asked for the No. 2 pick. Reportedly, L.A. would use the pick to take Derrick Williams, but they could also use it to get a young, quick, skilled guard (i.e. Brandon Knight) to contend with the new wave of guard talent currently taking over the league. Also, taking on the salary of a No. 2 pick vs. paying Odom, would save the Lakers a significant amount of money because L.A. wouldn't have to take on any other dead-weight salaries to make the deal work. Minnesota is far enough under to cap to simply absorb Odom's money. Under the current rookie pay scale, the No. 2 pick is set to make about $4 million next season, so, much like the Sasha Vujacic deal last season, the Lakers could save about $5 million by making the trade. And, hopefully, they'd get back a rotation player with the No. 2 pick and not just a vet on the end of the bench like Joe Smith.
3. Why wouldn't the Wolves want to trade for Odom?
After seeing how Odom has put down roots in L.A., marrying his wife Khloe Kardashian and beginning a reality TV career, Kahn probably knew right off the bat that it would be difficult to sell Odom on the idea of wanting to come to Minnesota. Outside of that, as great as Odom is, he is a complementary player. The Wolves would only part with the No. 2 pick for a No. 1 option type of guy, which is why they asked for Bynum and Gasol and were shut down.
4. Why would the Lakers want to trade Odom to Philadelphia?
This one is trickier. As SI.com first reported, the Lakers discussed a deal that would send Odom plus another Lakers player to Philly for Andre Iguodala. The benefit of the trade would be that L.A. would get younger and more athletic with Iguodala who is 27 (compared to Odom at 31) and is considered to be one of the truly elite athletes in the league, great in the open court and excellent as a wing defender. Also, it would allow the Lakers to dump a salary, which sources indicate would likely be Luke Walton and not Ron Artest (I'm not calling him "Metta World Peace" just yet) as SI.com speculated. Walton is owed approximately $11.8 million over the next two seasons and, while he's valued as a great locker room guy and positive influence throughout the organization, his lower back problems have severely limited his production in the last two seasons.
5. Why would the Sixers want to trade for Odom?
First of all, he has a champion in Sixers coach Doug Collins, who is very close to Mike Krzyzewski (Doug's son, Chris, works under Coach K at Duke), and knows everything Odom meant to the 2010 USA Basketball team that won the World Championship in Turkey. Collins could dabble with Odom at center the same way Team USA did. Maybe they figure he could click with his old AAU teammate, Elton Brand, in the front court. Plus, Iguodala is owed $44 million over the next three seasons and with the Sixers trying to sell their team, streamlining the salary as much as possible can only help things. Not to mention, the Sixers want to hand the reins to Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner and have the money freed up to start signing those three to long term extensions rather than having to trade one of them or let them walk because of the money tied up with Iggy.
6. Why wouldn't the Lakers want to trade for Iguodala?
First of all, he's owed a lot of money. For a team that is actively trying to cut costs, it seems incongruous to welcome someone with a contract like Iguodala has on board. Secondly, taking on a contract like that while the owners are fighting the player's union for a hard (or "flex") cap in the new collective bargaining agreement seems doubly foolish. And third, it would give agent Rob Pelinka a lot of power within the organization (not that he already doesn't have a lot) because he represents Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Igoudala. On top of all that, Iguodala is a small forward which is a position where the Lakers are actually in good shape with Artest as the starter, Matt Barnes as the backup and Devin Ebanks as the project with potential. Trading Odom and not getting a big in return exposes L.A. down the line to games where Gasol and Bynum get into foul trouble and need someone to take their place and makes them especially vulnerable if Bynum goes out with an injury for any extended period of time during the season, as he's been known to do.
7. Why is this draft so important?
With the Lakers so far over the salary cap and having no first round picks, if they really want to shake up their roster at all and infuse some fresh blood, they'll have to do it through a trade. And if they want to make a trade, their best time to do it is Thursday night. There is sure to be a flurry of movement Thursday with a lockout threatening to shut down all transactions starting July 1 until who knows when. Every team in the league will have that in mind when they answer phone calls from opposing GMs and their willingness to trade could be higher on Thursday than any other time this offseason.
Also, even though Mitch Kupchak has preached that the Lakers plan on keeping their core intact, there could be some pressure from Jim Buss to make a splash as he continues to gain power within the organization the same way it was Buss who took control in the Mike Brown hiring.
8. Who should the Lakers draft?
Kupchak said the plan was to shore up the backcourt in case Shannon Brown leaves and find a new backup center to replace Theo Ratliff. There are two of your picks. If a guy like Nolan Smith, Shelvin Mack or Josh Selby is there, jump on him. And not to be a total Syracuse homer, but Rick Jackson could be their answer as a backup big and could still be around when they're drafting in the late 50s.
9. Who should the Lakers trade for?
Even with Fisher and Steve Blake under contract, L.A. could still use some help with a scoring point guard. Denver, by all accounts, has decided that Ty Lawson is their PG of the future and Raymond Felton can be had. It would be worth it to Kupchak to see if he could land his fellow UNC alum somehow.
10. One last scenario
Ric Bucher reported earlier this week that the Lakers could be looking to buy a first round pick for as much as $3 million. Minnesota has No. 20, Dallas has No. 26 and Chicago has Nos. 28 and 30 that all could conceivably be available. It would be funny that L.A. would buy a late first round pick and draft a guard when just two years ago they sold their first round pick to New York so the Knicks could get Toney Douglas, but these are strange days in the NBA. Strange days indeed.