Los Angeles Lakers: Aaron Gordon

Lakers' draft prospects at forward

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25
8:33
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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When considering the Los Angeles Lakers' legacy of success, a long line of dominant big men comes to mind. From George Mikan to Wilt Chamberlain, Chamberlain to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Abdul-Jabbar to Shaquille O'Neal and O'Neal to Pau Gasol, the Lakers have always been able to rely on some of the league's premier pivot men.

While the league has transformed into a more open-floor game full of players capable of manning multiple positions, the fact remains that the basket is still 10 feet from the floor and having talented bigs on your team is a natural advantage.
The pool of forwards that the Lakers either brought in for workouts or eyed from afar during the pre-draft process is extremely varied.

There are one-and-done players and a four-year college vet. There are health question marks for some, skill question marks for others. There is the promise of upside for some and the sense that others are already bumping their heads against the ceiling of their potential.

Here's a look at seven frontcourt prospects whom the Lakers could end up targeting with the No. 7 pick in the draft:

Julius Randle
6-9, 234 pounds | 19 years old| Kentucky


[+] EnlargeJulius Randle
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsJulius Randle could be a major star in L.A., but some are worried about a previous foot injury.
From his 10,000-megawatt smile to the confident way in which he carries himself, there's just something about Randle that screams "future star." In a town like L.A., it's always a bonus to be a player who can master the media as well as you can take care of business on the court.

The Lakers are more concerned with what Randle can do to help them win games, of course. In his lone season at Kentucky, Randle proved he was plenty capable in that category, helping the Wildcats reach the NCAA title game thanks to averaging 15.0 points on 50 percent shooting and 10.4 rebounds as a freshman.

"I will say this," said ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla on a conference call with reporters Wednesday. "It's very rare that you see Julius Randle take a night off, and I think it's going to serve him well in the league. He's been knocked down a few pegs on these mock drafts, and I do think that, while I thought he was overrated coming into college -- and only slightly, by the way -- I think he's underrated coming into the league."

Based on Randle's production and NBA-ready physique, he would seem like a no-brainer if he were still on the board when it's the Lakers' turn to select. Not so fast. Randle suffered a broken right foot in high school and there is a pin inside his foot that may need adjusting with an additional procedure this summer.
Randle shrugged off the story as merely a plant by another team to have his stock drop so he would be available for it to draft him. He added that in the professional opinion of the specialist he recently visited to have his foot checked out, there is nothing that needs to be done.

There was some speculation that Randle had been given a guarantee by the Lakers at No. 7 because he turned down a second workout with Boston at No. 6 after he had visited with L.A., but Randle's agent, George Bass, told ESPNLosAngeles.com that is not the case.

Regardless, Randle will be tough for L.A. to pass on if he is around when it's the Lakers' turn to draft.

Chance he'll be available: Possible. ESPN's Chad Ford has the Lakers taking Randle in his Mock Draft 10. However, there is still the pesky issue of whether a team actually leaked the news about his foot or not. Say, hypothetically, the Celtics were the culprit. They could end up snagging him right before the Lakers are to pick.

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Six prospects worked out, stock may jump

June, 20, 2014
Jun 20
7:43
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart, Elfrid PaytonGetty ImagesThe Lakers will have extra homework now that the uncertainty of Joel Embiid's health status might improve the draft positioning of prospects Aaron Gordon, from left, Marcus Smart and Elfrid Payton.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers held another predraft workout with six prospects on Friday, but it was the health of a seventh prospect -- Kansas center Joel Embiid -- that had everybody talking.

Embiid, presumed to be the No. 1 pick for weeks after successfully recovering from a stress fracture in his back that cut his freshman season short, underwent surgery for another stress fracture in his right foot on Friday. Now the Cleveland Cavaliers’ plan at the top of the draft is anybody’s guess.

“I think it makes it a little bit less predictable,” said Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, brought in for a second workout with the Lakers, along with Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton.

The trickle-down process already had begun, with Smart rushing out of the Lakers’ practice facility after the workout to catch a flight to Philadelphia to show his stuff for the 76ers. The Sixers have the No. 3 pick and seemingly had been high on Andrew Wiggins at that spot. But now that Wiggins could go No. 1 to Cleveland with Embiid’s injury potentially scaring the Cavs off, a whole host of possibilities are in play.

Smart isn’t the only one who could see his draft stock skyrocket with Embiid falling because of his foot. Gordon said there was “speculation” he could be heading to Philly to work out prior to next Thursday’s draft, as well.

Regardless of what happens with the six picks prior to L.A.’s selection on draft night, there’s a reason the Lakers brought in the group they did on Friday, which also included Michigan guard Nik Stauskas, former North Carolina turned D-League prospect P.J. Hairston and South Carolina State big man Matthew Hezekiah.

“Another great group of guys. So, the competitive level was at a high,” Smart said. He only has gone through two workouts with one other team, the Orlando Magic, which have the No. 4 pick.

While Gordon and Smart were considered to be top-10 talents ever since the lottery order was revealed last month, Payton has shot up the charts because of strong predraft workouts. He even secured an invite to the green room at the draft next week, which the league usually only extends to prospects it expects will go in the first 10 to 15 picks.

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Lakers draft prospects: In their own words

June, 5, 2014
Jun 5
3:05
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Lakers' first predraft workout was a veritable bonanza. Despite holding just one pick in the draft at No. 7, L.A. brought in a dozen prospects for evaluation.

It was a mixed group. There were five one-and-done freshmen (Arizona's Aaron Gordon, Indiana's Noah Vonleh, UCLA's Zach LaVine, Syracuse's Tyler Ennis and Kentucky's James Young). There were four seniors (Creighton's Doug McDermott, Weber State's Davion Berry, Nevada's Jerry Evans and Pepperdine's Brendan Lane). There were three in-between (Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart, Michigan State sophomore Gary Harris and Louisiana-Lafayette's Elfrid Payton). Seven were back-court players, five were were front-court players. They came from conferences as big as the ACC and as small as the WCC.

And they all had a story to tell of how they got here, on the precipice of realizing their NBA dream.

Below is a sampling of how the prospects answered the barrage of questions they faced from the media on Wednesday.

Q: Which current NBA player are you compared to the most?

[+] EnlargeNoah Vonleh
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesIndiana's Noah Vonleh was one of several draft-eligible players to work out for the Lakers.
Noah Vonleh, F/C, Indiana: "I hear a lot of comparisons of like Chris Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge. I see some similarities, but I think I do some things different."

Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State: "Recently I heard the comparisons to Bradley Beal. Just what he did for the Wizards is just somebody in that type of mold that a lot of people have been saying."

Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton: "It’s a tough comparison, but I think guys like (Kyle) Korver, I’m really good at coming off screens. I’m a great shooter. I watch a lot of Ray Allen. Guys like that, I feel like I can really find a role in this league and be able to maximize that."

Elfrid Payton, PG, Lousiana-Lafayette: "I’ve been compared to (Rajon) Rondo, Tony Parker. Chris Paul how he kind of picks his spots, things like that, throughout the game. Those are a few I look up to."

Q: What are you trying to showcase during predraft workouts?

Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona: "Just the versatility. I can guard a plethora of different positions."

Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse: "I tried to go out there and show I could defend another point guard, another top point guard, especially. I tried to shoot the ball and stick to my game. Making plays for others, seeing the floor and I think I was able to show that a little bit in the 2-on-2 and the 3-on-3 as well."

Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA: "I feel like I have all the tools to be a great defender at the 1 position. I have the speed, the quickness. I have to get stronger, of course. But learning how to read the picks -- going over or under them -- different type of defenses, off-ball defense as well. I’m willing to do anything a team needs to me to do. If they want me to go out there and just play straight defense, try to lock somebody up, I’ll do that. If they need me to be a cheerleader on the bench, I’ll do that. If they need me to run the team, I’ll do that as well. So, I’m going in to win a spot, I’m going in to play. But whatever happens, I’m going in to compete and have fun."

Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State: "I’m a playmaker. Not just on offense, but on defense. I’m a playmaker on both sides. That’s what makes me. I can shape a game on both ends."

James Young, SG, Kentucky: "That I can attack the basket. I didn’t do it a lot this season but I definitely try doing that every workout and just try showing people I can attack the basket."

Harris: "I just say my will to compete on both ends of the court. I’m going to give my all no matter what."

Vonleh: "Trying to show my versatility. Showing I can take guys off the dribble, I can finish above the rim, go to work in the post when I have a smaller guy on me. Just really show my versatility and show how I can rebound the ball."

Payton: "Getting into the paint. I like to live in the paint. I think it helps me and my teammates. If somebody steps up, I can drop it down. If somebody helps over, I can kick it to a shooter. And I think I have the ability to finish at the rim myself. So that’s kind of how my game is predicated."

Q: What's it like working out for an organization with as much history as the Lakers have?

Vonleh: "When I think of the Lakers, I think of a championship program. They didn’t have a good season the last couple years, but I think if they get the right pieces, they can definitely get back to that championship level."

Ennis: "The Lakers haven’t had a lottery pick in a long time so to be able to come in and work out here with this group is something I’ll remember forever."

LaVine: "I’m incredibly happy. I’m definitely keeping these (practice) jerseys right here. I might wear the shorts a lot, show everybody. I’ve always been a Laker fan growing up, ever since I was younger, I’ve lived and died with them. From Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones, to when Kobe (Bryant) came in to where Kobe and them had that losing streak and then didn’t go to the playoffs (in 2005) to where they’re at now, I know everything about the Lakers."

Smart: "It’s crazy. It’s a great feeling. Not many people can say that they’ve been in the Staples Center or (the Toyota Sports Center) to see those (retired) jerseys in person. So, like I told everybody, it’s an honor to be here. I’m excited and I’m blessed."

McDermott: "It’s pretty crazy, man. This is a dream come true. It’s my first workout so, I was a little nervous to start. Especially it being the Lakers as your first one, but it went really well and it’s just a privilege to be here."

Gordon: "I went up and asked somebody, ‘Are those (championship trophies) real?’ They’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah. Everything is real around here.’ So I thought it was pretty interesting. It was pretty cool. Obviously L.A. is a very traditional program and it would be amazing to play here, but like I said, I’m just excited to get picked for any team."

Young: "It would mean a lot. I would love to play out here. Great offensive guys and I would love to be out here in L.A."

Q: What about the chance to play with Kobe Bryant?

Ennis: "I think everybody was (a Bryant fan growing up). You got to respect Kobe, definitely. I think to be able to work out alongside him and as a young player see him and how hard he works, I think that would help anybody, regardless of what position. I think work ethic is contagious and not just to have him, Steve Nash and all the guys, I think you have no reason not to get better."

LaVine: "It’s Kobe Bryant, man. I love his attitude. I love his work ethic. His killer demeanor. I looked up to him and Michael Jordan my whole life. I feel like a lot of people have. It would be a dream come true."

Gordon: "Kobe is psychotic about basketball and I am, too. That would just be absolutely incredible. Just playing with someone great. Just the little intracacies of the game. The details. I would love to see his work ethic. Kobe is the definition of a true pro, as well as Steve Nash is too. Just being around those two guys would help me tremendously."

Q: What do you still need to work on?

McDermott: "I think at the NBA (level), I have to be a lot bigger. I’m not going to grow any more so you definitely have to hit the weight room hard and that will allow me to guard a 4 at times. But you know, I played it in college. I guarded a lot of strong guys. So I think I can adjust once I get a little stronger, but as of now, I’m going to have to guard the 3, possibly some 2s, and I think I can do it."

Smart: "I’m still working on becoming a more consistent shooter. My jump shot is getting better day by day and it’s improved drastically. But I’m still working on it."

Harris: "Everything. Being more consistent with my shot. Working on my ball handling. Working on my decision-making skills. Just improving my all-around game, just trying to get better to just prepare myself for the next level."

LaVine: "I've just been working on my reads off the pick-and-roll, if it’s an (isolation play), go down, looking at the tag defender. If it’s a zone defense, split the screen with the right pass to make. Just getting a feel for it. I pretty much didn’t handle the ball that much this last year, so just getting all my ball handling and my vision back. And running a team is the most important part. Making the right decisions."

BEST OF THE REST

While the group of players were asked many of the same questions, there were some unique questions and answers that were either revealing, entertaining or both.

Ennis on how the workout went: "I think we all came out here and showed what we can do. It’s going to be a tough pick for them."

LaVine on his late-season struggles with the Bruins: "It’s a long season. You have ups and downs. I started off the season really hot, shooting about 60 percent from the 3 and 70 percent from the field and that’s not going to happen as a regular basketball player throughout your whole season. You know that. It’s like a baseball player who is hitting .700. You’re going to come down to earth eventually and you just keep rolling from there."

Harris on the difference between the NCAA and the NBA: "I’ve talked to a lot of guys and they just said the strength and the pace of it. They say it may not look like it’s going fast from the stands or TV, but it actually goes pretty fast and things happen quickly. Just getting adjusted. Everybody has that adjustment level right when they get to college and there’s going to be an adjustment level going into the NBA."

Smart on Lakers fans reaching out on social media: "I’m on Twitter every day. It’s crazy how many fans the Lakers have. They’re excited. They keep saying, “Lakers ... Marcus Smart. Lakers ... We need him here. Laker Land this. Laker Land that. We need Marcus in Laker Land.” So, it’s been an exciting process for me altogether."

McDermott on being a senior among so many freshman prospects: "It’s pretty crazy. I couldn’t imagine being 19, 18 some of these guys, going through this process. I feel like I’m still a young guy, but I’m three years older than them. So it’s pretty crazy. I like to give guys like that advice, too. Obviously these are all good guys and they’re all open to listen to older guys."

Payton on playing with a chip on his shoulder because he comes from a small school: "It’s a little chip. You’re always supposed to have a chip on your shoulder. I always play with a chip on my shoulder, but none of us are no longer in school anymore so we’re all on the same level field."

Young on if John Calipari will leave UK for the Lakers: "I feel like he’ll stay there. He’s doing great there and he’s just doing great for the program."

Gordon on what makes him tick: "What makes me tick? I don’t know man. I did a workout before this. This wasn’t my first workout of the day."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0