The Ear Candy Express chugs along. With the draft approaching, we tracked down David Thorpe (ESPN.com Scouts Inc.) for insight. Among the talking points:
- Is this year's draft as weak as it's overwhelming reputation? As Thorpe explains, that depends on a team's shopping list. If you're seeking multiple future All-Stars, then the 2011 class leaves much to be desired. However, there is legitimate value to players capable of solid NBA careers. Along those lines, this class contains many prospects. And as with four second-round picks, Thorpe feels the Lakers could, at the very least, pluck youngsters who'll provide the energy and athleticism the 2010-2011 team lacked.
- I asked about players who could potentially help the Lakers from the second round, whether as a specialist (namely a shooter) or just a mature rookie. Thorpe offers two names: Duke's Nolan Smith and UCLA's Malcolm Lee. Jeremy Tyler, a Cali kid whose journey from high school to Israel was littered with issues, could also be a potential sleeper.
Thorpe also shares thoughts on balancing the common second round approach (take the best player available) vs. the attempt to fill a more pressing need.
- Despite mentioning the possibility packaging picks in an effort to move up, Thorpe explains why it may not necessarily be wise. He feels there's rarely a tangible talent discrepancy between players taken late in the first round vs. the second round. For that matter, he thinks prospects are often easily lumped together past the first six or eight picks.
- Is it worth trading an established player like Pau Gasol (more on this later) for a top five pick? Thorpe doesn't see a Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose or even a Russell Westbrook among this year's top picks, but does think a player like Derek Williams or Brandon Knight could play significant minutes on a contending team right now, and at a considerably cheaper price tag. There are pros and cons on both sides.
- Finally, Thorpe weighs in on the Lakers' unexpectedly early exit from the playoffs:
"I think that what we saw there likely was the culmination of many, many, many games and many games together. And much of the b.s. that I think is going on with that team, at some point, people have to swallow that Kobe's not the best teammate we all think that he should be. I think there are times when he is and I have personal experiences with players that I trained that just love him to death because he was so generous with them, but none of them are named 'Pau Gasol' and none of them are named 'Andrew Bynum.' I think for different reasons there was a lot of (an) 'I've had enough of this' attitude.
"And Kobe may have had some of it. There's no question Pau pulled a 'LeBron James' before LeBron James pulled a 'LeBron James.' He went back to three seasons ago in that series. That happens. The dynamic of team chemistry is something that you can never underestimate. I thought that team got beat in Game 1, Corey Brewer had a big early part of the game for Dallas that kind of got them going, and the wheels just kind of came off. Guys were just saying, 'I'd rather just be on vacation than playing with these guys anymore.'
"That absolutely can be changed (at the) beginning of next year. It also could be the beginning of a real problem there. Not just with Kobe but just in general with that roster where they've just had enough of each other. I think that was very evident. If you're not willing to do everything you can to help your teammates, you're not gonna win against a team like Dallas."
- With Thorpe gone, we discuss the latest trade rumor involving a Laker: Gasol to the Timberwolves for (at best) Kevin Love and the #2 pick... or straight up for Love.. or (at worst) the #2 pick, Michael Beasley and role players. We'd both do the first scenario and consider the third an insult, but the one-for-one deal divided us. I'd pull the trigger. Brian wouldn't. Either way, neither of us gets why David Kahn would flip a young All-Star for an older player (albeit a very good one) when the Wolves are nowhere near contention. If the appeal is Pau providing a Spanish-speaking comfort zone for Ricky Rubio , it's an even stupider idea.
- Finally, Freddie Mercury rolls over in his grave as Dirk Nowitzki belts out a classic at the Dallas Mavericks championship parade.