Lakers

A Guide to Lakers Draft Night 2023

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The Los Angeles Lakers are entering the 2023 NBA Draft with their highest pick since 2017 (Round 1, Pick 2 — Lonzo Ball).

With the 17th pick, various options present themselves for the Lakers this offseason. Whether it’s keeping the pick and drafting from this deep class, or using the pick in a trade for a valuable asset, whatever they choose to do is pivotal to next season’s roster construction.

So, why don’t we take a look at the Lakers’ options?

PROSPECTS FOR PICK NO. 17

The 2023 NBA Draft class is one of the deepest classes we’ve seen in a while. Although it seems top-heavy with Victor Wembanyama headlining, the middle of the first round is filled with tons of solid prospects.

There have been a few in the post-lottery range that we’ve been keeping our eyes on for LA.

Kobe Bufkin: 6’4″ Guard, Michigan

Bufkin’s name has been the one most associated with Los Angeles leading up to the draft. And it’s not just because of his first name or being a product of Rob Pelinka’s alma mater. It’s because the skill he displayed in his second year at Michigan showed strong promise to professional teams.

The thing that shines when you first watch Bufkin is his tremendous scoring ability. The lefty guard has improved as a great three-level scorer. He is crafty around the rim, attacks closeouts with force and has vastly improved his midrange and perimeter shooting. Bufkin shot 35.5% from three last season with the Wolverines.

One of his more underrated traits, though, is his defensive ability. The guard was hounding ball handlers all season — averaging 1.3 steals per game. His 6-foot-8 wingspan made him a more intimidating presence on that side of the floor. Mixing Bufkin’s defensive upside with his relentless hustle could be a much-needed defensive presence in the Lakers’ backcourt.

There are some flaws to Bufkin’s game, though. His 195-pound frame will be a target for guards at the next level. Just like any other rookie, he will have to beef up to start producing positively on the defensive end. His craftiness can also lead to careless turnovers and he struggles with hitting shots off the dribble.

Nevertheless, it is agreed that Kobe Bufkin should be at the top of LAL’s draft board— we just have to hope that he’ll fall to pick No. 17.

Nick Smith Jr.: 6’5″ Wing, Arkansas

Smith answers one of the Lakers’ most glaring problems — spacing. The former flame-throwing Razorback can provide some much-needed playmaking off the Laker bench, which has left much to be desired in past seasons.

While offense is his strong suit, his high motor gives him a respectable defensive repertoire — especially in the pick and roll. Defense isn’t what he is being drafted for, though. Smith Jr. is an incredible offensive talent. Shooting consistency is a weakness for him, however.

If the Lakers do miss out on Bufkin and find Nick Smith Jr. available at 17, he would be a great addition to an Austin ReavesD’Angelo Russell-led backcourt.

Dereck Lively II: 7’1″ Center, Duke

Lively is one of the most tantalizing bigs in this year’s class. His rim presence sets him aside from his classmates. In his one-and-done year at Duke, the big man averaged 2.4 blocks per game and served as the Blue Devils’ premier lob threat.

Lively’s fit with the Lakers hinges on if LA would like to get bigger next season. If they do, Lively is the perfect choice to put next to Anthony Davis in the paint. A part of Lively’s game that would bolster his fit is his shooting ability. He isn’t known for banging threes left and right, but he shows colossal upside in that facet of his game.

Many expect him to go earlier than No. 17. But Lively falling in the Lakers’ lap would be a monumental steal for the Purple and Gold.

ALTERNATIVES TO PICKING AT 17

An alternative for Los Angeles’ draft decision is to include the pick in a trade package. The No. 17 pick is especially valuable in this year’s class. A move including the Lakers’ pick could yield a meaningful return.

Many trade packages have been circulating already.

Alex Caruso for #17 and Mo Bamba

What a dream it would be for Laker fans to see their golden boy on the squad once again. Putting Caruso on last season’s Western Conference Finals squad could’ve created a rather different outcome in their efforts to stop Jamal Murray.

There is a gaping defensive hole in LAL’s backcourt — one that was once filled by the now All-Defensive First Teamer just a few seasons ago. LA has been no stranger to welcoming back old faces and Chicago has to decide now whether to blow it up or keep trudging through mediocrity.

What better way to start a rebuild with the No. 17 pick in this year’s draft.

Myles Turner for #17, Malik Beasley and Shaquille Harrison

The dream is not dead for the Myles Turner and AD frontcourt. Bringing Turner in bolsters the Lakers’ paint defense and inevitable necessity to slow down Nikola Jokić.

Similar to the Lively pick, Turner presents an option in which the Lakers move AD back to his preferred power-forward position and the two become the most feared frontcourt juggernaut in the NBA.

Malik Beasley was another iteration of knockdown shooters coming to LA to die. He was unplayable in the playoffs and using his contract and the draft pick to bring in Turner would be a massive move for the Lakers.

AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES

It is hard to see how the front office can go wrong with any of the options provided above. One thing is for certain, though: the move must be calculated.

LAL is one or two moves away from being a surefire contender once again. Finishing the season off the way they did provided some much needed clarity for Lakers fans.

The mission for next year is clear — winning number 18.

LeBron James All-Star Bobblehead!

LeBron James Los Angeles Lakers All-Star Bobblehead

King James is holding court in Salt Lake City. Appropriately, this LeBron James Los Angeles Lakers 2023 NBA All-Star Bobblehead is ready to be the centerpiece of your roundtable.

About Connor Moreno

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