With Kansas eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, heralded college basketball star Andrew Wiggins has declared for the 2014 NBA Draft. While the freshman may be the most coveted player available, the Los Angeles Lakers are one of the few teams that has a legitimate chance of landing him.
At 25-49, L.A. holds the NBA’s sixth-worst overall record. Even with eight games remaining, they are more than likely to be in the top half of the lottery, which is where they’ll need to be to draft Wiggins. The Lakers have a very difficult schedule to close out the season, as they’re set to face six of the league’s top 10 teams.
Many experts are predicting Wiggins to be the No.1 overall selection. As the No.6 seed in the lottery, the Lakers would have a 6.3 percent chance of winning the top pick. Four of the last nine teams to get the first pick entered the lottery as the No.6 seed or worse.
Wiggins is the favorite to be selected at the top of the first round, though it’s no guarantee. Kansas teammate Joel Embiid and Duke’s Jabari Parker have yet to declare for the draft, but they’ll likely head to the pros. They’ve also gotten some buzz as potential No.1 picks.
Assuming Wiggins is available when the Lakers are on the clock, the organization would be inclined to select the former Jayhawk. Wiggins might be the most talented player in the draft, but would he be a good fit in Los Angeles?
It’s hard to imagine that any of the top prospects wouldn’t be a strong choice for the Lakers. Pau Gasol is likely to leave in free agency, leaving a hole in the team’s front court. They’ve also been lacking at point guard, where Steve Nash has been unable to play like he did with the Phoenix Suns.
At small forward, Wiggins would fill another one of the Lakers’ needs. After using the amnesty clause to release Metta World Peace in the summer, Los Angeles has been forced to use subpar options at small forward. Wes Johnson has continued to underachieve, starting 57 games. Nick Young has had some big scoring games, but he’s shooting less than 43 percent from the field.
Wiggins would slide right into the Lakers’ starting lineup, playing alongside Kobe Bryant. On a team like the Philadelphia 76ers or Milwaukee Bucks, Wiggins would feel the immediate pressure of having to be the team’s top scoring option. With a healthy Bryant expected back for the 2014-2015 season, Wiggins won’t be faced with the same expectations. As a 19-year-old in the NBA, he’ll be able to grow under the tutelage of an all-time great. On Twitter, Bryant recently commented on Wiggins’ potential, stating he’d like to mentor him.
While Wiggins might need time to grow into an elite scorer, he can immediately become one of the Lakers’ best defenders. With his athleticism and size, he has the ability to defend multiple positions. Los Angeles is no offensive juggernaut, but their greatest weakness is their inability to stop opponents from scoring. They rank second–to-last in the league, allowing 108.9 points per game.
The Lakers have a lot of work to do in the offseason, but drafting Wiggins would be a great start to their summer. In one year of college basketball, he averaged 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.