The 2013-2014 NBA season is far from over, but the Los Angeles Lakers already have one eye on the draft. Through 58 games, L.A. is 20 games under .500. They have the worst record in the Western Conference, and are basically assured to miss the playoffs.
On the bright side, the Lakers could leave the 2014 NBA Draft with their best draftee since 1996, when they traded center Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets for the 13th overall pick, Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers are expected to be in the draft lottery with one of the best chances to win the No.1 overall pick. As it stands, only three teams have a worse record than Los Angeles. That would guarantee them no worse than the No.8 selection.
It’s an important draft for the Lakers, who have a lot of holes to fill. Not only have they struggled this year, but their roster is very much uncertain for 2014-2015. The team has only $35 million committed to players next season, most of which will go to Bryant and Steve Nash.
Whoever the Lakers take in the first round will likely have a major role on the team. Luckily for Los Angeles, they’ll have a high pick in year that features the best draft class since, maybe, 2003.
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Below are three college players the Lakers could target in June.
The Duke freshman was hyped as one of the nation’s best players coming out of high school, and he has not disappointed at the next level. Averaging 18.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, Parker is likely to be named the ACC Player of the Year. The Lakers need another scorer, and Parker has the potential to be the next great offensive NBA player. He can mature under the tutelage of Bryant, especially on the defensive end, where he has been subpar, at times.
Bryant’s time as an elite player might not last much longer, and Parker could eventually replace him as the face of the franchise. Most mock drafts project him going in the top three, so the ping pong balls will have to bounce in the Lakers’ favor.
In the offseason, the Lakers will be looking for multiple big men. Pau Gasol is likely to sign elsewhere as a free agent, leaving a big hole in the frontcourt. Vonleh stands at 6’10, weighing 240 pounds. At 18 years old, he’ll only get stronger and improve his inside game. He’s averaging 11.6 points and 9.1 rebounds in his first season with Indiana.
Vonleh is very green, but his talent and versatility will make him a high pick. He could be off the board by No.5.
The Lakers could use an exciting point guard, and Exum could be the answer. Steve Nash is still under contract for another year, but injuries have made him a shell of his old self. Kendall Marshall has had some big games, but he is not expected to be a full-time starter for an organization with title aspirations. L.A. hasn’t had a young and dynamic point guard since Nick Van Exel, and the Australian basketball star could be the perfect fit.
Exum has expressed a desire to play for the Lakers, and he could get his wish. Mock drafts are predicting him to go somewhere in the middle of the lottery.