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Lakers, Clippers look for Second Round Luck
There were rumors that Pau Gasol would be traded to Minnesota for Kevin Love and the second pick in the draft, but that one seems to have been a lot of hot air. Photo by Jeff Lewis
Having traded away their first round picks, the Lakers and Clippers won’t likely have an opportunity to choose a franchise changing player; however, the second round could be fertile ground to find a sleeper.The Lakers have four picks in the round (No. 41, 46, 56 and 58) while the Clippers pick at 37 and 47.Both teams have had recent success in the second round, particularly the Clippers. Last year, via trade, the Clippers received Eric Bledsoe who started during the latter part of the season and looks like a keeper. They also drafted Willie Warren, who can still develop into a nice role player.In 2008, the Clippers selected center DeAndre Jordan, who will likely cash-in this off season as a free agent.The jury’s still out on the Lakers’ second round picks last season, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, but both made the defending champions’ roster, which is no small feat.Luke Walton, Ronny Turiaf, Marc Gasol and Von Wafer have been recent finds for the Lakers in the second round. With four picks, chances are, they can find another contributor.The Lakers need help at point guard and with perimeter defense and shooting. Players such as Nolan Smith (Duke), Josh Selby (Kansas) and Malcolm Lee (UCLA) could all be available when the Lakers pick.If the Lakers can parlay one of their picks into a 15-minute per game contributor, that’s a success. In all likelihood, four rookies will not make the roster next season, so packaging the picks or drafting a prospect and sending him overseas are options.There have been unconfirmed rumors circulating that Minnesota would be willing to trade Kevin Love and the No. 2 overall pick to the Lakers for Pau Gasol.The Lakers should listen to any and all proposals after the embarrassing way they were eliminated from the playoffs. If Minnesota’s proposed offer is true, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak will be faced with a tough decision.Local Players and their Draft Prospects The past few years haven’t been banner seasons for the Pac-10, but the conference still manages to somehow place several players per year in the NBA Draft.This year shouldn’t be any different. USC’s Nikola Vucevic seems to elicit a love-hate response from scouts. Scouring the web and reading mock drafts, I have seen him projected from a top-20 pick to late second round.Another year of bulking up at USC would have helped the underclassmen, but Vucevic’s skill set will help him become a good pro at the four spot. If he drops to the middle of the second round, some team may be in for a surprise.UCLA’s Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt are both intriguing to NBA scouts, especially considering the fact that recent UCLA players have performed better in the pros than in college.Some blame the drastic improvements of players such as Jrue Holiday, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love on UCLA coach Ben Howland’s half-court offense, which has been accused of restricting players on offense.Maybe, but one can‘t argue with the results. Some organization may reach high on the draft board and grab one of these guys. Lee is a 6”5 combo guard, who’s a consistent jumper away from being a starting player. Honeycutt’s a long, rangy 6”8 jumping jack that could excel in the right system.I expect Honeycutt to be picked somewhere in the 20s, and Lee to go no later than the mid-second.Other local players to keep an eye on are Derrick Williams (La Mirada/Arizona); Kawhi Leonard (Riverside King/San Diego State); Klay Thompson (Santa Margarita/Washington State); Darius Morris (Windward/Michigan) and Jordan Hamilton (Compton Dominguez/Texas).Other Observations Heading into the Draft Who should be the No. 1 pick? That’s the question the Cleveland Cavaliers have had to wrestle with since the Draft Lottery.Obviously, after LeBron James’ “decision,” Cleveland was left reeling, winning just 19 games. Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert seemed outright giddy in a recent tweet due to the Mavericks’ denial of the James-led Heat from winning a title. But it’s time for Gilbert to get over it. James is gone and he isn’t coming back. Cleveland has the first and fourth picks overall, with a chance to rebuild their team.In my view, there isn’t a transcendent player in this year’s draft. I project both Williams and Duke’s Kyrie Irving to be seven-time all-stars, and I don’t think Cleveland can go wrong with either one.However, I would draft Williams No. 1 overall and grab a point guard like Kentucky’s Brandon Knight at four if I was Cleveland’s GM.Williams played power forward at Arizona, but I think he projects as a three in the pros. He showed a range from the 3-point line last season that could make him a threat anywhere on the floor.Irving’s an enigma to both Cleveland and Minnesota at No. 2. Due to an injury, he only played 11 games his freshman season before declaring for the draft.I don’t see a problem with the limited games due to the likelihood that Irving, had there not been a rule barring preps from the draft, would have jumped to the pros and foregone the whole “one-and-done” layover.The NBA scouts know Irving’s skill set. He’s likely been on their radars since 10th grade. Irving’s game favors Chris Paul’s in my eyes.From the few games I watched Irving play; I think he’s a better prospect than last year’s No. 1 overall pick, John Wall.My potential sleepers are: JaJuan Johnson (Purdue); Jon Diebler (Ohio State); LaceDarius Dunn (Baylor) and Chris Wright (Dayton).
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