This offseason is an interesting time to be a Lakers fan. With the likely addition of 1 if not 2 superstars to the roster coming up soon in free agency (and maybe another via trade), the Lakers identity as a team is without a doubt up in the air.
What we do know is that Magic, Rob, and Luke are all looking for versatile, multi-positional players that can seamlessly slot into Luke’s increasingly positionless system. There are quite a few players at the tail end of the first who fit this build and could potentially be serviceable ball players regardless of what stars this team lands in the coming weeks. Lets take a look at a few who the Lakers are rumored to be linked to.
De’Anthony Melton – PG/SG – USC
By no means did Melton light up the scoreboard in his freshmen campaign at USC, but he was undoubtedly one of the best defenders in the nation. In fact, in games against the 1 and 2 picks last season (Fultz and Ball) he gave them each fits and pressured them into arguably each of their worst performances of the season.
Melton was primed for a monster jump this season before NCAA allegations forced him to sit out, so unfortunately we haven’t seen much of the kid since his freshman season last year. What we do know though is that he is a ferocious defender who can guard both the 1 and 2 spots at an elite level and he does not need the basketball in his hands to directly impact basketball games. Not only that, Melton is the type of defender who makes other players around him stronger on that end. This video is from last season, but since Melton didn’t play this season, it gives us some solid insight into what we know about the kid right now:
Melton primarily played off the ball at USC and could theoretically slot in nicely alongside Lonzo Ball as a defensive compliment with some flashes of offensive upside. Melton is projected to go anywhere from as high as 18-19 to the early 2nd round. If he’s sitting around at 25 when the Lakers pick, he would be an absolute steal. Frankly, I adore players like Melton who possess the intangible basketball abilities to be successful. He’s a kid that has proven he’s going to outwork you in every capacity and I have no doubts that with some solid NBA coaching, over time the offensive side of the game will round him out into a VERY complete player. If Melton hadn’t been ineligible this season, he likely would be a lottery pick. Honestly, I would feel comfortable with the Lakers trying to move up a few spots in the draft to ensure they snag Melton.
Basically what I’m getting at is that the Lakers should make sure they wind up with Melton at the end of the night because this kid has stud written all over him.
Jalen Brunson – PG – Villanova
This is a popular one going around the interwebs but one I’m really not too fond of. While I certainly think Brunson is a hell of a basketball player and will be a phenomenal back up guard in the right system in this league, I don’t think that fit is with the Lakers. Even if it is, we have more pressing issues we can address at this spot in the draft compared to finding a long term backup PG.
That isn’t to say i’d be upset at the prospect of taking Brunson. The kid has a hell of a motor and an almost unparalleled basketball IQ in the draft class, but his lack of athleticism and versatility is a bit concerning as far as system fit goes. If you want to see some of that world class basketball IQ though, peep this video:
Pretty silky, right? At the end of the day, I’m not going to be upset if the Lakers take Brunson. Worst case scenario, they get a savvy backup PG who can lift the 2nd unit up considerably. Considering how loaded this class is and the different directions we can take this pick though, I’d like to see the Lakers look elsewhere.
Jontay Porter – PF/C – Missouri
This is a fairly interesting option as nobody truly knows what Porter’s draft stock is. Porter has gone anywhere from the lottery to the 2nd round in recent mock drafts and rightfully so. While the upside of his game is exactly what GMs look for in today’s NBA, he also has some glaring weaknesses that need addressing.
In short, Jontay Porter projects to be a stretch big with the ability to put the ball in the basket from nearly anywhere on the court. Porter is VERY average defensively (as well as athletically) and will likely need some work on that side of the ball in order to really have a solid impact at the next level. He was bigger and quicker than most other kids he faced in college and relied on that heavily to his advantage. He won’t have those same luxuries in the NBA and will need to learn how to adapt and adjust his game accordingly.
When it comes to fitting in on the Lakers, that stretch big ability is something we saw is extremely valuable in this offense. While Porter will never be a supremely athletic threat, if he can focus on his defensive consistency and staying engaged, he could have a real shot to be something in this league. As a Lakers fan however, that lack of defense scares me. As we’ve seen time and time again, you can draft defense and the offense comes around later with proper coaching (Kawhi) but it is extremely difficult to teach defensive instincts to professional basketball players (Wiggins).
Every player is unique and for all I know, Porter could shove that argument in my face, quickly pick up NBA defense and be a stud before we know it. I don’t think thats going to happen though and while his upside is tantalizing, the holes in his game are more than enough to scare me off. Let’s hope Magic, Rob, and Luke see the same.