The Los Angeles Lakers held a multi-session workout on Wednesday that featured a very talented group of 2014 NBA Draft prospects. The Lakers have the seventh overall pick, so they had no problem attracting players to L.A. for this workout.
The first session featured Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), Gary Harris (Michigan State), Zach LaVine (UCLA), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) and Noah Vonleh (Indiana); while the second session featured Aaron Gordon (Arizona), Doug McDermott (Creighton), James Young (Kentucky), Elfrid Payton (Louisiana Lafayette), Davion Berry (Weber State) and Jerry Evans (Nevada).
Although the roster has a ton of holes to fill, it was clear the front office is looking for backcourt help. While Kobe Bryant is already back on the court and expected to make yet another highly anticipated comeback when teams return to action in late summer, the front office must continue working toward re-establishing the Lakers as a perennial powerhouse. Essentially, they have to actively work on life after Bryant even during what are expected to be the final two seasons of his legendary career.
With uncertainty surrounding the future of both Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill, it also wasn’t a surprise that the Lakers wanted to see what Vonleh’s skill set looked like in person. The 6’9 power forward appears to have bulked up since the end of the college season, and seems to have intrigued several teams throughout the pre-draft process. It is uncertain whether the team will lean his direction on draft night, but Vonleh’s blend of length and shooting touch for a big man makes him an appealing project for someone in the lottery.
McDermott was another intriguing participant in the workout, as the 6’8 forward has really improved his draft projections with some of his combine and workout results. After leading the nation in scoring (26.7 PPG) and Creighton into the third round of the NCAA Tournament, there were still plenty that questioned just how his game might translate to the next level.
Recent history has proven that simply being a prolific scorer at the college level doesn’t necessarily guarantee NBA success, but McDermott is far from just a shooter and displayed plenty of athleticism throughout the combine drills. When asked what aspects of his game he felt still needed to be improved upon, McDermott was both honest and reflective in response.
“Ballhandling, mainly, and lateral quickness,” McDermott said. “I feel like my jumper will always be there. I just have to work on the in between stuff. I have a long ways to go in that area, but I feel like I’ll improve every day.”
He also made a point to mention a possible advantage over some of the younger prospects, having benefited from playing four years at the collegiate level. McDermott presented the same calm yet confident demeanor before the media swarm as he did throughout his college career. He certainly doesn’t lack for confidence, especially when addressing some of the players he’s been compared to.
“It’s a tough comparison, but guys like [Kyle] Korver,” McDermott said. “I’m really good at coming off screens, I’m a great shooter. I watch a lot of Ray Allen, guys like that. I feel like I can really find a role in this league and maximize that.”
As expected, the somewhat inevitable but just as relevant “Kobe Bryant” question was addressed by each prospect, and while all were predictably complimentary when it came to the 18-year veteran, Aaron Gordon’s answer was far and away the winner of the day.
“Kobe is psychotic about basketball and I am too,” Gordon told members of the media following the workout. “[Playing with Bryant] would be absolutely incredible… learning from a great. Just the little intricacies of the game, the details. I’d love to see his work ethic. Kobe is the definition of a true pro as well as Steve Nash. Being around those guys would help me tremendously.”
Gordon is a player that – while playing well for Arizona throughout the year – didn’t truly burst onto the national scene until down the stretch of the season and throughout the NCAA tournament. At about 6’8.75, with nearly a 7’0 wingspan, Gordon is a player who has really seemed to impress scouts and draft analysts with his eye-popping athleticism and frame. Although his offensive game and shot (in particular) will take some work before being ready for the next level, Gordon strikes you as precisely the type of player that will do whatever it takes to improve. Unlike other recent players of a similar size and build (such as Derrick Williams or Michael Beasley), Gordon shouldn’t have nearly as much of an issue finding a way to make an impact at the next level. Where others may have found the transition to becoming an NBA-level forward difficult, Gordon’s greatest impact is on the defensive end and through sheer effort in many cases.
With his versatility and athleticism, Gordon is confident that he can defend anyone from point guards to power forwards, which would certainly be a reason teams like the Boston Celtics are also rumored to be interested in Gordon with as early as the sixth pick.
As for the rumors of the Lakers’ willingness to potentially trade down in order to acquire additional picks, GM Mitch Kupchak offered a bit of clarity.
“No, we’d still like to add to our draft selection,” Kupchak said. “Could we move this (No. 7) pick and get multiple picks? Maybe. Could you buy a pick? Or trade a future pick for a present pick? Yeah, that’s possible. I think picks now are more valuable than they were, so I think it’s not as easy as it used to be, but I think that’s still a possibility.”
Kupchak generally plays things about as close-to-the-vest as imaginable, but given the potential 11 roster spots the team may have to fill, it is entirely conceivable the front office could look to acquire additional first-round picks, and possibly even second-round picks as well if the opportunity presented itself.
Given the varied list of guys they chose for their workout and the fact that Kupchak also acknowledged there would be “several more” workouts, this theory could certainly come to fruition by the end of draft night.
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