The NBA Draft is almost here. Rumors are swirling around the Los Angeles Lakers, and their seventh overall selection.
It comes with the territory.
When you have been arguably the most glamorous franchise as far back as anyone can remember, and have a fan base that expects to be the title favorite sooner rather than later, rumors that have blockbuster potential come as no surprise. The rumor mill will be open for the Lakers as the offseason continues to drive forward, and especially in the hours before the NBA Draft.
Many fans expect that some type of trade will materialize that lands Los Angeles a superstar, at least at some point this offseason. To be honest, there is some reason to believe with Mitch Kupchak at the helm.
Kupchak once turned Kwame Brown into Pau Gasol (which is akin to turning water into wine, a billion dollars, and Kate Upton) and ultimately landed Dwight Howard for injury-prone Andrew Bynum. However, fans still expect Kupchak to turn nothing into something.
The sobering news is that the league doesn’t typically work that way.
At some point a franchise must draft and develop young talent. The Lakers haven’t got any to develop, and trading their first lottery pick in years is not the best way to start gathering it.
While trading for a young stud like Michael Carter-Williams sounds good, especially if it sheds Steve Nash‘s contract with the draft choice, the likelihood of that happening seems to be dwindling (if it ever had a chance to begin with).
It’s no secret the Lakers want to compete in what is presumed to be Kobe Bryant‘s last two years with the club, and while that desire echos through the fan base, it is not smart to mortgage the future to chase that pipe dream. Drafting a player to build around, adding in a few key free agents in the coming seasons, and trying to get better year to year will pay the dividends the franchise is looking for.
There should be no shortage of talent available for Los Angeles when they are on the clock with the seventh pick. Kentucky’s Julius Randle, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, or even Kansas’ Joel Embiid could be available at that slot; guys who would be considered (and in Embiid’s case, strongly favored) to be the top selection in almost any draft given typical circumstances. This draft is absolutely stacked, and is certainly not the one to opt out of, especially when you have a need for young talent at every position.
Sure, landing Kevin Love for the seventh overall pick would be fantastic. Even then, what’s to keep Love from leaving if he truly wants to compete for a championship in the NBA?
Even assuming Kobe Bryant returns to his 2012 form, forgive me if I am skeptical adding Love to a core of Bryant, Nash, and Robert Sacre makes the Lakers an instant title contender.
Instead, the Lakers should keep their draft choice. They will likely come out of the deal with a player who has star potential, and at worst the potential to be a starter for a long time in the league.
They will still have a boatload of cap space next summer, when Love and others can become free agents and join the Lakers without the loss of assets.
Keeping their draft choice allows the Lakers to build for the future while enticing future star free agents to select Los Angeles as their landing-place. However, this takes acknowledging that the Lakers will not be undergoing a transformation like Miami Heat did in 2010, or even more comparable like the Celtics did in 2007-08.
Building a championship roster is rarely easy, and the hardest part usually is staying patient and allowing young talent to gather and develop. Mitch Kupchak knows this, so does the rest of the Lakers organization.
Even though the rumors will continue to persist, I urge the Lakers to make the right choice and keep their draft choice.