The Los Angeles Lakers will once again be picking at the 2nd selection overall in this year’s NBA Draft. With Washington product Markelle Fultz considered by many to go to the rival Boston Celtics at number 1, let’s look at five prospects in this year’s talented crop of rookies that the purple and gold could potentially add to their current line up of young talent.
While many project Lonzo Ball to be a Laker, it’s essential that the organization, as well as us fans, take a long, hard look at this year’s pool of incoming rookies, as it is the most talented collection of prospects to enter the league in awhile.
5. Jonathan Isaac – Florid State (6″11, 205 lbs, 7″1 Wingspan)
Stats per Game: 12.0 PTS, 7.8 TRB, 1.2 AST, 50.8% FG, 34.8% 3P, 78.0% FT
Jonathan Isaac is an intriguing option for the Lakers at number 2. Standing at 6″10 with a 7″1 wingspan and a 9″1 standing reach, he possesses great physical tools that will aid him in playing against the best athletes in the pros. In his one year with the Seminoles, he has shown that he is able to play both forward positions, highlighting his offensive versatility while also showing great competitive spirit when covering guys from guards, wings and bigs on the defensive end.
As physically gifted as Isaac is, there are still some concerns about his game, and how it would translate into the NBA. He is good at covering small forwards, however his current skill set projects more of stretch 4, and even then he may not be ready to play that position in the pros. An inconsistent jumper and sub par playmaking skills will cripple him as an SF, while his slight frame may hinder him from challenging grown men power forwards.
But the potential for Isaac is clear. With the physical tools that he has, he has the potential to become a very versatile player on both ends of the floor. A lineup that could feature D’Angelo Russell (6″5), Brandon Ingram (6’9), Isaac (6″11) and Julius Randle (6″9), would not only be extremely long, but has the potential to provide floor spacing and the capability to switch everything defensively, two things that coincide with the vision of head coach Luke Walton for this Lakers team.
4. Malik Monk – Kentucky (6″3, 197 lbs, 6″6 Wingspan)
Stats: 19.8 PTS, 2.5 TRB, 2.3 AST, 45.0% FG, 39.7% 3P, 82.2% FT
No one can deny Malik Monk’s greatness as a scorer. The Kentucky product, armed with a sweet jumpshot and great athleticism, has shown his lethal scoring capabilities in his one year playing college ball. At 6″3 with a 6″6 wingspan, it was mesmerizing to watch Monk hit tough fadeaways and stepbacks right between the eyes of defenders. Quick to get into his pull ups in the half court, the threat of his jumpshot opens up lanes for him to attack the rim where he was able to showcase his athleticism with impressive dunks.
He does lack the physical tools defensively, seeing as he had trouble covering opposing 2-guards. His size for a shooting guard also raises questions of how his scoring, his most valuable asset, will translate once he goes up against NBA shooting guards. He also has a tendency of settling for tough, contested jumpshots, and his ceiling as a playmaker seems to be low due to his score-first mentality and his average skills as a penetrator.
As a tough shot maker with a great competitive spirit, Monk is a prospect that’s going to be hard to pass up for teams in need of a scoring punch. As of now, without much playmaking skills outside of throwing some well timed lobs, I see Monk as a Lou Williams type player who’s capable of scoring in bunches and could be absolutely lights out once he gets into a groove. Drafting someone who has a motor, competitive spirit, and an offensive arsenal like Monk would be great for the Lakers, especially if the organization is as insistent on making Russell more of a leader as the point guard on the floor.
3. Jayson Tatum – Duke (6″8, 210 lbs, 6″11 Wingspan)
Stats: 16.8 PTS, 7.3 TRB, 2.1 AST, 45.2% FG, 34.2% 3P, 84.9% FT
Jayson Tatum is one of the most offensively polished players in this year’s draft. With a smooth scoring game, he won’t overwhelm you with his athleticism, but he will come at you with his array of moves in the halfcourt. He has the body of a prototypical NBA wing at 6″8 with 6″11 wingspan, and his wide shoulders and great upper body strength will allow him to play either forward spots. His arsenal of post moves, aided by sound footwork, proves to be very polished at his age, and his maturity shows in his game, as he is patient with his offense, especially when he goes to work in mid range, isolation situations.
Although he does have some defensive upside, as he is able to cover more ground than most on contests and close outs, his defensive effort does come and go. His streaky shooting may also be concerning for some teams, and his 34.2% shooting from behind the arc is not something to write home about. Given the benefit of going up against college level 4s for the most part, and with his offensive game relying heavily on isolation heavy contested mid range shots, it remains to be seen if his shooting range will adapt on to a NBA court.
As far as the Lakers are concerned, you would draft Jayson Tatum with mindset of possibly shuffling you starting lineup. Since Tatum doesn’t have the quickness to go up against opposing guards, ideally you would start him at the SF position. Does that mean you slide Ingram down to the 2? Drafting Tatum opens up a lot of lineup possibilities, plus his potential as a go to scorer who you can just dump the ball in the post to get you buckets will be hard to pass up, especially when you consider the fact that your featured lineup would be comprised of Russell (6″5), Ingram (6″9), Tatum (6″8) and Randle (6″9). A lineup capable of switching everything and provide floor spacing (once they all reach their potential), will be scary for the league in the years to come.
2. De’Aaron Fox – Kentucky (6″3, 180 lbs, 6″6 Wingspan)
Stats: 16.7 PTS, 3.9 TRB, 4.6 AST, 47.8% FG, 24.6% 3P, 73.9% FT
De’Aaron Fox is a high level athlete with tremendous burst off the bounce. Capable of playing above the rim, and taking the ball coast to coast on fastbreak situations, his speed and tight handle will aid him in the pro game. He is an aggressive rim attacker, as evidenced by his 7.5 free throw attempts per 40 minutes. His agility and athleticism, really opens up his game, whether it’s collapsing the defense thus opening up playmaking opportunities, or his quick reaction time coupled with his instincts on the defensive side of the floor. With great lateral quickness and aggression to get after it defensively, he averaged 1.9 steals per 40 min.
As great as Fox is as an athlete, at time he does rely too heavily on his God given gifts. He has a tendency to over penetrate on the drive leading to turnovers, and his reliance on his athleticism to create offense offense for himself and his teammates leaves a lot of room to improve his overall basketball IQ, in order to strike a balance as a scorer and a playmaker. His wiry thin frame is not ideal when attacking the paint filled with NBA bigs. He doesn’t shy away from physicality, which is why many teams love the edge he plays with, but his slight frame will be of concern, especially when it comes to injuries. If you also take into account his poor outside shooting, teams will shrink the floor on him, taking away driving lanes thus limiting his offense.
An improvement in shooting will go a long way in elevating his game. A pairing of Fox and D’Angelo Russell in the backcourt may result in a dynamic tandem, with Fox’s athleticism and reputation as a slasher complimenting Russell’s outside shooting and scoring capabilities.
1. Josh Jackson – Kansas (6″8, 207 lbs, 6″10 Wingspan)
Stats: 16.3 PTS, 7.4 TRB, 3.0 AST, 51.3% FG, 37.8% 3P, 56.6% FT
Josh Jackson projects to be the best prospect outside of Fultz and Ball in this year’s class, and it’s easy to see why. Standing at 6″8 with a 6″10 wingspan, Jackson fits the mold of a prototypical NBA wing, and his athletic ability definitely stand out. His bread and butter is defense. He plays physically on that side of the floor, and quick feet along with active hands help him a great deal when covering his man. He’s also active on the boards, showing a great second bounce when going after offensive rebounds. With averages of 7.4 TRB, 2.1 STL and 1.3 blocks per 40 min, he projects to be an immediate defensive boon for any team. He has also shown he’s capable of contributing on the offensive end as a playmaker who operates well on the open floor.
His weakness lies in his shooting. His inconsistencies with his form and shot mechanics has resulted in terrible bricks and misses. Although he sinked in 37.8% of his three point tries, and has shown improvement as the season went on, he’s still streaky on that regard. Plus his 56.6% shooting on free throws is discouraging, to say the least.
Overall, I see Jackson’s two way potential, but his upside is dependent on how he develops as a shooter. Right now, he’s lacking creativity with his shot creation, settling for too many contested pull ups, so I don’t see him contributing much offensively outside of scoring in the paint off cuts and transition opportunities, spot ups, and maybe as a secondary playmaker. But with the Lakers lacking on the defensive side of the ball, Jackson would be a great addition, as at the very least, he gives you great individual defense and also fill in either wing position.