Lucky Number 27

 

The Lakers aren’t historically known for building through the draft, as they’d usually reload rather than rebuild. But consecutive years among the west’s bottom dwelling teams plus a few years pushing the odds in the lottery forces you to adapt. And as blessed as they are with consecutive top 2 picks, the Lakers have drafted exceptionally well in the later stages of the draft, a refreshing new focus in regards to valuing picks, whether it’s a lottery pick or a 2nd rounder. As good as the scouting department is, luck has played just as much a role, and maybe even more.

Since 1989, the Lakers selected at #27 a total of 5 times, making it the most frequent position the Lakers have selected in during the modern NBA draft process. And over the years, 27 has proven to be a lucky number, as each pick turned out to have a pivotal role for the franchise.

1990: Elden Campbell

Elden Campbell

Ushering in the post Showtime era, the Lakers of the early 90s, much like the present, consisted of a core young, talented players. The trio of Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones and Campbell brought joy and entertainment to a fanbase that was otherwise, mourning the premature retirement of Laker legend Magic Johnson. And as the 27th pick, Campbell brought great value as the team’s starting Power Forward for 7 of the 9 seasons he spent in Los Angeles. Standing at 6″11 with a strong mid range game as well as skills in the post, he was the classic, prototypical NBA 4 that fit in well with the team. Before being ultimately traded to the Charlotte Hornets to make room for Robert Horry, he helped the team reach the playoffs every year, with the lone exception being the 93-94 season. Though his LA teams never won a ring, and was more commonly remembered as a transition era to Kobe-Shaq Lakers Dynasty, he would eventually win a ring at the expense of Kobe and Shaq’s Lakers in 2004 with the Detroit Pistons.

Though he may not be at the same caliber as most of the Lakers’ storied big men, Campbell still came in and averaged 10.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks all in 25 minutes per game in his 9 years in LA, putting on great performances like the one against Patrick Ewing’s New York Knicks in a double overtime game during the 96-97 season. Ewing put up 35 points and 25 rebounds while Campbell put 40 and 10 of his own.

2002: Kareem Rush

Suns v Lakers

During the 2002 NBA Draft, the Lakers selected Chris Jefferies with the 27th overall pick and whose draft rights was later traded for the draft rights of Kareem Rush. After concluding 3 years of consistent improvement via college basketball in Missouri, 3 years where he averaged 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists on 44% shooting from the field and 42% from distance at 30 minutes a night, Jefferies ended up having a relatively short NBA career. While he didn’t score in the pros the way he did in college, Jefferies still had a memorable moment on the court as a member of the Lakers. Thanks to his three point shooting, he was able to earn a good 14 minutes a game during the Lakers playoff run in 2004, and while they would eventually lose to the Pistons in the Finals, Jefferies put on a pivotal performance just a round prior.

In the series clinching sixth game against Kevin Garnett’s Minnesota Timberwolves, Jefferies torched the opposition with six threes, hitting a couple of long distance shots during a tight contest late in the fourth quarter. He finished the night with 18 points, on 6/7 shooting, playing his role in putting the Lakers atop the rest of the west, and having an opportunity, once again, to play for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

2004: Sasha Vujacic

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In June of 2004, the Lakers walked away from draft night selecting sharpshooter Sasha Vujacic who played in the Italian basketball league the year prior. Truth be told, they knew what they were going to get with Vujacic: an three point marksman who can knockdown open shots. What they didn’t anticipate was they were also drafting the man who famously calls himself, “The Machine”.

While he never got to play huge minutes for the Lakers (a career 14.3 minutes per game in his 7 seasons with LA), Vujacic endeared himself to the fans, with his hard-nosed and scrappy type of play. He was never a great defender, but he works hard out on the court and would consistently irritate the opposing match-up and was highly successful at it. Just don’t think you could do the same to “The Machine” and walk away unscathed.

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I believe it’s also worth noting that playing for the a franchise like the purple and gold elevated his own personal brand. He was with the team in the early 2000s, standing in the corner as he watched Kobe take triple and quadruple teams on a nightly basis, biding his time and ultimately showing everyone on a national level who Sasha Vujacic was as the Lakers rose back to prominence later on. After barely even playing in the 2010 playoffs at all, he was subbed in for Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the hated rival Boston Celtics to ice the game, calmly sinking in two picture perfect free throws. At that moment, he epitomized what a role player is: a player that not only comes in to fulfill a specific task, bu also comes in prepared to maximize the opportunity given to him, all in the name of the team.

2015: Larry Nance Jr.

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A more recent 27th pick, Larry Nance Jr. has already made a name for himself in his two seasons in the league. Son of former Slam Dunk Champion and NBA legend Larry Nance Sr., Nance Jr. has hops that rival that of his father, and maybe even better. Dunking is not all the young power forward is good at though, as he displays a maturity and discipline out on the court that is much more polished than the other young bucks on the Lakers today.

While Larry’s Laker career didn’t exactly get off to a great start thanks to a not-so-friendly tweet concerning an NBA/Laker legend,

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I think it’s safe to say the fans have forgotten all about this little bump in the road, as Lakernation clearly considers him a favorite. Always looking to make the right play, whether it’s the extra pass, the discipline to help on defense or the hustle plays to get the boards or loose balls, Larry has proven himself on the court and inspired a change of heart in a fanbase that was ready to rip his head off after digging through his twitter feed.

With tons of room to grow and an inevitable frontcourt jam heading into the season, Larry Nance Jr. must prove himself once again that he has just as bright a future as the rest of the young core. He’s certainly building quite the resume to back that up…

His welcome to the NBA (preseason) moment:

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The one where he graciously baptizes David West and proceeds to end him, all in one gif.

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And of course, the classic, “Dunked on him so hard he became my teammate”.

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2017: Kyle Kuzma

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And last but certainly not least, the team’s most recent draft pick, Kyle Kuzma. After draft night, many among Lakernation (including myself) were scratching their heads when the 27th pick was called. Everybody had the same question in mind: “Who is Kyle Kuzma?” After summer league though, Kuzma gave fans more than enough reason to remember his name.

After three seasons playing NCAA basketball for Utah, the young forward showcased just how goo he is as a dynamic stretch 4. His combination of shooting, transition scoring and smart passing make him the ideal fit in Luke Walton’s system. He also showed great competitive edge when he had got matched up with guys like 3rd overall pick Jayson Tatum, proving himself serviceable in 1-on-1 coverage. Seeing him run the wings in transition and catching full- court touchdown passes from Lonzo Ball might be a sight we’ll be seeing for years to come. Coming away with Summer League Finals MVP and averaging 21.9 PPG, 6.4 REB, 2.7 APG, 1.1 STL, 1.4 BLK on 51.4% FG, he’ll surely command minutes, seeing as he’s the only viable stretch 4 the team can rely on at this point.

If they don’t get a jumpshot soon, Nance Jr. and Julius Randle may very well lose some of their minutes to the up and coming Kyle Kuzma – the Lakers newfound gem at number 27.

Building through the draft has been a popular strategy for NBA teams in recent years. With the value of draft picks sky rocketing significantly in this modern era, it’s pivotal for a team’s front office to exercise its due diligence and maximize a pick based on its position on the board.

In all honesty, sports drafts are glorified crapshoots, and the NBA’s no different. There’s so many variables in play that player evaluation doesn’t always rest upon a prospect’s college career, and banking on potential to translate in the pros will never be a sure-fire endeavor. With that said, many teams have had great luck in the draft, and the Lakers have certainly been nothing short of magic at number 27.

The All-NBA Accessory Team: Iconic Player Contributions to On-Court Swag

Part of what makes the NBA great is the abundance of individuality. The players are given the freedom to express themselves both on and off the court in ways not many sports leagues cater to. You could literally be anyone and still build up your brand. Either you’re the first pick in the draft or an undrafted free agent, once you step on the court, all eyes are on you. Some are famous solely for their game, others are notorious for their personal image and a select few are remembered for both. Without a helmet to conceal their faces like the NFL, we instantly recognize a player and what they look like from head to toe.

As prominent as NBA fashion is over the years, players also carry the swag ( or for some, a lack thereof) on the hardwood, with accessories that not only aid in elevating their game (and for some of these guys, I hope that’s the case), but also express who they are as individuals. Through the NBA’s rich history I’ve put together the All-NBA Accessory Team, compiling players that built their brand through not just their game, but also their expression of individuality on the court and the hustle to push the culture forward.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Carmelo Anthony – Doin’ Too Much

Melo

Sometimes more is less, and that bodes true on a number of levels when it comes to Melo. I distinctly remember a time when Melo kept it simple with one arm sleeve, and a headband to compliment his sweet cornrows back in the Denver Nuggets days. Fast forward to his tenure in New York and you’d pause to ask, “are all those accessories necessary?” Please, somebody tell me it is, because I cannot possibly figure out how you move in all that clothing, not to mention score points the way Melo has all these years. I think it’s safe to say Melo’s over accessorizing rivals only his volume shooting.

Stay Me7o on the accessories, Mr. Anthony.

The D-Band

D BAND

What the hell is this.

I guess it’s only fitting that Metta World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, endorsed such a legendary product, so legendary in fact that most call it a myth, as it never graced an NBA game.

Looking like a headband on most nights (it’d have to be really dark for you to even call it a band) or something a sumo wrestler to cover up their lower extremities for some, the D-Bands are described as “an extension of the headband & cap that are both fashionable & functional for today’s sports enthusiast.”, according to their IG account.

Say what you want about these head wedgies, but one thing’s for certain, the NBA and us fans were robbed of the D-Band spectacle, but at the very least, it deserves an honorable mention.

6th MAN:

Chris Anderson: The Human Coloring Book

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The NBA has its fair share of colorful personalities, and more often than not these kind of guys go on the list of guys you absolutely DO NOT cross, at any given time. Chris “Birdman” Anderson is for damn sure on that list, and it’s not hard to see why. You know when you leave your 3 year old with his/her crayon alone in the living room, you’re for sure going to find countless, unwanted random doodles all over your walls. Chris Anderson is your living room wall, and just the sight of this man is enough to intimidate anyone. Couple his imposing image with rough and scrappy style of play and you’ve got an instant fan favorite that many fans gravitate to.

STARTERS:

Wilt Chamberlain – Headbands

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Many regard Wilt Chamberlain as the first true dominant force in the league. “Wilt The Stilt” contributed a lot to the game of basketball. From establishing the significance of a dominant 5 to writing the record books in his own name, the NBA and basketball in general owe a lot to the Big Dipper. You could tack on the use of the headband to his long list of contributions. It wouldn’t be difficult to spot a 7 foot giant on the court, but the headband only added further swag to his dominance. Since then many players started using headbands.

Some tried to add their own twist to it,

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others went a little overboard.

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while a few turned out to be pretty damn good basketball players donning the headband,

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and at one point, it was also used to cover up receding hairlines, I might add. (Sorry, I had to do it.)

Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers

But the next time you see greatness wearing elastic fabric on their domes, just know that “The Big Dipper” made it cool first.

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Horace Grant – The Bespectacled One

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With the amount of players that have come and gone in the league, it’s impossible to remember every single one. Players often rely on their game to create memories for their fans, harping on their individual performances to carve their place in the game’s history.

This is how we evaluate the all time greats, and for the most part that’s not a long list, as great talent doesn’t necessarily equate to transcendent talent. But it’s also true that a select few will forever be remembered not only by their game, but how they looked playing the game, and Horace Grant checks off both boxes as one of the core players, along MJ and Scottie, in the Chicago Bulls’ first three-peat all while donning his iconic googles.

With the NBA reaching new highs in popularity during the 90s (thanks in large part to the league’s extending reach across the globe), and the Chicago Bulls almost always featured in the Finals, players like Grant were sure to get attention, and his unique accessory certainly helped familiarize the public with goggles, and why it’s okay to ball out bespectacled if it means you get to win three straight championships.

Grant wasn’t the first don eye wear on the court, as legends like George Mikan

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and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also rocked a pair,

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while Kurt Rambis’ trademark large square glasses completed the hard-nosed, scrappy role player persona Rambis played on the Showtime Lakers.

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But in an era where technology was progressing to aid global commercialization of the league, Grant popularized the goggles and remains to this day, the most recognized player to have worn the signature specs.

Dennis Rodman – Just Dennis Being Dennis

Dennis Rodman

I could honestly make a completely different list of ridiculous NBA hairstyles (and it so deserves a list of its own), but nobody quite pulled it off like Dennis Rodman. Remember when we talked about the NBA’s many “colorful” personalities? Dennis Rodman is the whole freakin’ rainbow with a few lucky charms to boot. Notorious for both his on-cout and off-court antics, Rodman’s personality may only be rivaled by his embodiment of the junkyard dog, leading the league in rebounding for several years while standing at just 6″6! The iconic image of himself he portrayed on the court was only an added accessory to his notoriety. The NBA has been blessed with crazy hairstyles over the years, but if one thing remains constant, it’s that Rodman is the champion of NBA hair.

Some came close,

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some tried to come close,

(“Holdat” L, Carlos.)

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but no one did it quite like “The Worm”.

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Rip Hamilton – Hoops Superhero

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After suffering a through a broken nose (twice!), to avoid further damage and necessary nasal surgery, Rip Hamilton was advised to wear a face mask. Talk about a blessing in disguise.

That face mask became THE face mask of the association, as Hamilton never played a game without it ever again. And after winning the NBA Finals, upsetting the Lakers in 5 games, Rip Hamilton entered public conscience as the masked shooting guard who went toe-to-toe with a young, rising star in Kobe Bryant.

Rarely do we see an athlete  as synonymous to an accessory as Rip Hamilton is, but having one of the most unique looks on the hardwood makes anyone take notice of you, and Hamilton’s game only elevated his status as one of the games stars even further, making a name for himself as the masked man in a solid core of “non-superstars” that brought Detroit a title. I honestly feel like, unless you’re a Pistons fan or diehard hoops junkie, you wouldn’t recognize Rip Hamilton walking down the streets without his facemask, which testifies to the power of an accessory in building an athlete’s persona brand.

Now whenever we see guys ball out on the court with a facemask on ala Kobe Bryant,

Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers

or dominate ever facet of the game like LeBron James,

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or even break unbreakable records like Russell Westbrook’s triple double frenzy this past season,

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Chicago Bulls

we get that feeling of a superhero, putting all his talents on display and busting every move in his arsenal to carry the weight of adversity and responsibility, and lead his people to victory. This is a feeling we first felt with Pistons legend, and more importantly, NBA Champion Richard Hamilton, who will forever be credited for the facemask.

Too bad it doesn’t make all of us look like superheroes…

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Allen Iverson – A Man of Culture

AI Shooting sleeve

We all know who Allen Iverson is, and his countless contributions to the game as we know it is a list that solidifies his status as a Hall of Famer. From the large, crisp white T-shirts, baggie jeans and durags he wore during pressers and the tattoos and cornrows that completed the look of “The Answer” on the court, Iverson was culture personified for the NBA, and who embodied who he is as a person and owned it proudly both on and off the court.

The influence A.I. had on his peers and on the generations to follow is prominent to this day, from the countless tattoo you see on an NBA players arms, to the intricate cornrows they have on their heads, A.I. pushed the limits early in the 2000s and in turn pushed the culture to the forefront, with global, professional sports league as his platform. The iconic arm sleeve he contributed to on court swag remains the most prominent piece of accessory in the game today.

The game’s biggest stars today have worn an arm sleeve, even delivering masterful and legendary performances in the process.

Whether it was a game saving shot,

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or a pivotal chase down block,

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or even one last gamer to cap off not just a retirement tour, but a legendary 20 year career on a 60 point final game,

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all these pictures wouldn’t be complete without the arm sleeve. Some people call it the shooting sleeve, but I refuse to do so unless guys like Andre Roberson cease to wear one. But such is the influence of a legend like Allen Iverson to have everyone and anyone wear something that he wore and made famous with masterful games of his own.

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The shooting sleeve is now a staple in today’s game, and in a small way we have Allen Iverson to thank for these iconic pictures because it wouldn’t be complete without him creating the look first. Salute to A.I., a true man of culture.

As for my final thoughts, every one of these players on the all-accessory team are innovators in their own right, not because they decided to wear simply wear an article of clothing on the court, or decided to draw on their bodies with permanent ink or change up their hairstyles. They’re innovators because they took it upon themselves to stand out, embrace their individuality and create a lasting image of themselves that will remain with us forever.

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Season Recap: WWE Edition

Another NBA season is in the books, and there was no shortage of drama and storylines that kept every basketball fan on their seats. Around this time, as the NBA Finals have finally come to a close, us fans are able to look back at a memorable season that has set Twitter ablaze a few times this past year. All the tension and the drama motivated by various stroylines of this past season makes me think of a parallel universe where the NBA is the WWE. This season had intense feuds, inspiring comebacks and epic showcases of greatness, and as a way to recap a year of hoops, I’ll be locking myself up in my dreamatorium and look back at this NBA season through the millions (and millions) of eyes of the WWE universe.

DX / OKC Break Up

I believe it’s only fitting that I start this recap with the infamous story that broke on the 4th of July, an event that had everyone in anticipation for the start of the season, to see two brothers go to war against each other. As soon as Kevin Durant announced his “new chapter” on the Player’s Tribune, the Brodie was left high and dry.

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It was time for KD to start winning a ring, and it seems like the only way to do it was turn his back on the Brodie. Without even so much as a phone call, and after being up 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals, your comrade leaves to jump over the fence to join the very team you were just 1 game from beating to head to the Finals. That had to be as painful as the excruciatingly long wind up time to set up and hit a Pedigree.

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Triple H turned his back on D Generation X, and straight up planted Shawn Michaels on to the mat signifying that he seriously intends to chase that gold, and thus effectively beginning a legendary feud between two close friends, and ending a superstar tandem. The KD-Russ feud is a perfect parallel of the Triple H-Shawn Michaels feud in terms of the level of talent involved, the jaw dropping betrayal and the incredible amount of hype fueled by the fans that continued to throw wood in the fire and proceeded to pour gallons and gallons kerosene through a bevy of twitter memes.

No one’s going to deny each superstar’s greatness but now we can only play “what if?” when reminiscing about these two superstars and openly wonder what would’ve happened if they remained together.

DX

Brodie 3:16

With the last one standing out of the original young Thunder core, Russell Westbrook went on a mission. In a league where super teams are the trend, Westbrook was the lone superstar on the Thunder, and THE man of Oklahoma City.

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As soon as the season Westbrook hit the ground running, en route to a record breaking 42(!) triple doubles in a season surpassing Oscar Robertson’s old record from a lifetime ago. In a super team era, it was refreshing to see players like him put the team on his back and lead his teams through sheer grit and tenacity only the Brodie can play with. He wasn’t interested in making friends with anybody. You were either with him (on his team) or against him, and like the Tasmanian devil, he ran rampant through the league with reckless abandon, ala Stone Cold Steve Austin, WWE’s number one badass. There are a number of Stone Cold antics from his book of badassery you could choose from, but Westbrook’s season, to me, showed shades of Stone Cold driving a Zamboni into a WWE ring in Detroit and proceeded to charge the ring full of police, with the only intention of letting all hell loose upon “The Corporation”.

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The season may not have ended in a title, but there’s no denying the greatness of Russell Westbrook. With all the noise about him being a selfish player that drove a superstar out of town and a player that only cared about getting his, Westbrook started and finished the season exemplifying incredible competitive spirit, all while telling everyone, “Why Not?”.

And (for now), that’s the bottom line, ’cause the Brodie said so.

Underdogs

Isaiah Thomas had one of the most inspiring postseason runs in recent memory, and I’ll be the last person on this planet to ever compliment a Celtic, but this man, former Mr. Irrelevant as the 60th pick of the 2011 draft, makes it extremely hard for a Laker fan to hate on him. I’m not going to shower praise on Isaiah Thomas, the Celtic, I’m praising Isaiah Thomas, the man. After the tragic loss of his sister in a fatal car crash, this man still showed up on the basketball court for Game 1 of the playoffs and dropped 33 points on the Bulls.

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Although they lost that game, IT showed tremendous heart, and ultimately won the series. The resilience and toughness you saw from 5″9 guard no one ever knew would ascend to the status of an MVP caliber player and a big time scorer in a league of giants, Isaiah Thomas embodied the ultimate underdog, the same way the masked man of the 619 handled business in the squared circle despite his size.

People tend to judge others based on physical appearance, and both Thomas and Rey Mysterio are familiar with that type of scrutiny. Most people never thought guys like them would excel in their respective profession. Even the Lakers doubted Thomas, who made it clear that he wanted to play for the purple and gold, by deciding to pass on signing the talented point guard.

Though at first you might see each athlete as handicapped or disadvantaged in their respective field, there’s no doubt they make it work, and they’re rather good at what they do. Heck, Isaiah Thomas was so good in the series against the Bulls that he had their head coach Fred Hoiberg pointing out that the point guard “carries the ball” on every possession.

Ok, Fred.

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These past playoffs silenced a lot of critics, and while they may not entirely go away, Thomas has that 53 point performance in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Wizards to show his them. Like the Brodie, his journey may not have ended in a championship, but if anything, he showed that he does possess the heart of a champion. But as a Laker fan, I hope he keeps that heart of a champion, and leave the real championships to us.

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Golden State NEXUS

I hate to say it, especially since I’m not talking about my team, but this looks to be the beginning of a dynasty. The Golden State Warriors have won 2 of the last 3 championships, and while they were impressive during their first title run, this past season they acquired an exceptional talent that could change the fortunes of any franchise, but in this case, they’re like the Juggernaut jacked up on adamantium, all because of one offseason acquisition:

.

.

.

Javale McGee

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In all seriousness, I don’t think I have ever seen any team dominate the league the way the Warriors have done. You could certainly argue that they’re “light years” ahead of any team. Seemingly out of nowhere, Golden State took the league by storm, the way the Nexus took to the ring unannounced, and swung for the biggest fish they could find in John Cena; the same way the Warriors knocked out the best player in the game: LeBron James.

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The way the Nexus took rings apart and destroyed whichever target stood in their way parallels Golden State’s dominance of the NBA. And if that wasn’t enough, both “factions” added a superstar that made it even more difficult for the top dog.

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Like CM Punk before him, Kevin Durant was the adamantium boost to the NBA’s Juggernaut, raising questions about who the “best in the world” truly is.

The Face That Runs The Place

LeBron James is undoubtedly the face of the NBA. As a high school phenom from Akron, Ohio, the league built him up and raised him as the face of one of the most profitable sports league in the world. There’s no questioning LeBron’s greatness, as he’s been the best player in the league for sometime now, but is it fair to question his teams’ greatness?

After suffering a season ending loss at the hands of the Warriors, James was posed a question by Basketball Insiders’ Eric Pincus about super teams, having been in super teams both in Miami and now currently in Cleveland, and whether or not he supports the formation of super teams having faced a stacked Warriors team.

Really?

LeBron James seems to be suffering from a bit of memory loss, because I seem to recall you predicting you would win “not 5, not 6, not 7…” rings with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the crew. His refusal to acknowledge the fact that he played for a super team, in which by the way he was the architect of, seems to rival another person’s refusal to face the music.

LeBron James is John Cena.

John Cena, WWE’s own face of the company, unquestionably the lead guy that they meticulously built their business around for the past decade, has rolled out the same tired routine all these years the same way LeBron still takes exception to facts of him playing on/building super teams. Cena refuses to turn heel, and has totally embraced being the clean cut, top guy that represents the WWE, the same way LeBron refuses “turn heel” even for just a tiny bit and admit to being on stacked teams instead of washing his hands clean.

Ok, this may have been a reach with the “heel turn”, but in all honesty, both men have been great in their respective professions, and carried their responsibilities as the “face of the franchise”, whether it’s winning titles and championships, or through their philanthropy and charity work. With all that said, they’re now both legends in their own right and household names that have filled our living rooms for the past decade.

LeBron Cena

Salute!

Draft Preview: LAVARSZN

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Lavar Ball’s mic skills are second to none. His promo work thus far has been so captivating, that no matter how ridiculous it is, people listen and people react. Give this guy a mic and you’re guaranteed a soundbite, which is one of the biggest reasons the media always has time for a Lavar segment.

I’m 100% sure, if he’s employed by the WWE, he would be the absolute best manager in history. It doesn’t matter which wrestler you pair him up with, Lavar could sell Santino Marella vs. Doink the Clown as the main event of Wrestlemania. Yes, I’m saying Lavar Ball is basketball’s Paul Heyman.

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Paul Heyman is a promo savant who’s instantly greeted by pops by the WWE universe as soon as he enters the arena. He consistently has the audience on the edge of their seats with the way he cuts a promo and hypes up a pay per view event or a marquee match-up. He knows how to get people’s attention and he does it by simply uttering words into a mic with unbridled passion and aggression. Heyman has been the mouthpiece of talented wrestlers over the years like Brock Lesnar, as he touts himself as “the advocate of the beast”.

With the draft days away, it’s sure to be a worldwide spectacle as to what Lavar Ball does during the event. Will my Lakers draft the hometown kid? What happens if their mission of getting Ball to LA fails? More importantly, what will the cameras capture when it turns to Lavar for a reaction after the 2nd pick has been selected?

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Lavar Ball is more than a father at this point. He is an advocate; the advocate of young phenom Lonzo Ball and the rest of Big Baller Brand.

Whatever happens, it’s safe to say the elder Ball will continue to be the mouthpiece of Big Baller Brand, as he builds Lonzo’s brand and hype up the Ball name.

After June 22, the NBA will never be the same.

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Top 5 Prospects The Lakers Should Consider At #28

Thanks to a trade deadline deal where the Los Angeles Lakers moved Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets for Corey Brewer and a late 1st round pick, the purple and gold are afforded one more slot to add young talent in quite a deep draft. Recently, the Lakers have enjoyed quite a bit of success in drafting late, with picks turning into solid rotation players with upside like Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Ivica Zubac.

Given the track record of the team’s scouting department, it’s not a stretch to believe that the team could once again add a solid, young piece from such a deep draft class. With the 28th pick, these are some prospects I believe the Lakers should consider, given their blend of physical tools, basketball ability and potential.

5. Bam Adebayo C – Kentucky (6″9, 243 lbs, 7″2 Wingspan)

Bam Adebayo

Stats Per Game: 13.0 PTS, 8.0 TRB, 0.8 AST, 59.9% FG, 65.3% FT

Bam Adebayo from Kentucky is a physical specimen at the center position who plays with a quick bounce and high motor, especially on the offensive glass where he averages an impressive 3.1 boards a game. At 243 lbs with only 5.2% body fat, his strong frame helps him create and finish off dunks inside. With great lower body strength, he’s also comfortable defending the perimeter, as a result of Kentucky switching everything on a lot of defensive coverages last season. His athleticism helps in that part of his game as well.

My concern with Adebayo is his redundancy when compared to a player who’s already on the roster in Tarik Black. They both have similar physical profiles, and almost the same skill sets. They are also both limited on the offensive side of the ball, with the exception of scoring within 5 feet of the basket. While Black’s contract is unguaranteed for next year, I’m not so sure about replacing him Adebayo, who’s basically the same player, but lacks experience in the pros as well as experience playing in the Lakers system.

With that said, the Lakers do need depth at the 5 spot, and Adebayo’s youth means that he has plenty of upside to offer and that he won’t be taking away much minutes away from anyone in the rotation. This gives him and the team some time to develop his game to a point where he can hopefully contribute in the future. (i.e. once we get rid of that Mozgov contract)

4. Devin Robinson SF/PF – Florida (6″8, 200 lbs, 7″0 Wingspan) 

Devin Robinson

Stats Per Game: 11.1 PTS, 6.1 TRB, 0.6 AST, 47.5% FG, 39.1% 3P, 72.3% FT

Devin Robinson is a Junior from Florida who projects to play either forward positions. At 6″8 with a 7″0 wingspan, he’s a great athlete capable of making plays above the rim with a 41.5″ max vertical and a 8″10 Standing reach. He has improved in each of the three years he spent with Florida with regards to his 3 point shooting, with last season being his most efficient from behind the arc at 39.1%. He’s also capable of filling the lanes for points off transition. Good lateral quickness allows him to stay on his man, and at his size and reach, he’s able to challenge shots well with rangy contests.

At this stage of his development, he’s not the most creative shot maker. His game off the dribble leaves a lot to be desired and at times he’s also prone to defensive lapses, due to his lack of awareness off the ball and off screens. With that said, I think he would fit well in a back up role. He may not have highest of ceilings being older (22 years old) than most of his peers, but if he’s able to translate his improves spot up shooting and work on his lapses defensively and overall basketball IQ, I believe he can develop into a high level role player off the bench for the Lakers. A team that needs added depth in the small forward department with Luol Deng and Corey Brewer not being the long term options at that position would do well with drafting 3 year college guy like Robinson who has all the tools of becoming a serviceable two way player.

3. P.J. Dozier SG – South Carolina (6″6, 201 lbs, 6″11 Wingspan)

PJ Dozier

Stats Per Game: 13.9 PTS, 4.8 TRB, 2.8 AST, 40.7% FG, 29.8% 3P, 59.7% FT

P.J. Dozier is another big body that projects to play multiple positions in the NBA. His size allows him to operate especially well in transition, where he showed last year that he’s capable of running the floor as a playmaker or finisher early in the shot clock. His 6″6, 6″11 wingspan will prove valuable in seeing over the defense thus opening up his potential as a big playmaking guard. While his playmaking is far from a finished product, his calling card right now is the defensive side of the floor. As a rangy defender who covers a lot of ground, his physical tools enable him to disrupt passing lanes for easy points off turnovers. His effectiveness both on and off the ball is only highlighted by the fact that he stays engaged on defense every time.

His awful shooting all around will hurt him early on. His inconsistent shot mechanics have lead to awful misses, and it’s only magnified even more by his lack of creativity in making his own shot in the half court. His decision making will also need work as he has been erratic at times with the ball, leading to costly turnovers for his team. He does have the potential to be a really good role player for the Lakers, and maybe even more if he’s able to drastically improve hi shooting and smooth out his playmaking. I see Dozier capable of filling that Shaun Livingston role with the Lakers, a big guard who can initiate the offense and exploit mismatches with his size against rival guards.

2. Thomas Bryant C – Indiana (6″10, 241 lbs, 7″6 Wingspan)

Thomas Bryant

Stats Per Game: 12.6 PTS, 6.6 TRB, 1.5 AST, 51.9% FG, 38.3% 3P, 73% FT

He is in no way related to a certain Laker legend, but Thomas Bryant has all the physical tools and skills to thrive in today’s NBA. Standing at 6″10, 248 lbs with a 7″6 wingspan, the Indiana product is not afraid to get physical in the paint. His enormous standing reach of 9.4″5 is incredible, especially when you consider the fact that there are just eight players currently in the NBA with a greater reach. At only 19 years old, he carried a bulk of the Indiana offense, bumping into bodies in the paint, finishing through contact and shooting from the outside. The big man has shown he is capable of making the 3 point shot consistently, making 23 of his 60 attempts in his sophomore season, a far cry from the 5-15 clip in his first year in college.

He also showed he was capable of putting the ball on the floor for straight line drives coming all the way from beyond the arc and penetrating inside. This part of his game does make him turnover prone, as this leads to a lot of poor decisions either resulting into turnovers off bad dribbling or bad passes. His lack of bounce also makes him rely heavily on his physicality, as he averaged 3.1 fouls per game. While his post moves still needs some extra polish, I believe Bryant has the makings of a modern NBA 5, able to stretch the floor as well as be physical in the paint. Overall, I don’t see him carrying the same weight of responsibility he did in Indiana to the NBA, and at just 19 years old, his game will only continue to thrive and improve with the team and system the Lakers currently have. Timofey Mozgov won’t be a Laker for long.

1. Jordan Bell PF – Oregon (6″8, 224 lbs, 6″11 Wingspan)

Jordan Bell

Stats Per Game: 10.9 PTS, 8.8 TRB, 1.8 AST, 63.6% FG, 21.4% 3P, 70.1% FT

Jordan Bell is a defensive beast and it’s surprising to me that he’s currently ranked #35 on DraftExpress, not even in the first round! His defensive versatility is exactly what the Lakers need. A great athlete capable of making high energy plays, he puts himself in opportunities to score of rim runs and lobs. The PAC 12 Defensive Player of the Year averaged 3.1 blocks and 1.8 steals per 40 minutes for Oregon last season, showing he’s capable of defending inside as well as from the perimeter. He stays active both on and off the ball defensively, and his high motor lead to 4 offensive rebounds a game per 40 minutes, showing he can make multiple effort plays, even if the rebound is outside his area.

As of right now, he is limited offensively. His jumpshot still need some work, as most of his points have come off finishing at the rim. He also needs to work on boxing out more on his rebounds, as he relies too much on his athleticism to fight for boards. This habit of his has proven costly in the recent past, specifically in the NCAA tournament. In a game that was decided in the clutch, Bell failed to box out his man leading to multiple opportunities to ice the game at the foul line, leading to North Carolina advancing from the Final Four.

Overall, I like Bell’s game and I believe his defensive versatility would fit in well with what the Lakers would like to run defensively. With the ability to switch everything, he proves to be an immediate impact on that side of the floor. While his work on the pick and roll is already serviceable, as he is capable of reading the floor off short rolls and make that extra pass as well as finish himself as the roll man, adding a serviceable jumpshot to his game would do wonders for him and the team. I proceed with caution when is say this, but you could make the case for Bell as the next Draymond Green. If you’re the Lakers, you would love to have that kind of skill set on your team any day.

*Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com. Player Measurements courtesy of DraftExpress.com

Top 5 Prospects Other Than Lonzo Ball The Lakers Should Consider at No. 2

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)

jonathan isaac

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)

Malik Monk

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)

Jayson Tatum

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)

DeAaron Fox

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)

Kansas v Kansas State

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.