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

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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

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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.

Lakers Early Free Agent Targets

 

The Los Angeles Lakers have spoken to free agents Andre Iguodala and Rajon Rondo, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN also adds Ben McLemore to the list of players the Lakers have recently reached out to early in this free agency period.

This is an interesting group of players the team has reached out to early in the offseason. Veterans Iguodala and Rondo would add a lot of experience to a young team, but the price Iguodala is fishing for right now and will likely get doesn’t really match Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka’s offseasons plans this year. As for Rondo, who does have a bring baggage along with him to any locker room, as well as his limitations as an outside shooter doesn’t exactly match the vision and system the organization is trying to build.

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McLemore though, is a young player who has nice size at 6″5 in the SG position and has the ability to stretch to floor with his jumpshot. Mostly an inconsistent player throughout his career so far, he’d be a low risk-high reward signing for the Lakers, as they could see for themselves how much of McLemore shortcomings were on him or simply just because of playing fro the Kings. They don’t cough up too much money thereby upholding their promise of keeping their cap space “sacred.”

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Other notable free agents the Lakers could still target to address needs such as outside shooting and defense who are available (for now) are: Aaron Afflalo, Robert Covington, Tyreke Evans, Reggie Bullock and Ian Clark to name a few.

Paul George Traded to OKC: What It Means For The Lakers

Indiana Pacers superstar Paul George is headed to Oklahoma City after being traded for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

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After many rumors of different teams getting involved in the Paul George sweepstakes (Cleveland, Boston, LA, Washington), the Oklahoma City Thunder swooped in and flipped an atrocious Oladipo contract all by just including a young prospect in Sabonis in his rookie deal.

And they did so without giving up any draft picks!

What does this mean for the Lakers though? It means we’re still very much in the running for George next summer. Now some might argue, “why would he leave a contender in OKC for a rebuilding team in the Lakers?”.

Without a doubt, the Thunder are a playoff team. But in a stacked western conference, is anyone, outside of Thunder fans, really picking them to come out of the west? Last time I checked, Russell Westbrook was once paired with superstar small forward, and it didn’t exactly turn into a championship. Plus, the Warriors and the Spurs still play on the same conference, so while it’s still possible, it’s unlikely George commits long term with the Thunder when multiple reports have indicated that he will only sign an extension if the team a) wins a title or b) is the Lakers.

Westbrook, a superstar talent himself and current reigning league MVP, could very well convince George to stay in Oklahoma City. But the same could be said about George, who also has one full year to convince Westbrook of joining him to come back to their hometown: LA.

With Chris Paul joining the Rockets with James Harden, Jimmy Butler joining the young core of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns and now George teaming up with Westbrook, the almighty west just got a whole lot better. With the All Star Game set to be played in LA, and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss openly saying that she wants an all star to represent her team, it’s doubtful that an all star is selected from the Lakers current roster.

Overall, this trade has the whole league shook, and probably set off a domino effect that will continue to fall through summer ’18 and beyond.

Lakers Exercise Team Option, Bring Back David Nwaba

The Los Angeles Lakers have exercised their team option to bring back shooting guard David Nwaba.

Nwaba was called up last year from the team’s D-League affiliate Los Angeles D-Fenders (now known as the South Bay Lakers for the G League) and played in the final 20 games for the team. In 20 games the Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo product averaged 6.0 points per game and 3.1 rebounds on 58% shooting from the field while proving to be one of the ball clubs better defenders. His defensive prowess, coupled with his athleticism would look tremendous alongside new backcourt mate Lonzo Ball and at just 24 years old, there’s still a lot of room to grow, particularly as a shooter.

After two 10 day contracts with the team, Nwaba has proven his value to the team as a competitor and a workhorse, and his potential as two way player has ultimately landed him a contract with the team. And with a current backcourt devoid of defense, look for Nwaba to be a key piece for next year’s roster.

Rumor: Paul George Recruiting Klay Thompson to the Lakers?

The rumor mill has us constantly refreshing our Twitter timelines in hopes of getting hit with Woj bomb to satisfy our NBA needs. NBA Twitter has gone spinning once again as rumors of Lakers recruitment have surfaced, this time involving two hometown talents.

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Former NBA player and radio show host Keleena Azubuike of 95.7 The Game got the scoop, saying that George has reached out to Thompson and has declared his interest in playing together for the purple and gold.

First of, I would be extremely happy if even one of those players end up with the Lakers. But both of them playing with the young core that we have now would catapult the Lakers into playoff contention. The chances of this pairing happening though, may not be as high as some Lakers fans think.

While the ties to Southern California are there, if you were Thompson, you’d be hard pressed to leave such a good situation on Golden State. Winning championships is the ultimate goal, and in a system like the Warriors where everyone gets fair share of the ball and everyone gets to have their moments, it will be tough to pass out on a winning environment in a current LA team that’s still unproven. Mychal Thompson said as much on his radio show “Thompson and Trudell” for ESPN radio, as well as ESPN insider Ramona Shelburne about the potential George-Thompson pairing in LA.

George recruiting Thompson may not necessarily mean they’re aiming to play together this season, or even next as Klay isn’t a free agent until 2019. And as of today, George is still an Indiana Pacer, and until a trade happens, he will likely still be a Pacer on opening night.

That’s not to say that it isn’t possible. With a stacked roster like the Warriors, keeping a core of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson would require A LOT of dollars to keep all of them happy. Even perennial 6th man of the year candidate Andre Iguodala might prove to be a difficult talent to keep, as a number of teams have expressed interest in the veteran forward’s services, even if it’s mixed with a few ulterior motives.

But maybe that team from the Bay is more than just about money. If they continue winning in such dominant fashion as they have and win a few more rings to show for it, maybe everyone will be happy. The culture they’ve built is not something to overlook, because as of right now, anyone who wants to win and have fun while winning would willingly take a pay cut to be a Warrior (see: Zaza Pachulia/David West).

All I’m saying is, anything’s possible. As the summer continues to roll along, all of the smoke would eventually clear, and whatever was real in all these rumors would inevitably show itself, all in due time.

This is going to be one hell of an Offseason.

Everyone Wants Paul George

As the NBA offseason prepares to kick into full gear with the start of free agency just a few days away, there has not been shortage of rumors for star players finding a new home and a new franchise to play for. Paul George has been front and center of all the rumor talks, and it seems as though his list of suitors continue to pile as we approach July 1st.

And in what seems like an offseason tradition, the Los Angeles Lakers are once again in the discussion of potentially landing a superstar. Whether a star like George does indeed end up with the Lakers is still questionable, as a few teams feel like they have more to offer than Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and the rest of the front office, and thus pose as a real threat to acquire a valuable talent like the Indiana star.

One of those teams is the Washington Wizards. Marc J. Spears of ESPN reports that franchise point guard John Wall is recruiting George in hopes of challenging LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East, saying that they are “one piece away” from dethroning the King of the East.

“Look at our team. We are one piece away,” Wall said. “We have the point guard, we have the shooting guard, we have the center, we have the power forward. Our 3-man [Otto Porter Jr.] did great for us. You can’t take nothing away from what he did. But [George] is a guy that can guard LeBron and go back at LeBron. It’s a piece that you’re going to need to win. If you don’t have a guy who can do that, you don’t have a chance. …

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“You got to add another star. You got to add another piece. You got to have three guys. And that’s what it’s looking like.”

While Wall’s assessment of George’s addition to the rising Wizards is certainly not wrong, the means to acquire him may not be totally there. If the desire is to add George with the tandem of Wall and Bradley Beal, who are the Wizards giving up in return that would incline the Pacers to agree on a deal? Otto Porter, who’s maybe their next best asset is currently a restricted free agent, and George still has 1 year left on his contract before being able to sign with any team outright. That’s not an option until 2018. So while they can entice George to join a contender, it’s unlikely Washington could sway the Pacers into taking a package revolving around Marcin Gortat.

With Cleveland still clear obstacle for every eastern conference team, expect a lot of players follow Wall’s example and be in full recruitment mode leading up to and during free agency.

Speaking of Cleveland…

ESPN’s Marc Stein just dropped a major Stein bomb this weekend reporting that a three team deal involving Cleveland, Indiana and Denver swapping a couple of all stars, some multi year contracts, and a few young prospects.

Other pieces involved in this three team blockbuster were Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, and Emmanuel Mudiay, per ESPN.

After getting destroyed by the Golden State Warriors in the Finals, the Cavaliers seem to be very aggressive in landing another superstar in hopes of challenging the powerhouse from the Bay and also convince their franchise player, LeBron James to stay beyond this year. According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, LeBron James has an eye on Los Angeles once he becomes a free agent next year, where can choose to opt out of his current contract.

Multiple league sources I’ve spoken to think the Lakers or Clippers are viable destinations for King James. Jalen Rose said this week on First Take that he expects LeBron to make a move from Cleveland to California, where he already owns a house 30 minutes away from Staples Center. The Lakers make sense if LeBron wants to build a sustainable winner with a core blend of veterans and youthful talent like Paul George — if, as NBA gossip suggests, George truly is “hell-bent” on going to L.A. — and Brandon Ingram. The Clippers make sense if LeBron wants to form a Banana Boat Voltron with Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony. 

This may very well be what has sparked the sense of urgency of in Cleveland’s front office, but after falling out of negotiations with GM David Griffin, the Cavs aren’t looking too good in James’ eyes. With the threat of a banana boat rendezvous happening in Los Angeles, are locked in on Geroge, especially after losing out on the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes. Them landing George is huge question mark though, as Pacers president Kevin Pritchard is determined to get a get a good return in any deal involving their star forward.

Whatever James’ intentions are, the last thing Dan Gilbert and the rest of Cleveland want to see is their franchise player, the hometown hero, to leave again and form a superteam in Los Angeles, as NBA Chaos monger Rob Perez explains here.

This leaves us with the team that has probably the most assets the Pacers would be interested in getting back for a superstar of Paul George’s caliber.

Enter Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics.

Until the very end of time, the Celtics prove to be the supreme rival for the purple and gold, this time as a competitor for the superstar’s services. From Indiana’s standpoint, there’s no doubt the Celtics could offer them the most attractive package. A combination of picks, young players and valuable role players would certainly help Indiana in an inevitable rebuild once they part with their star player. After drafting  Jayson Tatum this year and Jaylen Brown this year, all while veteran Jae Crowder still a vital cog in coach Brad Stevens’ system, the Celtics have overloaded depth on the SF position, and a package centered around one of their young players plus the picks they got from the 76ers trade makes it more appealing for Pritchard to pull the trigger on a trade.

Rumors have also surfaced of a free agency plan that would help convince Paul George into becoming a leprechaun, who up until this point, has made it clear that his preference is to be a Laker. According to Adrian Wojnarowski per the The Vertical, the Celtics are confident that they can pry away the LA native from playing for their longtime rival.

The Celtics have a growing confidence they could sign George to a contract extension, and keep him from leaving to his predetermined free-agent destination of the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources told The Vertical. Boston’s belief that it can make George more than a one-year rental is fueling the franchise’s willingness to part with a significant package of assets, league sources said.

How you ask? By signing Gordon Haywayd, after an outstanding year where Utah saw it lay claim to it’s first All Star since the Deron Williams era, Boston plans to convince George that a core of him, Hayward, Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas can usurp the Cavs.

The Boston Celtics are pursuing an aggressive summer plan of sequencing the signing of free agent Gordon Hayward and relinquishing the assets needed to complete a trade for Paul George, league sources told The Vertical.

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With the assets Ainge has at his disposal, it won’t be hard to imagine a core 4 of those players spelling trouble for the rest of the league.

After a three year stretch of excellence and a recent run of postseason of dominance, the Golden State Warriors got the whole league shook. So shook in fact, that it has set off an NBA offseason so chaotic that you doubt whether you can call it an “offseason”. Paul George will continue to be the hot topic of any rumor for the majority of the summer, and until a deal is made, pressure remains in the inexperienced front office of the Lakers, as Paul George to the Lakers may run into more than a few stops on the road and ultimately settle there.

For all of Lakers Nation, losing out on George would be a travesty. But having to watch him parade around with leprechauns would be an absolute nightmare.

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Lakers NBA Draft ’17 Recap

The Los Angeles Lakers came away from Brooklyn, New York with draft night that has a lot of fans excited for the future. Spearheaded by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka in their first draft as a NBA front office, the Lakers added a handful of young talent that would surely make this year’s Summer League something to look forward to once again.

At the #2 slot, the team got their guy in Lonzo Ball, effectively ushering in the Ball era in Los Angeles. The Big Baller Brand was well represented in the ceremonies, as ESPN gave an ample amount of screen time to the Big Baller himself, LaVar Ball, who as of Thursday night, has spoken the Ball dream into existence. Hoops fans around the world were treated to more than a few classic LaVar promos.

Ball wasn’t the only rookie picked by the purple and gold that night, as the team made some moves that ended with the team acquiring a total of 4 draft picks on the night. they flipped their 28th pick to the Utah Jazz and received picks 30 and 42.

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With the 27th pick, the Lakers selected Kyle Kuzma, a junior from Utah. Potentially a versatile power forward in the NBA level, the 21 year old measures in at 6″9 with a 7″0 wingspan, is capable of scoring in transition and is more than comfortable running the floor in an open court offense. His shot does need some work, but Kuzma has the potential to be serviceable stretch 4 in the league if he can overcome consistency issues on his mechanics. So far, the kid seems to happy to be a Laker.

For the last pick of the first round, the Lakers selected Josh Hart from Villanova. While not as young as most of his peers in the draft, the shooting guard’s four years in a winning program along with his skills as a shooter and competitiveness as a defender suggests that he can contribute right away in the NBA level.

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Averaging 18 points a game at 57% clip and 40% shooting from deep he projects to help a team devoid of any real outside threats, and his physical profile at 6″6 with a 6″8 wingspan will help him possibly cover 1-3 positions defensively.

Thanks to the maneuvering of the front office, the team also got to pick in the second round, which initially they weren’t supposed to. They selected 19 year old Center Thomas Bryant from Indiana. As a 42nd pick, Bryant looks to be a nice find late in the draft, as he has a serviceable jump shot that can stretch all the way from beyond the arc and a high motor that allowed him to average 9.5 rebounds per 40 minutes and his length at 6″10 with a 7″6 wingspan permits him to block 2.2 shots per 40 min. He does have mobility issues at his size which poses questions about how serviceable he can be in the pros, but his youth leaves a lot of room for him to grow and his fulfill his potential as a valuable stretch 5.

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As the draft itself concluded, the Lakers were not quite done adding rookies to the squad. ESPN reports that South Carolina guard P.J. Dozier signed a free agent contract with the Lakers.

While going undrafted shows some concerns as to how Dozier’s game, as it is quite raw at this stage, will translate to the  next level, he shows potential as playmaker and an athletic finisher off the dribble. Measuring in at 6″6 with shoes and a 6″11 wingspan at the NBA draft combine, he is an oversized guard, who if he can develop a reliable jumpshot and rounds out his playmaking skills, can become a mismatch for the rest of the league who would thrive in Luke Walton’s offense. Details of his contract are still a mystery, but us fans can be certain that he will be able to showcase his talents in the upcoming Las Vegas Summer League, along the other young talented rookies and second year guys from the Lakers.

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The Lakers came out of Brooklyn with a very solid draft that looked to primarily address the team’s shooting needs, in hopes of implementing an open floor type of play with a heavy emphasis on ball movement and team defense. After watching film on these new crop of rookies, and after hearing from Magic and Pelinka themselves in a recent press conference, these guys  keep the ball moving and play a disciplined and mature game of basketball.

The team intends to build around Ball as the new face of the Lakers, and it did so by drafting what they claim as complimentary pieces late in the draft that will help the new Lakers point guard set the table and bring Showtime back to Hollywood.