With the 2020 NBA championship in the rearview, the focus now shifts to the off-season for the Los Angeles Lakers, as they look to bolster their roster.
Ahead of free agency, the NBA Draft will give the Lakers an opportunity to add another player to the squad with the No. 28 pick in the draft.
MOCK DRAFT: Will LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards go no.1?
The Lakers are in win-now mode, which begs the question, are they better off trying to turn that pick into a veteran player that can help their pursuit of back-to-back championships, or is there a player available in that range that could contribute right away?
The Lakers currently have just six players on the books for next season in LeBron James, Danny Green, Quinn Cook, Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, and Talen Horton-Tucker
Anthony Davis ($28.8M), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($8.5M), Rajon Rondo ($2.6M), Avery Bradley ($5.0M), and Javale McGee ($4.2M) have player options for 2021 they could opt into, while Dwight Howard, Markieff Morris, and Jared Dudley are unrestricted free agents.
They've had success in recent years picking late in the draft, selecting the likes of Kyle Kuzma (27), Larry Nance Jr (27), Ivica Zubac (32), Josh Hart (30), Moe Wagner (25), Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (47), and Talen Horton-Tucker (46), so let's take a look at the players who could fit the mould from the 2020 class.
PG: Tre Jones - Duke
With Rajon Rondo testing free agency, the Lakers will look to bolster their playmaking stocks even if the 34-year-old returns for another run at a title.
In our most recent Mock Draft, Duke point guard Tre Jones, brother of Memphis Grizzlies playmaker Tyus, is projected at pick No. 29 and will likely be available late in the first round.
Jones fits the profile of the Lakers' defensive-minded approach and is arguably the best defensive point guard in the class. His combination of defensive instincts, mixed with his cerebral playmaking and ability to navigate the pick-and-roll make him a player that could slot into the Lakers rotation right away.
While his ability to score at the rim and create offence for himself still needs work, he encouragingly boosted his 3-point shooting from his first season at Duke, jumping from 26.2% to 36.1% last season.
Wing: Josh Green - Arizona
It's unlikely that Green will still be available at pick No. 28, but the versatile 19-year-old Australian projects as a player who can contribute right away with his elite defence
When you have LeBron James on your roster, you can never have enough versatile wing players, and much like Jones, Green fits the Lakers' defensive identity and has plenty of upside.
Boasting a 6'11" wingspan, Green is adept at playing the passing lanes and getting out in transition, but the big question mark will be his 3-point shooting. He connected on a solid 36.1% of his triples in his lone season at Arizona and if he can replicate that at the next level, he could give the Lakers a big boost off the bench.
PG: Cassius Winston - Michigan State
Winston is another playmaker who the Lakers should have their eye on in the draft and is likely to be available at the tail end of the first round.
In his four seasons at Michigan State, Winston was a productive scorer both in the pick-and-roll and in catch-and-shoot situations. Last season he averaged 18.6 points per game on 44.8% shooting from the field, including 43.2% from the 3-point line on 5.6 attempts per game.
The crafty playmaker is one of the best passers in the draft and his ability to space the floor and run an offence make him the type of player the Lakers should be targeting.
Other notable players in the draft
Outside of the three aforementioned players, there's a handful of potential draftees that could be available at pick No. 28 that the Lakers could use:
Guard: Nico Mannion (Arizona) - 14.0 points, 5.3 assists, and 2.5 rebounds on 39.2% shooting and 32.7% from the 3-point line
Guard: Malachi Flynn (San Diego State) - 17.6 points, 5.1 assists, 4.5 rebounds on 44.1% shooting and 37.3% from the 3-point line
Wing: Elijah Hughes (Syracuse) - 19.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.4 assists on 42.6% shooting and 34.1% from the 3-point line
Trade the pick?
If the Lakers aren't sold on any of the prospects late in the first round, they may also look to trade their pick to acquire a ready-to-win-now veteran to add to their roster.
MORE: Should the Lakers trade for CP3?
The Lakers are expected to be active in the trade market this offseason and are already linked to a handful of veteran players, including Detroit Pistons point guard Derrick Rose and Oklahoma City Thunder floor general Chris Paul.
If a deal materializes for either player or anyone else for that matter, the No. 28 pick will likely be included in any trades.
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