-Photoshop of Joel Embiid provided to RealGM by Mike King.
The Los Angeles Lakers entered the season as a fringe contender for a playoff spot in the Western Conference and have fallen into the running for a top lottery pick due to a rash of injuries that has left an already a depleted roster unable to contend. The Lakers rarely have high picks and this draft will prove extremely important for Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss to select a potential superstar as a successor to Kobe Bryant.
5. Julius Randle | Kentucky-PF | 6’9” | 250 LBS | Freshman
Randle starts off the list with massive upside. Fitting the mold as a prototypical NBA power forward, Randle has incredibly strong upper body strength. He is an absolute monster finishing around the basket while absorbing contact. His interior scoring is reminiscent of DeMarcus Cousins finishes around the rim. Soft hands with solid refined footwork for a man his size, Randle would be very impactful for the Lakers' interior offense. His other elite attribute is his rebounding ability. Randle averages an astounding 15.6 rebounds per 40-minute clip.
Randle has a tendency to be turnover prone. Like Cousins, he forces the issue too much, particularly when he’s getting double or triple teamed. With the Lakers, he would profile to take over the impending departure of Pau Gasol. He would have a lot to live up to given all the great big men that the Lakers have had in the past, but he is a suitable safe pick of this list to flourish and become at least a capable All-Star.
4. Dante Exum | Australia-PG | 6’6” | 190 LBS | 18 Years Old
The most interesting prospect on this list has to be young Australian point guard Dante Exum. Listed at 6’6” with a wingspan of 6’9” playing point, he has all of the physical elements to be an absolute franchise player at the NBA level. He immediately creates matchup problems for opposing point guards and is a great finisher around the rim. Like many young point guards, the knock on him is his perimeter shooting and shot selection.
There has been a lot of talk lately linking Exum to the Lakers. Exum recently declared for the NBA Draft and chose Kobe Bryant’s agent, Rob Pelinka, to represent him. Furthermore, there was a report a couple days ago that said Exum wants to play for the Lakers. Out of the players on this list, Dante Exum may have the greatest chance to land with the Lakers. As great of a pick Exum seems here, it would be tough to move him any higher on this list since there has not been a sufficient amount of scouting nor game footage that we can base his play on.
3. Andrew Wiggins | Kansas-SG | 6’8” | 200 LBS | Freshman
Wiggins entered the season as the consensus best prospect, but has often posted modest numbers and few foresaw the emergence of a potentially transcendent big man project in Joel Embiid. Although he is averaging a healthy 16 points and six rebounds per game, it is a bit misleading. He’s had games where he scores under 10 points while putting up disappointing shooting lines. During games when his shot isn’t falling, he loses confidence and becomes more reluctant to be aggressive on the offensive end. Wiggins has all the physical attributes to become a bonafide superstar in the NBA, and he remains likely to reach that level. However, he is still raw and would take some time before he can live up to the hype and expectations as one of the NBA's best two-way wings. That development time frame, along with the immense pressure to succeed for an impatient Lakers' fanbase, it might be a bit overwhelming for even someone like Wiggins. Positioned to take over the wing from Kobe Bryant, he should provide the Lakers with explosiveness from the backcourt. Even with the sobering of expectations on Wiggins, it is impossible to ignore the upside he possesses and he sits comfortably at No. 3 on this list.
2. Jabari Parker | Duke-F | 6’8” | 240 LBS | Freshman
The most refined prospect that comes out of this draft class has to be Jabari Parker. Drawing comparisons already to Carmelo Anthony, he is considered the most NBA ready prospect of the class. He is sensational at getting the rebound and creating transition plays immediately with his high motor. His offensive versatility is off the charts, a superb catch and shoot player along with the ability to create shots off the dribble. Like many prolific scorers, Parker’s defense is subpar, allowing opponents to blow pass him on the perimeter. Additionally, he regularly does not play physically when defending down in the paint. Parker gives up on average of 1.1 points per post up by opponents. Even with his questionable defensive ability, it is hard to criticize him too much for his expected value on offense.
1. Joel Embiid | Kansas-C | 7’0” | 250 LBS | Freshman
There is always a lot of risk with selecting big men at the top of the draft, but there is often as much risk in passing on a player capable of becoming the NBA's best center. Embiid is astonishingly very quick up and down the court, able to run on transition, and come help quickly on weak side defense. His long 7’5” wingspan gives him an advantage against his opponents to catch it at the apex and finishing at the rim without having to bring it down. His defensive upside is titanic even though he already covers the rim at an insane 4.6 blocks per 40-minute clip. Like many big men that come into the league, Embiid is still very raw on the offensive end since he only started playing organized basketball in 2011. His offensive shot selection is still a work in progress. With more experience and time on the court, he will learn where his sweet spots are on the floor and when not to hoist up ill-advised shots. Nevertheless, the Lakers have had a history of being able to churn out their big men to the best of their ability.