Los Angeles Lakers Team and Draft Analysis
I. Team Needs/History
Point Guard - Pending resolution of Van Exel issue. As
of now, he is staying. Nick will probably see less
and less playing time next year, depending on the maturity
level of Kobe Bryant. Bryant is an unbelievable talent,
and the trade with Charlotte will go down as one of the
most lopsided ever. Only problem is, Bryant is a true
shooting guard, and would be starting there on a team
without Eddie Jones. The other backup is Derek Fisher,
who showed as a rookie that he belongs on the team. Excellent
backup, no overwhelming aspect of his game, but no glaring
weaknesses either. Fisher appeared as a mature professional
throughout the year, showing little signs of being a "green"
rookie. The Lakers, on paper, are very strong at this position.
Only problem is the two primary point guards are converted
shooting guards, and both are known to make mistakes a true
Shooting Guard - Will Byron Scott return? With Scott in the
lineup, the Lakers know that they have a proven veteran,
someone wearing championship rings, and also someone to provide
leadership and guidance for the young club. Eddie Jones is a
talent, and his all-star selection this year has shown that he
is ready to be considered among the elite players in the league.
Only knock on Eddie was his disappearance in the playoffs, a
mistake hopefully remedied next year. The aforementioned Bryant
also plays the 2. Kobe has the quick first step, is probably the
Lakers best shooter, either off the dribble or the open three,
and next to the big guy, will be the Lakers biggest scorer. All
he needs to do is learn how to play defense! Again, another
strength for the Lakers.
Small Forward - Well, the defense and role playing has to come
from somewhere! Robert Horry is an excellent team player, and
although his statistics usually don't show it, is extremely
valuable to the team. Horry plays great defense, has a deadly
three point shot, and is a decent rebounder, ball handler, and
passer. His height (6'10") helps gives the Laker starting lineup
one of the tallest teams. Only problem with Horry was that he was
a late addition to the team, and never seemed to find that perfect
niche with the Lakers. A star one night, the next night disappearing.
Horry just needs to find his flow a little better with the Lakers, and
just let his smooth shot go when he has the chance. Jerome Kersey
quickly became a fan favorite in LA. Most thought Kersey long past
his prime, but Jerome showed that he still belongs. Jerome is a good
defender, has a consistent shot, but his best attribute by far is his
hustle. In addition to these two, Jones and Scott both played the
pseudo small forward position when the Lakers went with a three guard,
bomb it from the 3-point line lineup. Not overwhelming at this position,
but not atrocious either. Unlike the small forward role of other teams,
the 3 is not required to put up a lot of points for the Lakers.
Power Forward - A lot of players, and they need it. Elden Campbell is
the starter here. Some nights he is as overwhelming as Karl Malone,
some nights he brings back memories of Tito Horford. It appears simply
that Elden cannot play with Shaquille next to him. Elden has a variety
of post-up moves, has a consistent 10-foot jumper, but definitely should
be a better rebounder. Everyone in LA hopes that someday a fire will
light up under Elden and he'll bring his A-game every day. Travis Knight
was an absolute steal for the Lakers. A great rebounder, a smooth jump
shot, and that motor always going. Knight is another crowd favorite in
Los Angeles. Like I said though, the Lakers need the depth here. Both
Knight and Elden are extremely foul-prone. Sean Rooks and Corie Blount
come off of the bench to help here. Rooks was a joke at first in Los
Angeles, seemingly looking lost when on the floor. He improved greatly
when Shaq went down, and his minutes improved. Blount is the last man
off the bench for the Lakers, providing adequate defense and rebounding.
Power forward is sometimes a weakness for the Lakers, sometimes a hindrance.
You either love them or hate them at this position.
Center - Understandably, the strongest position for the Lakers. Shaq is
Shaq. An unstoppable force, he has worked on his free throws to help
minimize his only weakness. The only problem is that the Lakers tend to
rely on him sometimes too much, making it hard for the other players of
the Lakers to get into the flow of the game. Campbell is the backup, and
a great one at that. Campbell would be the starting center on another
team, and would excel there also. However, again, Shaq is Shaq, and that
will be his position. Sean Rooks is another back-up to the big man.
II. Your Selection (and explanation)
Although they disappeared a little early from this year's playoffs, the
Lakers are loaded and will be among the prime candidates for next year's
championships. The Lakers need two things: maturity and chemistry. If
Scott and Kersey return for another year, the Lakers will go far in the
playoffs, as the team desperately needs their postseason experience.
The Lakers, due to their late draft choice, will be drafting for depth
and development. The only positions I can see them drafting for would
be small forward or center. A small forward who can come into the game
and shoot the little jumper, provide some defense, and help out on the
boards, would be the more logical choice. I could also see the Lakers
drafting a center with some upside, notating him a long-term project.
Their draftee will need to be mature, realizing that there will be very
little playing time available unless he is the second coming of Magic
The Lakers always seem to draft and have players from the local area,
such as Scott and Campbell. The Lakers have had a pipeline to UCLA,
including Jabbar, Wilkes, and Goodrich. For this reason, I would select
Charles O'Bannon from UCLA. There is a chance, however slight, that Charles
may fall from the first round. This is looking more and more doubtful with
his excellent showing in the pre-draft camps. Charles could come into the
Laker system, known for its up and down tempo, and provide some spark off
the bench. He would be another instant crowd favortie. Heck, Jack Nicholson
was cheering him on in the 1995 NCAA championship. Charles has developed an
excellent short range jumper in the past two years, and can bomb it from
three point land as well. Charles plays solid defense and can rebound at the
three thanks to his great athleticism. Although only 6'5", which is probably
going to hurt him in the draft, the Lakers already have sufficient height at
the other positions, and his smaller stature won't be as detrimental to the
Lakers as it would other teams.
III. Others considered (and why considered)
As stated previously, a project center would be a wise selection as well,
seeing that the Lakers have, on paper, only one center on the team. Serge
Zwikker would be an excellent selection, but I do not see him slipping into
the second round. I believe that either Jason Lawson or Scot Pollard would
be more realistic selections for the Lakers. I would select the Jayhawk
over the Wildcat, again stressing the maturity issue. Pollard, while maybe
not as athletically gifted as Lawson, can be counted on to give his all
every night, and his hustle and hard play would be well admired by Laker fans.
As a project though, Lawson may eventually display his enormous potential,
having the chance to practice against Kazaam all the time.
IV. Who the team will probably take
I strongly believe that the Lakers will take O'Bannon if he is there. Then
again, you can count on West for picking the gem of the draft (not counting
Frankie King), whether that person is a college All-American or from a small
Div II school. If O'Bannon is not there, the Lakers will take the best
available big man.
V. Other moves that the team should make
There are two big concerns the Lakers must address for the coming year:
1) The volatile relationship between Harris and Van Exel
IMO, one or both must go. Harris has done a good job for the Lakers, but
can we really count on him to take the Lakers to the promised land? Same
concern for Van Exel. Dallas offered Jason Kidd straight up for Van Exel
before trading Kidd to Phoenix. Shaq reneged, stating that he felt more
comfortable with Van Exel. Of course, this happened when the Lakers were
at peak form, clearly the best team in the west near mid-season. Jerry West
has had a closed door meeting with the two, and apparently all issues were
remediated. Of course, this was after their season had come to an abrupt
halt. Let's see what happens next season. Better to rid the Lakers of one
of the two now, then to go about the problem until mid-season.
2) Getting the Lakers away from being a one-dimensional team
Seemed the same play from the sidelines every game. Throw it to Shaq.....
throw it back......throw it to Shaq again who promptly shoots or gets fouled.
The Lakers just became way too predictable. Before Shaq's injury in mid-season,
it looked as if the Lakers were at the point where team chemistry was asserting
itself. When Shaq went down, the Lakers turned to Campbell, and learned to pass
the ball. It was when Shaq came back that they turned one-dimensional, which
was badly exploited in the playoffs.
As stated previously, the Lakers are loaded, and should challenge for the
championship not only next year, but for the next several years. The Lakers
can go big, can go small, are athletic, can play up-tempo, can play half court,
play decent defense, excel in shot blocking, can hit the three, can take you
off the dribble, etc........and most importantly...........are extremely young.
They have the franchise player. They have the crucial role players. They have
another all-star player in Eddie Jones. They have a deep bench. They just need
to play to their ability, not only against the Bulls and Sonics, but against
every team. Los Angeles should be the team to beat. Hopefully, it will be Showtime
'98 next year, a year later than expected (by LA fans of course!).
GO LAKERS! GO BRUINS!