Below is a full Q&A with NBA TV, CBS and Turner Sports analyst Greg Anthony, who assesses the Lakers’ needs heading into this year’s NBA draft.
How would you evaluate this upcoming draft?
It’s hard to say for a couple of reasons. You could have a scenario last year where you have a guy like Marcus Smart [of Oklahoma State] decide to come back. In terms of who’s going to come out, you have to wait and see. Most people feel Joel Embiid [of Kansas] is the guy with the highest upside. But that has the most risk because he has the least amount of basketball experience. Jabari Parker [of Duke] has had a terrific season and has shown a lot of his game in terms of versatility. People are high on Andrew Wiggins [of Kansas] as well. Dante Exum, the young man from Australia, there’s a lot of challenging players coming in, but I don’t know if anybody has transcended. I don’t see anyone coming in and having a profound impact right away in terms of how many games you can win. That’s the one concern with this draft. It’s the most talented that we had in a while, but there’s also a lot less experience in the draft of all time because of the influx of freshmen. It will create more of a challenge for a lot of front office types because you’re not necessarily going to get a big name for your buck right away.
You’re going to have several guys who will be solid pros. But how long they become that is the question. That’s the big issue and concern with a lot of people and younger kids coming in. You’re not going to have anybody like LeBron James going through this draft. It’s going to take time. They’ll have some growing pains.”
From the Lakers’ standpoint, what do you think is their biggest need?
“They have a lot. A lot depends on what level Kobe [Bryant] comes back to and what impact they can have on free agency. The dream is to get a guy who can be a part of your rotation right away. You want a guy who can be a starter, come in and light the world on fire. But the reality is if you look around the league, it takes a while for young players to establish their identity and personality as a basketball player. Then it depends the style Mike D’Antoni is going to want to play. I’m sure they want a guy who has a lot of upside from an offensive standpoint that will fit into his system.
If the Lakers get the first pick, which player is the best person that can fill some of the needs they have?
“Jabari Parker has probably shown the most, particularly offensively. Obviously he’ll be a target for a lot of people. He’s not an elite athlete. But he’s above average athletically and has a really good skillset. He has good size, can handle the basketball, shoots well and has improved as a rebounder. He’s a guy a lot of people will be targeting. But there’s a lot of really good players. A lot of teams have the philosophy about getting the best available talent. When you’re not that good, I totally understand that.
But you’re also sometimes better served getting a guy that fits what you’re trying to do. The Lakers have a ton of open roster spots. I don’t think they have a lot of guys who are guaranteed will be a part of the rebuilding process. That itself creates a challenge. You have to wait and see how this plays out. There will be some kids because of the tournament will have an opportunity to showcase themselves and bump their stock. Wait and see how the kids play in the tournament after a full season and see how they respond to that atmosphere.”
What are you looking for in this tournament that could enhance or diminish the standing among the top prospects?
“You want to see continued growth and how they compete. This is their playoffs. There will be teams in the NBA that when they get to this point, they value how you perform in the postseason. Teams have had a chance to prepare for you and can game plan for you far better than they can during the regular season. You’re going to have more eyes on you. That tends to up the ante from a pressure standpoint. You want to see how these kids perform. I think it’s going to be a good draft and a deep draft. I just don’t see these kids be franchise caliber players right away. It will take some time.”
Let’s go down the line of both the good and the bad surrounding the other top prospects. How would you evaluate Andrew Wiggins?
“He’s still a bit raw offensively. He’s an elite level athlete, terrific defender and still growing. One of the things that gets lost with him is he knows how to play with other good players. That’s a talent in and of itself. A lot of guys, you see them in college where they’re clearly the best player on their team. But when they move up a level, that isn’t always the case. Can they do other things to help you win basketball games? He’s shown an ability to do that. That’s something I like about him. But he has a ways to go in terms of his development. But I think he’s a terrific prospect.”
“Randle is a good rebounder, excellent offensive rebounder. As a group, the chemistry on Kansas hasn’t been great. So that can affect bigs more because it’s important for their teammates to play for them. They don’t dictate how the game is going to be played. They don’t have the ball of the majority of the time. HE was really good early on. Obviousyl the second half of the season, I don’t think he’s been as good. But he has a pretty good motor and he’s got some NBA talent. You have to see what the mental makeup of a guy is and how much he wants it and how long it takes for him to figure out how we play at that level. The NBA games is far different and the skill level is far higher. It can be a challenge for guys to figure out how to impact the game. Then confidence – will they have unwavering confidence. Will they be able to handle it when things aren’t going well and they’re not winning? Those things that come to into play as well.”
“I’ve just seen film. I haven’t seen him in person. I’ve talked to a lot of people about him and they love his skill. He can play both guard positions, improve with his jump shot, has really good vision. It’s far more difficult to evaluate him. Unlike the European players, you get to see them against really good competition. A lot of them are playing in pro leagues over there. We have so much more experience with that. His body of work is so much smaller because you only see him in international competitions. That makes the evaluation process a little more difficult.
That goes with the vast majority of these kids. But one thing that is going to happen is they’ll be a part of the draft tin the next three, four or five years. If you have what’s in place in terms of player development, you have a support system to help with these younger kids and fulfill their potential and help with the maturation process. Then you can be rewarded. It takes time. You look at Indiana. They had situations with Paul George and Lance Stephenson. Those guys took a few years to become elite level players. But they also were on good teams with good veterans and you want to help them with that process. They had the right makeup mentally as well. Their patience has been rewarded.”
“He has had a lot of issues that aren’t around basketball. But he’s as good to me as anybody I’ve seen in the country. He reminds me a lot about Gary Payton. He’s big and physical and really knows how to play. He can post it. Jump shot isn’t where you want it to be, but a lot of times that’s the last thing I worry about. There’s a lot of players to improve over the course of their career. You look at what Gary Payton did or what Jason Kidd did, guys who weren’t considered good shooters. But if you’re passionate about the game, that game you will improve. He’s a really good player in terms of understandings who he is. HE has unbelievable instincts and he’s a guy who is always around the basketball. He makes a ton of plays on both ends and has great instincts. I think he’s going to be a good pro.”
“He has unlimited potential. Physically, he’s very gifted in terms of his body. He has great quickness laterally and moves his feet well. He’s still learning. His skills are unquestioned. But his instincts aren’t quite there yet. I don’t think there’s any question they’re going to be. With all these kids, they’ve been hurt by staying in school and working on those aspects of the game where they get a chance to play and develop. People can say how you bring them into your system. But it’s going to be harder because of the age and social adjustments. To me, he has the highest ceiling of anybody in the draft.”
What’s your outlook on the Lakers being able to improve through the draft?
“The draft is unique for them because I think their biggest target is going to come from free agency. Obviously they’ll draft first and look to get a guy that would be a prat of your rotation moving forward and has a chance to be a great player. But that makes it difficult to evaluate where they’re going. Unlike a lot of other teams, they tend to get big players from A-list free agents. Other teams like the Utah Jazz or Minnesota Timberwolves, you’re not a destination for an A-list free agent. Other than Dwight Howard, when you look at the course of the history, they tend to get the best players in free agency.
They’re in a position where they need a lot of help. They’re not just a player away. You have to factor in what happens with Pau Gasol. The expectation is Kobe will come back and hopefully be the player he has somewhat a year ago. But he’s still on the back nine of his career. All of those things come into play and that leads me to believe they’ll get the best player available regardless of position. That of course depends where they end up on the draft.”
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