Below is a recent interview with NBA TV analyst Grant Hill, who provided one of many expert voices surrounding who the Lakers should pick with the seventh pick of the 2014 NBA Draft on Thursday.
When you look at who might be available in the seventh slot, who would best help the Lakers?
Hill: “Seven is a tough spot. Obviously you don’t know what’s going to happen with Joel Embiid and the situation there with him having surgery due to a stress fracture. Seven is tough because you don’t know for sure. You can model things out. But typically things never go according to plan. The Lakers, I think it depends on what ultimately their goal and objective is. Are they trying to retool quickly and make one last run at it when Kobe Bryant is there or are they preparing for the future? I think depending on what they’re trying to do depends on how they’re trying to approach it. I’m sure they’re still trying to game plan. They haven’t decided who’s going to coach their team. But in reality, they can get a good player. At seven, you can get a player who is a rotation player and a player that can have an impact and be a part of the future. Exactly who that is, I can’t tell you. I don’t know. They have a lot of needs.
What’s going to happen with Steve Nash? Is Nash going to play and is he going to be healthy? What are they going to re-sign Pau Gasol? There’s a lot of decisions that need to be made for this franchise. They can say, ‘We want to fill a need or just find the best available player we can get at seven.’ There’s a lot of factors that I think are involved with the Lakers.
One of the possibilities entails the Lakers trying to upgrade at point guard, getting someone such as Dante Exum and Marcus Smart if they’re available, so they could have Nash play a mentorship role off the bench partly because of his back. Playing with Steve, how do you think that idea would play out?
Hill: “If those two guys are there at seven, you have to entertain the possibility of drafting them and having a guy like Nash. He helped Goran Dragic [in Phoenix]. Having played with both of those guys in Goran’s first year, Steve was still playing and playing at a high level. He was able to learn from watching and listening. Steve may not be able to go out and play like he could play back in 2007 and 2008. But his intellect and understanding of the game and him being there as a mentor would be huge.
It’s maybe even more powerful when he’s playing. When he’s playing, he’s competing. Those guys are different players than Steve in terms of style. Marcus is more of a power point guard and has good size and strength and good toughness. Dante, from what I’ve seen, is more of a taller guard and more athletic. But they’re both very talented and very skilled. You can’t help but learn from having a Steve Nash around. That could be a good strategy for the Lakers.”
And another possibility could entail the Lakers going after a frontcourt player, such as Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon or Noah Vonleh. What impact could they make?
Hill: I think Vonleh is very skilled and has a great touch. He’s a big man and kind of someone who is sliding below the radar. Maybe it’s because his team didn’t make the tournament last year. Gordon is explosive. He has really tremendous upside. He’s a great athlete and has some good skills. But he has to get better as a shooter. That freakish athletic ability shows he can have an impact on the court. Those are all great options.
It’s a tough spot to be in because I think at seven, you have to look at everybody. Obviously you have him on our radar and have a feel for what your game is and impact your team. But those guys could all be gone too. It’s a tough spot. It’s hard to game plan. When you have a top three picks, you can have a better feel to see what’s going to happen. I think that’s a good thing, though. Regardless of wanting to go the guard position or the forward route, you will have a good player at those positions. The most important thing is getting a talented player. I like Gordon. I like Randle. I think those guys have a chance to be special. I think the names that you picked thus far, those are the ones I would lean toward. We’ll see. So much of it is for guys being in the right situation and right environment and right coach believing in them and right style of play. There are so many factors that go into the guys coming in and having an impact right away. We still don’t know who’s going to coach the team yet. There are a lot of decisions. It’s uncharted waters for the Lakers the last 10-20 years. They haven’t been in this situation. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.
If Embiid is available, is he worth the risk for the Lakers?
Hill: “His talent and upside is tremendous. The back, ankle and foot though all have to be connected. The body is all connected and one things leads to another. Maybe what was causing the back problem led to the foot problem. You have to get to the root of the injury and cause of it. Maybe he’s worth a play. But on the flipside, the guy is 18 years old and already had a back issue and foot. That’s scary.
But if he’s there at seven, you have to look at him. You have to take a look and have to trust your medical staff and evaluate him. If they feel that they’re not playing for next season and trying to prepare for the next 5-10 years, if you can figure out what all the problems are, then you have to really look at taking him at seven. It’s tough. They have some flexibility. But are they going to make a big move. How’s Kobe’s situation? I don’t have the answer. As much as people don’t want to hear it, they might be preparing for the future after Kobe. I would hate to doubt him and question him. Kobe has been unreal and has proved all the doubters wrong. But to have two injuries and be able to come back and be who he was prior to getting hurt and be that person day in and day out, that’s a question on if Kobe can do that.”
How do you think Kobe will do?
Hill: “It remains to be seen. That’s what makes it difficult. If he can do it, then that helps make them understand you have one cornerstone and one piece. Maybe you do try to complement him with players and get another star in there. With the roster they have right now, but even with a healthy Kobe, I’m not sure they are a championship team.
With somebody like Kobe, he’s going to push himself to get to the level he was at before he got hurt. The thing is if his body responds, he can do it. The skill level is still there and is as mentally tough as anybody in the league. But the question is, ‘Can his body withhold the rigors of an NBA season?’ That’s the great unknown. We don’t know that. We know he’s going to do everything in his power to see to it that he can. But playing 35-40 minutes a night may or may not be the best thing for him at this time.”
What was your experience like trying to battle Father Time?
Hill: It was frustrating. It was a little bit different. I was out for four years. I came back and tried. After four years, I finally got healthy. But there were restrictions and things that I couldn’t do anymore. It went from thinking and feeling of being one of the best players in the world and having that standard and then just being happy just to be back. Because of all the repetitive injuries and surgeries and just being out with those four years, it’s definitely difficult. It’s tough. I had restrictions once I came back. I still have those restrictions now.
As you get older, I don’t know if Kobe will have those same restrictions. I know he’s getting the best of the best in terms of his level of care. I don’t know if I can say I was getting that. It was tough. What makes somebody like him so great, some of it his ability to call on his body to do amazing things. All of a sudden to have your body betray you, it’s a difficult thing. You may always have that doubt in your mind that it may happen again. It’s tough. To come back from devastating injuries, it’s just as much emotional and mental as it is physical. We’ll see what happens with Kobe.”
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