It is comforting to see that Mitch Kupchak and his staff are looking forward to the NBA Draft combine on May 15 and 16. Those who have access to NBAtv will be able to watch the draft candidates live doing combine testing and player measurements. It’s rather unfortunate that so many players have withdrawn from athletic testing. Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, and Joel Embiid were the first to withdraw. Then, Dante Exum, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, Noah Vonleh, Tyler Ennis, Doug McDermott, and Nik Stauskas also withdrew.
For some, that may make it more difficult to make a decision on making a draft list. The Lakers do not find out what pick they have until May 20th, next week. Still, Kupchak, along with the rest of the scouting staff, have been doing research all season long, often being found at multiple NCAA games.
The draft pick, Kobe Bryant, and the coaching situation are all linked. The ingredients need to come together quickly to compete for championship hopes. Such aspirations are lofty, considering the Lakers won just 27 games last year, and it’s not clear on which Laker players will be retained. Kobe Bryant needs to become a consistent contributor, just to sort out the kind of role he has for the team. He is still the face of the franchise and the leader of the squad. That doesn’t mean he needs to go for 40 points every night. What it does mean, is, he needs to facilitate the development of his teammates and team cohesiveness on both ends of the floor. Leadership for Kobe Bryant was once done by setting the example and letting the results speak for themselves. Now, he needs to elevate everyone’s level of play to his level of intensity.
The coaching situation needs to be sorted as well. It would be best to have input from Bryant, not only to get a feel of who the players would respect the most, but also, the best basketball philosophy for the team to execute on both ends of the floor.
This makes for a different kind of triumvirate for the Laker team. Both Kobe Bryant and the coach need to work hand-in-hand to develop team chemistry and execute at a high level. The Western Conference is just too competitive.
It may be the business off-season for Mitch Kupchak yet. Hopefully at the end of the year, we can all catch him smiling with team and playoff success.