One Lakers draft target at each position with the 17th overall pick
While they’re one of four teams still playing in the NBA Playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers can ill afford to neglect preparation for the 2023 NBA Draft. The Lakers have not made a first-round draft selection for themselves since 2018 when they used the 25th overall pick on Moritz Wagner.
This is unfamiliar territory for Jesse Buss and the rest of the scouting department, as they have both their first and second-round picks for this draft cycle. With the 17th overall selection, Buss and company have the opportunity to add a young, talented player to the Lakers roster for the foreseeable future.
There’s no guarantee that the Lakers will keep either of their picks, as we’ve seen the team trade their first-rounders leading up to the draft in recent seasons. They could certainly package these picks with other assets in an attempt to acquire a bonafide veteran player that could help them immediately instead of relying on a young draft selection.
The decision could come down to the opinions of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and while the Lakers must continue to operate as a win-now organization at the forefront, they cannot neglect to build for the post-LeBron era.
However, with Buss’s recent success at finding late-round steals and hitting on undrafted free agents, I think the Lakers may keep this pick to see what he can do with a more highly-valued choice. We’ve seen what the Lakers’ scouting department and player development staff can do with guys like Alex Caruso and Austin Reaves.
It’s hard not to get excited at the thought of the staff getting their hands on a player with top-20 talent in a solid draft class. In this article, we’ll take a look at one potential draft target for each position, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses and how they might fit into the Lakers’ plans for the future.
Lakers point guard draft target: Cason Wallace, Kentucky
Cason Wallace is a promising combo guard out of Kentucky, ranking as a top-10 recruit in the 2022 class. Despite only playing one season at the college level, Wallace has already made a name for himself as an elite point of attack defender, earning SEC All-Freshman honors and impressing NBA scouts with his tenacity on the defensive end of the floor.
Wallace’s quick feet and strength allow him to stick with anyone on the court, making him a disruptive force against even the most elite guards. He’s also willing to chase down opponents and make the extra run to close out on shooters, and his exceptional basketball IQ allows him to rack up chase-down blocks and roam in the passing lanes.
Offensively, Wallace is a capable three-point shooter, connecting on 34.6 percent of his four attempts per game. His three-point stroke is very fluid and doesn’t cause any concerns at the next level. However, he struggled with consistency at Kentucky, and his shot-creating abilities are a point of weakness. He also battled a back injury during his lone college season, which may raise concerns for NBA teams reviewing his medicals.
Despite these concerns, Wallace’s athleticism and playmaking abilities make him a threat inside the paint, and he has a nice touch around the basket. He can play on the ball as an efficient point guard, or as an off-ball player, although he was primarily used as the lead ball handler at Kentucky. In this clip from the Vanderbilt game in the SEC Tournament, Wallace makes a ridiculous no-look skip pass to Antonio Reeves for a three that highlights his playmaking prowess.
Overall, Wallace’s defensive prowess and potential as an All-Defensive type of player make him an intriguing prospect for NBA teams. While there may be questions about his ability to improve as a shot-maker, his solid floor and elite defensive abilities make him a promising player for the future. If the Lakers want Wallace, they’ll almost certainly have to trade up to the top-13 of the draft, as defensive-minded lead guards like him don’t last past the lottery.
NBA Comparison: Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday