Lakers rival honing in on potentially perfect player for L.A. to steal at No. 17

A key Los Angeles Lakers rival seems to be honing in on a player who could be in play at No. 17 in the 2024 NBA Draft. Should the Lakers select them instead?
Colorado v Marquette
Colorado v Marquette / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Lakers are approaching the 2024 NBA Draft with two critical pieces of information in mind. One is that they will be without another first-round draft pick until 2026 unless the team makes a trade to acquire a selection between now and then.

The other is that its starting point guard, D'Angelo Russell, has a player option that could see him leave Los Angeles without an ideal replacement in sight.

The instant reaction is that the Lakers can simply sign someone in Russell's place, but there may not be enough salary cap flexibility to do so. A trade is also an option, but giving up resources for a player who may not fit is always a risky endeavor.

According to Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype, a Lakers rival in a similar position is looking to resolve their own point guard problems through the 2024 NBA Draft.

"There’s a growing belief from rival NBA executives who spoke with HoopsHype that Phoenix will target Marquette point guard Tyler Kolek with the 22nd overall pick. "

Not only do the Phoenix Suns seem to have the right idea, but Tyler Kolek could be the perfect player to target—not just for the Suns, but for the Lakers, as well.

Tyler Kolek is one of the best sleepers in the 2024 NBA Draft

Kolek spent his freshman season with the George Mason Patriots, winning the 2020-21 Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year award. He played his final three years at the NCAA level with the Marquette Golden Eagles, winning the 2022-23 Big East Player of the Year award and leading all Division I players in assists in 2023-24.

In addition to leading the nation in assists this past season, Kolek earned All-Big East First Team honors and led Marquette to 27 wins and its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2013.

If that's not enough to intrigue you, in 2024, Kolek became the first player since Jason Kidd in 1993 to record at least 15 points, 10 assists, and five rebounds in consecutive NCAA Tournament Games. It was the proverbial icing on the cake for one of the best college point guards of the last decade.

With elite court vision, impressive three-point shooting range, and toughness on both ends of the floor, Kolek will now look to thrive at the next level.

Kolek finished the most recent NCAA season averaging 15.3 points, 7.7 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 1.5 three-point field goals made per game. He shot 35.8 percent or better from beyond the arc in three of his four collegiate seasons, including a slash line of .496/.388/.851 in 2023-24.

He's somewhat undersized for an NBA point guard at 6'1" with a near 6'3" wingspan, which is the primary reason he isn't higher on draft boards. In terms of what he does on the court, however, he has a case for being one of the best players in his class.

As a skilled player who comes from a defensive-minded culture led by head coach Shaka Smart, Kolek's combination of offensive skill and two-way toughness could make him a top-tier sleeper in this draft class.

If the Lakers are wise, they'll explore the possibility of drafting him before the rival Suns are able to.