5 Players the Lakers should have drafted instead of Hood-Schifino

Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis, Golden State Warriors
Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis, Golden State Warriors / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages
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No. 1: Jaime Jaquez Jr., 18th pick

The final nail in the coffin comes with our final 2023 draftee, UCLA forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. For those keeping track, we mentioned Cam Whitmore at pick No. 20, Brandin Podziemski at pick No. 19, and now Jaime Jaquez Jr. with pick No. 18. Not only did the Los Angeles Lakers bust on their pick at 17, the next three players selected all look like long-term starters for the teams that took them.

Jaquez in particular proved early on that he was ready to play in the NBA, earning a spot in the Miami Heat's rotation even before injuries thinned the lineup. Jaquez took full advantage of minutes opening up to move into the starting lineup and he proved himself in that role, making 20 starts in total and averaging 11.9 points per game playing alongside ball-dominant players like Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier.

Jaquez was an instant difference-maker on defense, a difficult transition for many rookies to make. At 6'6" with a wide wingspan he became the Heat's defensive stopper when Butler was off the court, and he wasn't afraid of the moment at any point. Jaquez has already seemed to master filling a role on a good team, and he will continue to build on that foundation moving forward.

The Los Angeles Lakers have a point forward in LeBron James and a center in Anthony Davis, but they struggled all year to surround them with the right pieces. Austin Reaves is talented but clearly a guard, as are D'Angelo Russell and Gabe Vincent. Taurean Prince, Cam Reddish and Jarred Vanderbilt all have huge flaws in their games. Rui Hachimura can get hot shooting the ball but hasn't been able to put it all together.

Jaime Jaquez could have been the ideal player to insert at small forward and task with defending the opposing team's best wings. He proved capable of taking on guards and forwards and shot well enough to look like a 3-and-D wing with the upside to become even more. That's the kind of player who would have fit exceptionally well with the Lakers and how they want to play.

Instead, the Lakers came out of the 2023 NBA Draft with a player whose path to relevance was narrow to start and essentially gone now. Jalen Hood-Schifino could come back healthy next season, improve as a shooter and become a rotation player in the NBA; it's even more likely he will struggle to find minutes for the next few seasons and won't ever secure a significant NBA contract.

The Lakers had a shot to draft a real contributor, and instead, they came away with a bust. That's a disappointing outcome for any team, and especially one like the Lakers with so few draft picks in the future.