Sports Out West

Lakers’ future will be dictated by 2014 draft pick

Mitch Kupchak

With the Los Angeles Lakers now locked into the seventh overall pick in the next month’s draft, there is variety of directions the team could head in but what they do with the pick has the potential to be make a huge impact on the their plans this offseason.

As currently constructed the Lakers have three players under contract in Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Robert Sacre meaning that whoever the team takes in the draft would immediately come in and start. At the seventh pick, they are likely to have either Aaron Gordon, Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle or Marcus Smart to choose from.

If the Lakers are to go with any of the power forwards in Gordon, Randle, or Vonleh that would all but make the chances of Pau Gasol returning slim as that incoming player would take his spot in the lineup. This coupled with Gasol possibly asking for at least $10 million a year makes his return even more unlikely as Los Angeles is looking to use their salary cap on a younger player that they can sign for more than just a couple of seasons.

Yes, Gasol can slide over to center but it seems likely that the money that he desires is out of the range the Lakers would be willing to spend to go along with him already stated that he would not take a hometown discount. It would be beneficial for the draft pick to have a fellow big man like Gasol to help him along in his first few seasons in the league, but again at this moment it does not look likely that he will return next season.

If Los Angeles were to choose a guard like Smart, it would all but mean that either Kendall Marshall, who the team plans to exercise his team option for next season, and Nash both will likely have roles off the bench. Nash has already accepted the idea of being a mentor to a young guard or any player that the team signs or drafts this offseason. Marshall would like to start, but in the past has been open to coming off the bench as he just wants to have a role on the team.

This move would also affect the team’s chances of going after Jordan Farmar, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason after signing a one-year, $1.1 million contract with the Lakers last July. If they were to draft Smart, it would be a crowded backcourt with Farmar returning as all four point guards would be jocking for playing time.

In that situation Smart would be the starting point guard, leaving Farmar, Marshall and Nash splitting time between them. If that were the case, then Farmar would play elsewhere as he wants to play impactful minutes for whatever team he signs with even if means coming off the bench, which has become a role that he is more than willing to play. What also doesn’t help his chances of returning is that his desire for a lucrative contract after taking a significant pay cut last season.

Another route the Lakers could go is trading the pick, which would also have a big impact on who the team pursues this offseason as whoever the team acquire will be in a starting role next season. It is a more unlikely possibility as Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has stated there will a good player available at their seventh spot in the draft, but he also left open the idea of trading the pick.

The draft pick will also have an impact on the direction the team heads as far their next head coach as Kupchak had stated prior to the draft lottery last week that the draft pick may dictate would they will hire.

“You do take into consideration the make up of your roster. Although I won’t rule out hiring a coach prior to the lottery on May 20, I think it’s likely that we don’t, because that’s really the first step in terms of additional information for this franchise. Let’s find out what kind of pick we have. That may even help us decide what direction to go with for our coach. It will be a consideration.”

Ultimately, there are a plethora of options that the Lakers have with their draft pick, but one thing is for certain: Whatever they do with the draft pick will have a major affect on their future plans this offseason.

Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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Bob Garcia IV

Bob Garcia is a sports journalist from Southern California. He was a reporter for the award-winning newspaper, The Daily Sundial, at California State University, Northridge. You can follow him on Twitter, @BGarcia90.

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