General Manager Mitch Kupchak of the Los Angeles Lakers will be in the spotlight when the NBA Draft arrives at no. 7 in the Winner's Circle before the 73rd running of the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 3, 2010 at Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia, California. (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)
On Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers will make their first meaningful move of the 2014 offseason.
Thursday is draft day in the NBA, and the Lakers sit at No. 7 on the board. At that position, LA has an opportunity to draft meaningful talent that can contribute to the future of the franchise—a future that remains uncomfortably uncertain. Of course, the Lakers could trade away the pick for multiple picks later in the draft, but most insiders do not anticipate the Lakers trading down.
Regardless of whether the Lakers ultimately make a trade or make a pick, one thing is for sure: the Lakers’ front office will act on Thursday. Should LA hold onto its prized pick, Julius Randle and Marcus Smart appear to be the front runners to wear purple and gold in Kobe Bryant’s penultimate season.
Both Smart and Randle enter the draft with strong physical bodies which should transition into the NBA. Randle, Smart or whoever else ends up wearing a Lakers' hat on Thursday night should see significant time in the upcoming season—unless the Lakers select injured big man Joel Embiid.
Entering draft night, the Lakers only have Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre guaranteed to return to the team. Most analysts close to the team expect Kendall Marshall and Kent Bazemore to be back, but outside of those names, the Lakers have a largely vacant roster.
Technically speaking, Mike D’Antoni’s separation from the team was the first meaningful move of the offseason, but the Lakers have yet to fill that coaching position, so that move is only half complete. To be fair to the team, though, the Lakers cannot approach any free agents until July 1, so the inaction is not worthy of criticism.
In the days leading up to July 1, players who hold the option to become free agents choose whether or not to exercise that option. One player that held such an option was fan-favorite Nick Young. On Wednesday, Young confirmed that he was choosing to bypass the extra year on his contract with the hopes to earn a more financially lucrative offer.
“We anticipated and expected that Nick would choose to become a free agent,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “We very much appreciate his contributions to last season’s team, and we will hopefully be able to bring him back. However, he, his agent and the market will dictate his future direction.”
Young was the only Laker with such an option, but top-level talent including LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have also exercised similar options, giving the Lakers hope of luring a premier player to Los Angeles.
Thursday, however, is not about LeBron James, free agency or coaching. Thursday is draft day, and the Lakers hold a meaningful pick in the talent-rich opening quarter of the show. On Thursday, the Lakers will finally make a move that helps provide insight into the future of the team.
Coverage for the NBA Draft starts at 4 pm Pacific Time.