Barstool NBA Draft Mailbag: Is Lonzo A Lock for the Lakers?
Now that the lottery is complete, the NBA Draft is starting to look a little more clear. You can start to take educated guessed on what player goes where based on team needs and history of drafting i.e. do they go need or best player available. We’re only about a week away from the deadline for players to decide whether they want to stay in the draft or not, but there’s not a whole bunch of guys still out there that will truly impact the college game with their decision. At that point you’re talking about the likes of Rawle Alkins, Hamidou Diallo, Caleb Swanigan and Tony Bradley.
So as the conference finals look more and more like blowouts and the draft fresh on everyone’s minds, decided to do a mailbag. This is one of the more intriguing drafts for me when you look at the class (I think it’s a strong class), draft order (rare to see a No. 1 seed get the No. 1 pick) and how teams can make a jump by hitting correctly here. Look at a team like Minnesota, who is so young and can add another piece to their core to continue to grow.
If Magic wasn’t running the show out there in LA, I would say the lock for Lonzo, wouldn’t be nearly as high. However, Magic loves Lonzo. He’s admitted it before he became president of basketball operations for the Lakers. I think it is a little telling that they want to bring De’Aaron Fox in against Ball for a 1v1 workout (Fox is the very slightly better prospect in my opinion). However, I do think it’s all but a lock for the Lakers to take Lonzo. Magic wouldn’t pass up on the UCLA kid, who he went and saw in person and talked about on air, for his first draft. I’m not scared of Lonzo’s lack of motor, but rather his defensive ability. He struggles to defend quicker guards. It’s why Fox got the better of him in both head-to-head matchups this year. It’s why UCLA would go zone at times. NBA teams and coaches have to find a way to hide Ball defensively. As for his shooting, yeah, I’m a little worried about him shooting off the dribble, specifically in the midrange game. Last year at UCLA he completely avoided that as he would get to the rim or shoot 3s. With the athletes the NBA has to contest at the rim, teams will play him to shoot that midrange game and he’s not comfortable coming off and pulling up off the bounce. That’s something that can be fixed, but right now that’s the concern offensively for him, even more than his shot form.
The term ‘true center’ and really just ‘center’ is starting to go by the wayside. With basketball turning into ‘positionless,’ ‘small ball’ or whatever you want to call it, there are better terms than the traditional 1-5 or point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, center. Instead there really is a point, wing, stretch, post and LeBron. So in terms of who is the best ‘post’ I still think it’s Zach Collins from Gonzaga. While he can step out and shoot, I wouldn’t classify him as much as a stretch as I would someone like Ryan Anderson. His per-40 numbers is pretty ridiculous as he put up 23.2 ppg/13.6 rpg/4.1 bpg. He’s polished in the post. He knows how to time his jumping for blocks and is a strong rebounder. His biggest flaw is he can be foul prone and is a little careless with the ball at times. All in all though he’s the most polished big heading into the draft. If you want to say Zach Collins doesn’t count because he shot 21 threes this year, the answer would be John Collins from Wake Forest. He was dominant at Wake this past year with a 67% true shooting percentage and did the majority of his scoring in post up sets. He also showed the ability to score with his back to the basket and developed a midrange jumper to use during his face ups.
Clearly a lot of Knicks hope. I get it. I too am unfortunately a Knicks fan. I would kill for the 90s to be back which meant the Knicks were relevant and competing to make the NBA Finals instead of the shit we have to watch now. HOWEVAH, I was talking to Clem this week and we both started to bring up how the Knicks actually haven’t drafted poorly under Phil. The problem has been the signings and the trades, but the actual draft picks haven’t been what we’re used to with Balkman, Weis, Sweetney, etc. So, to answer the first question as to why Knicks fans should be excited about the 8th pick? They’ll still get a good player and it will be a point guard. I’d be very surprised if Fox falls to them at No.8, which means the Knicks will get either Dennis Smith Jr or Frank Ntilikina, both of whom are good picks. It’s pretty hard to mess up that spot, unless you drastically reach for someone like Justin Jackson or Jarrett Allen. How do the Knicks blow it? They do that. They panic because the guy they want goes at No. 7 (never seen this before, right Steph Curry/Jordan Hill?). Personally I’d like to avoid Jonathan Isaac and Lauri too just because they would be redundant of Kristaps and the Knicks need help elsewhere, especially because Lauri isn’t a great defender. Just take the point guard that’s sitting there unless Monk/Tatum/Jackson falls for some reason. Just do that and fans will be just fine with it.
Assuming the triangle is gone, I’ll take Dennis Smith. I think he’s the more boom or bust type pick, where he could be a potential All-Star or completely flame out and it almost feels like there’s no in between for him. Watching him at NC State, you could see the talent, especially in a system that didn’t fit him well. The lane was cluttered, teammates weren’t great and coaching was a disaster for most of the season. Yet, he still up big numbers and when he was engaged looked the part of a top-10 pick. The NBA game should be better for him, because he’ll have more lanes to attack off the bounce and he’s pretty damn good in the pick-and-roll. Again, this is all under the assumption that the triangle is gone. Smith is still 19, so it’s not like you’re taking a 22-year old, hoping things will change.
Why should the Pistons take Luke Kennard? They need help shooting the ball from behind the 3-point line. The Pistons ranked 28th in the league in shooting and Kennard is one of the better pure shooters in this Draft. Now, that said, Kennard would be a slight reach as I think he goes somewhere between 16-20 and there will be plenty of wings available for the Pistons to take at No. 12. Guys like Justin Jackson, Donovan Mitchell, Terrence Ferguson will all be there along with Kennard, so really it’s who and what are they looking for. In theory all should help with shooting, but really Kennard and Jackson specialize in that.
Even if both return, the answer is no. Michigan State is still the absolute favorite to win the B1G and be the preseason No. 1 team in the country. You don’t return a guy like Miles Bridges while surrounding him with talent and not be the favorite. Michigan will be a good team, likely the No. 2 team in the B1G if Wilson/Wagner return, but they aren’t going to be the favorites over Michigan State regardless of what happens. One of the things that did make Michigan good late in the season was the play of Derrick Walton, they won’t have that luxury next year with him graduating. He became the go-to guy for that team and was a high-usage ball handler, you’re not going to see that from someone like Xavier Simpson.