Five Thoughts: 2011 NBA Draft

With the NBA Draft a few days away, and the immediate need to fine tune this Lakers roster, this draft could be one of the more memorable ones in recent Lakers history. Here are a few thoughts on what might be in store:

- Moving Pau Gasol, and the ability to move up in this year's draft:

By now, all Lakers fans have heard that Minnesota is coveting Pau Gasol to pair with their new PG of the future, RIcky Rubio. Gasol and Rubio are teammates on the Spanish national team, and the potential for Minnesota to add Gasol to make for not only an easy transition for Rubio but also a great one-two punch, has the Timberwolves front office foaming at the mouth.

There have been several scenarios mentioned that would land Gasol in Minnesota. A pupu platter or T-Wolves young players, a centerpiece of Kevin Love, as well as their #2 pick in this year's draft have all been combined in some way to make a deal that would work out on paper.

As much as a like Pau Gasol and feel that he was an integral part of our two recent NBA championships, I tend to like to strike while the iron is hot. And the iron couldn't be hotter at the moment for Kevin Love. The Lakers need a player who is willing to do the dirty work, who comes with effort on every possession, and who's willing to do what is necessary for the team to function properly. Kevin Love would be perfect to come to the Lakers, take on the defender/rebounder role, and use his extraordinary passing skills to defer much of the scoring to other Laker players.Not to mention the fact that Love is much younger than Gasol, which is precisely what the Lakers need at the moment.

In my opinion, the best deal for the Lakers in this situation is to somehow convince the Timberwolves to throw Ron Artest into the mix. Pau Gasol and Ron Artest for Kevin Love, the #2 pick, and whatever else is needed to make the money work. The loss of Artest would also open up a spot to choose a player like Derrick Williams with the #2 pick. A young, talented swingman is exactly what this Lakers team needs at the moment.

Do I think a deal with the Timberwolves for Gasol is likely to get done? I give it about a 15% chance. I think the Lakers like Kevin Love, and see his value as a young player. I also think they have been quiet about these trade rumors, which is usually an indication that they are at least being discussed. I do think that the Lakers are notoriously cautious with "big" trades, and are not going to take back more than a few players in return, meaning that Love would need to be the centerpiece.

- Are the Lakers going to make any other trades?

The Dwight Howard trade talks seem to have taken a turn for the worst, as the Lakers are adamant about not including Lamar Odom in a deal.

That being said, 4 second round draft choices could mean a few smaller deals could be done leading up to, or on, draft day. Depending on how desperate a team gets early in the first round, the Lakers could package their 2 earlier second round picks in this year's draft for a first rounder in next year's draft. A player or two could slip out of the first round, leading for a team or two to try to scramble to attain them.

Other than that, I don't think the Lakers are going to pursue any other draft deals.

- What will most likely happen if the Lakers keep all 4 second round draft picks:

There's no way that the Lakers can use all 4 draft picks, and then have those players be on next year's roster. Therefore, Mitch Kupchak will most likely use two of them on foreign "project" players. He's done this in the past, and this would be a perfect time to pick a couple of guys that you can keep playing over in Europe, and bring them over when they're ready. He's a few guys that might fit that description:

- Nicola Mirotic, PF

- Bojan Bogdonovich, SG/SF

- Adam Hanga, SG/SF

- What about the other two picks?

The Lakers could go anywhere with their other two picks, as they need to improve in a lot of areas. They need a young point guard, a backup shooting guard, an athletic forward, better outside shooting, and another PF/C who can defend and rebound. Here's a few guys that I think the Lakers could be targeting in the second round:

- Josh Selby, SG

- Nolan Smith, PG/SG

- Shelvin Mack, PG/SG

- Jordan Williams, C

- Isaiah Thomas, PG

- Jereme Richmond, SF

- Will any player drafted by the Lakers in 2011 become (at the very least), a future starter for the Lakers?

In reviewing the Lakers draft history under Mitch Kupchak, it doesn't seem promising that they'll find a future starter. Although there have been some decent second round picks (notably Walton, Turiaf, Marc Gasol), most of the players drafted by the Lakers in the second round recently have not panned out. Obviously, players get drafted in the second round for a reason, and they rarely stay on a team. The best hope is that the Lakers chose players who can contribute off of the bench, and can fill a very specific role. There could also be a potential for a European player to pan out in the future, and this is a great opportunity to pick a couple of guys, let them play overseas, and see what happens.

- Mark Slattery Senior Writer

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