Culver City Observer -

By Bill Seals
Sports Reporter 

Lakers, Clippers Eye NBA Draft

 


The Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers are both coming off seasons that neither would call a success. For the first time since 2005, both LA teams missed the playoffs. For the Lakers, this has become a routine. This was the fifth straight season the Lakers have missed the postseason. For the Clippers, this was the first time since 2011 that they had missed the playoffs.

The offseason officially starts on June 21st when the 2018 NBA Draft is held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The Clippers own the #12 and #13 picks in the first round. The Lakers will have the #25 pick in the first round and a 2nd round pick as well. The Clippers acquired the 12th pick via a trade with the Detroit Pistons as a part of the Blake Griffin trade.

As part of the Steve Nash sign-and-trade in 2012, the Lakers will convey the No. 10 overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, who acquired the Lakers’ pick from the Phoenix Suns in 2015. The Lakers acquired the #25 pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a trade that sent Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and Cleveland’s 2018 first-round pick.

For the Clippers, this draft is very important. Depending on your point of view, the Clippers are either rebuilding or reloading or both. Last season’s #13 pick in the draft turned out to be Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz. Mitchell was the rookie of the year averaging 19 points per game. He made $2.6 million last season and will make $3.1 million this season.

A first round pick in the NBA is under contract for 4 years with the team that selects him at a very reasonable price. The two Clipper picks are high enough to make an impact immediately and will be salary cap friendly. The Clippers could be rebuilding and reloading. The Lakers, on the other hand, will be looking to add depth with the 25th pick. The focus for the Lakers will be on free agency.

The Clippers have trade options in this draft because their roster has some appealing players. Lawrence Franks, the Clippers President of Basketball Operations, stated: “When you kind of control the middle of the draft, it gives you great optionality.” The Lakers do not have as many options in the draft. The following is the prediction on the local draft picks:

12) Clippers - Collin Sexton, Alabama, Point Guard. Sexton is a very athletic point guard at 6’2”. Will immediately upgrade the Clippers defensively and has the potential to be a quality NBA point guard. Sexton was on the McDonald’s High School All-American team in 2017.

13) Clippers – Miles Bridges, Michigan State, Forward. Bridges is 6’6”, 220 pounds. A McDonald’s All-American in 2016. A good passer, a good shot blocker and versatile defensive player. Bridges has been compared to former NBA player Jerome Kersey and current NBA player Jae Crowder.

25) Lakers - Grayson Allen, Duke, Guard. Allen stayed all four years at Duke. What he brings is athleticism and a good outside shot. The 6’4” guard was a teammate of Laker Brandon Ingram at Duke. On that team, he led Duke in scoring, assists and steals.

Allen averaged 21 points per game. Allen was an NBA combine star. He had a 40.5” vertical leap, and won the lane agility test, with a score that was one of the five best marks in NBA Combine history. A McDonald’s All-American in 2014.

47) Lakers - Chimezie Metu, USC, Center. Metu is 6’10” and is a bit of a project, but he has raw talent. At USC this past season, Metu averaged 15.7 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game and 1.7 blocks per game. He is a local product, from Lawndale.

The second phase of the offseason will start July 1st or ten days after the NBA draft. That is the NBA free agency phase. The Lakers have cleared more salary cap space than any other team in the NBA.

They have currently $34.5 million of salary consisting of the following players: Lonzo Ball - $7,461,960, Brandon Ingram - $5,757,120, Kyle Kuzma - $1,689,840, Josh Hart - $1,655,160 and Luol Deng - $18,000,000. The total: $34,564,080.

Three other players have options that will likely be picked up as well. The question becomes, can Magic Johnson, the Lakers President of Basketball Operations, attract two superstars to the current Laker team? The grand prize is LeBron James, maybe the best player in the game. James has a player option with Cleveland of $35.6 million or he can opt out and become a free agent on July 1st.

The feeling is that if James decides to come to Los Angeles, he will need another NBA star player with him to give his team a chance to win a championship. That would likely be either Paul George or Chris Paul. George has a player option with the Oklahoma City Thunder for $20.5 million, but he will likely opt out and become a free agent. If he becomes a free agent, it is believed he will either stay with Oklahoma City or leave for the Lakers.

Chris Paul is currently with the Houston Rockets. He is a free agent beginning July 1st, but he is believed to be recruiting James to the Rockets. The Rockets lost in the Western Conference finals to the Golden State Warriors, the eventual champions. The addition of James could be the edge they need to beat the Warriors.

If James decides to go elsewhere, the Lakers will have plenty of money to spend, but only second tier free agents to spend it on. George and Paul are not joining the Lakers without James and James is not joining the Lakers next season without either George or Paul. It just comes down to where a player has the best chance to win a championship. The money will be there no matter where these stars go.

As for the Clippers, free agency is about Center DeAndre Jordan. He has a player option for $24.1 million for the 2018-2019 season. Jordan is a three-time All-NBA player and a two-time NBA first-team All-Defensive player. If Jordan returns the Clippers are a playoff contender. If he leaves, the Clippers will likely miss the playoffs again.

 

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