Los Angeles Lakers: Predicting the career outcomes of 2017 draft picks
The Los Angeles Lakers walked away from the 2017 NBA Draft with four new players. When their careers are over, what types of impacts will they have made for this franchise?
On Thursday night, the Los Angeles Lakers took their next step toward a brighter future during the 2017 NBA Draft. After some maneuvering, they found themselves in possession of four picks, including three in the first round.
Overall, it was a solid haul for a rebuilding franchise. With Magic Johnson at the helm, the Lakers went to work, looking for ways to add young talent while improving the overall outlook for this squad. While I believe the four prospects Los Angeles added will help them get better in the coming years, not every player is headed for stardom.
That’s why we’re here — to examine the futures of the four newest Lakers. It’s obviously early in the process, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate on how their careers will pan out. I mean, that’s essentially the point of this part of the offseason for us from-far observers, right?
So what does the future have in store for the 2017 draft class? Which players will develop into invaluable parts of the Lakers’ lineup, and which ones will struggle to make their mark on the NBA? It’s anyone’s guess at this point, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to figure it out based on what we currently know.
With that in mind, here are my predictions for the Lakers’ latest additions and how their careers will pan out. Just remember to not take it too seriously–these are just one man’s opinions based on the early parts of these players’ basketball careers.
No. 2 — Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
And so it begins…
The Lonzo Ball era has officially tipped off in Los Angeles. While it was the necessary move for the Lakers, I will remain skeptical about the selection until Ball proves me wrong. For Magic’s sake, I hope that happens sooner rather than later.
Ball has the makings of a tremendous facilitator who can elevate the rest of the Lakers lineup. He’s outstanding with the ball in his hands, possessing passing skills and understanding of the game beyond his years. With that being said, there are some hurdles he’ll need to clear before we can call him a rising star in the NBA.
First off, Ball needs to prove he can be his own man. I know there’s been a lot of criticism surrounding the impact his father’s arrogance has on him, and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. That’s why I’m eager to see if he can become a humble-yet-confident leader for this Lakers team.
In the end, I’m predicting he develops into a top-10 point guard in the NBA. Will he be a superstar? Probably not. Realistically, though, Los Angeles doesn’t need him to be. With plans to sign Paul George and LeBron James next offseason, Ball just needs to be a pass-first playmaker who puts his teammates in position to succeed.
He’ll make a couple of All-Star games and lead the league in assists at least once before all is said and done. I don’t think he’ll ever be the superstar Ball and his father expect him to be, though.
No. 27 — Kyle Kuzma, PF, Utah
On the surface, there’s a lot to like about Kyle Kuzma as an NBA prospect. He’s athletic, shows solid shooting ability, and is capable of playing on the ball — not exactly a common trait for power forwards. Unfortunately, there’s also plenty to be worried about with the Utah alum.
Kuzma is not a reliable defender at this point in his young basketball career. His effort and effectiveness were inconsistent, and his defensive awareness and IQ are average at best. Even with some work, I don’t foresee him getting much better on that end of the court.
On top of that, his shooting efficiency wavered for much of the 2016-17 season. Although he was the driving force for the Utes’ offense, he struggled at times to put the ball in the basket. He sported a career three-point percentage of only 30.2, but connected on 50.6 percent of his shots from the field. The potential is there, but the consistency is not.
With the Lakers, I see Kuzma struggling to earn minutes behind Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. Although he’s a quality rebounder and capable scorer, the defensive ineffectiveness and unstable shooting will limit his career trajectory.
In the end, I don’t see Kuzma living up to the No. 27 pick. He’s a versatile forward with some offensive skills, but he doesn’t possess enough of the whole package to be anything more than an end-of-the-bench player for Los Angeles. He’ll be off the roster before his rookie contract is up.
No. 30 — Josh Hart, SG, Villanova
When I heard Josh Hart’s name called, I immediately began imagining the possibilities. He may have gone No. 30 overall to the Lakers, but I am extremely confident the Villanova product will have little trouble outplaying his draft status.
While a bit small for an off-ball guard, Hart is an electric shooter who can hit from just about anywhere. He lit it up from the field last season, leading the Wildcats to a No. 1 seed in the tournament before a disappointing letdown early on. The real highlight, though, was his effort that earned him a title the season before.
Getting back to his NBA future…
Hart has all of the skills needed to develop into an outstanding role player for the Lakers. His efficiency from the field is ridiculous, and should only improve with some NBA-caliber coaching. Although some would see his status as a senior as a weakness, I believe that added polish will help him contribute immediately in Los Angeles.
His ceiling isn’t sky high, but he has the tools to be an early contributor who can develop into the Lakers’ sixth or seventh option off the bench. Between his intelligence, motor and scoring abilities, there’s little reason to believe Hart won’t hang around Hollywood for some time as an outstanding second-unit scorer.
Steal may be a strong word, but Hart will definitely earn the “pleasant surprise” label before his career is over. I wouldn’t foresee him breaking any records or earning any serious recognition, but he’ll be remembered by Lakers faithful for years to come.
No. 42 — Thomas Bryant, C, Indiana
At No. 42 overall, Thomas Bryant was a terrific second-round selection for the Lakers. It was a shot in the dark that offers noteworthy upside, but I’m not entirely convinced he can play a significant role in Los Angeles.
Sure, there’s plenty to be intrigued by with Bryant. First, he has ridiculous length with a 7-6 wingspan and a strong, physical frame to battle down low. We’ve also seen at times that he’s more than capable of being a serious offensive threat. However, we’ve also seen how inconsistent he can be on both ends of the court.
After an outstanding freshman season, Bryant took a step back in 2016-17. His shooting percentage saw a significant decline, and his effectiveness on defense tapered off. You have to love the physical tools he brings to the table, but basketball is about much more than height, arm length and strength.
Bryant is only 19 years old, so there’s still time for him to grow. However, I don’t think he’s consistent enough to be anything more than a backup. At this moment, it appears as though that’s about his ceiling — a bench player for the Lakers who sees a few minutes per game. Having Brook Lopez and Ivica Zubac ahead of him on the depth chart doesn’t help, either.
As I said, I like the pick. The potential is there for it to be a fruitful one for the Lakers. When it comes down to it, though, I just don’t see Bryant being anything more than a backup in Los Angeles. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was playing elsewhere before long and out of the league in a few years.