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Can the Lakers land a franchise player in the 2014 NBA Draft?

The Los Angeles Lakers own the seventh pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the highest since drafting James Worthy number one overall in 1982. The Lakers have been shopping the pick both as a stand alone as well as in a package deal with former two-time league MVP Steve Nash's expiring $9.7 million contract to see what is available via trade. If the Lakers can find a trade partner and clear $11- 12 million in salary this summer it will create $30 million in salary cap space to chase free agents in the summer of 2015.

University of Kentucky Power Forward Julius Randle
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The 2014 Draft is deep in talent. NBA fans have heard about 6' 8" 200 lb. University of Kansas Shooting Guard Andrew Wiggins, 6' 8" 241 lb. Duke University Small Forward Jabari Parker and 6' 3' 227 lb. Oklahoma State Point Guard Marcus Smart for at least a year. The two players that have created the most buzz leading up to the draft are Center Joel Embiid and Point Guard Dante Exum. Exum a 19-year old 6' 6" 196 lb. guard from Australia with a 82 inch wingspan is a prospected Top-Three pick, but he is also a mystery.

There is a belief by some that Exum has not played alot in the United States which is not true. Exum has spent multiple summers in the U.S., played against Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon and Noah Vonleah at last years Nike Hoops summit where Exum scored 16 points in only 22 minutes. A year before Exum stood out at the prestigious Adidas Nations against similar top competition.

The prevailing thought is that the Lakers will select one from a group of PF Noah Vonleah, PF Aaron Gordon, PG Marcus Smart, PF Julius Randle and PG Elfrain Payton. The only frontline player on the roster is Robert Sacre so a frontline player is a must. There is a chance that Joel Embiid could be available. Vonleah, Smart, Payton, Randle and Gordon have performed well in multiple workouts for the Lakers.

All five players have all of the physical attributes for success in the NBA, are highly competitive and fit on a rebuilding team with many needs and have only three names on the roster. If a minor miracle happens PG Dante Exum or C Joel Embiid will be available for the Lakers to select. The Lakers had no idea that there could be a chance to land
the consensus number one player in the draft with the seventh pick.

The Lakers have to talk to Embiid's doctors in order to find out the severity of the injury and his timetable for return. The consensus top-three prospects in the draft have been Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. That changed when the stress fracture of navicular bone in Embiid's right foot had broken. Embiid has had surgery to repair the injury and will be out of action for 4-6 months and his stock has dropped. The question now, how far will he slide?

The Cleveland Cavaliers will select either Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins first overall, but teams with picks 3-10, such as the Lakers with the seventh pick, Embiid is worth the risk. Embiid could miss part or all of the 2014-2015 season, but it is more of a matter of this season vs. this decade. Embiid, a prospect out of the University of Kansas being compared to Hakeem Olajuwon, was the consensus number one overall pick.

Navicular injuries are not as feared as a torn ACL or an Achilles tear, but eight players six big men (Bill Walton, Kevin McHale, Yao Ming, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Curtis Borchardt and Brendan Haywood) and two perimeter players (Michael Jordan and Andrew Toney) have had their career's altered by the same injury. Navicular injuries, particularly, recurring
occurrences have been more problematic for big men than perimeter players.

In the last eleven years, the seventh overall pick has produced only two All-Star game appearances and sixth of the selections have been traded from the team that drafted them. The most notable number seven picks: Bernard King, John Havilcek, Chris Mullin and Kevin Johnson. The two best seventh overall picks in the past 11 years are Stephen Curry and Luol Deng. The purple and gold are rebuilding and in need of selecting the next franchise player between 6' 3" 227 lb. PG Marcus Smart, 6' 9" 250 lb. PF Julius Randle or wait on 7' 0" 250 lb. Center Joel Embiid, if available.

When an NBA team has to decide between a frontcourt vs. backcourt talent, big men usually are the choice.

The Lakers will decide if Marcus Smart, a hard-nosed point guard with size and length (6-foot-9 wingspan), savvy, toughness, the best defender in this draft class, leadership, alpha dog mentality and a desire to win at all costs—an entity the Lakers have lacked at the point guard position since Earvin "Magic"Johnson retired is capable of developing into an All-Star point guard.

The Lakers also need to decide if Julius Randle, a double-double machine and prototype power forward with an excellent motor and tremendous offensive aptitude can improve defensively and develop into an All-Star. Either player would improve the roster. The Lakers brass needs to trust what they saw in person. There are no absolutes in sports and anything can happen on draft night, but PF Julius Randle looks like the newest Los Angeles Laker.

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