In the last decade, the second round of the NBA Draft has usually been where the Los Angeles Lakers have outsmarted their opponents.
Jordan Clarkson, Josh Hart, and Ivica Zubac have been among the more notable Lakers selected after the first round. If you include undrafted free agents as part of the “back end”, then Alex Caruso and Austin Reaves have only added further credence to how Los Angeles has found value in places one wouldn’t expect.
This trend of savvy second round decisions will likely continue in the 2023 NBA Draft, where beyond the impending selection of Victor Wenbanyama by the San Antonio Spurs with the first overall pick, it’s anyone’s guess.
Given their recent history, the Lakers’ 17th pick will more likely than not be on the move as part of a bigger deal to bring a star or a quality starter to Los Angeles. Their 47th pick may not look as appealing so that might be theirs to keep. There are a few players projected to be available when the Lakers pick at 47 and each brings something different to the table. Taking into consideration the list of needs they have, here’s who they can get.
Andre Jackson Jr.
Numbers don’t do justice to Jackson Jr.’s value. The 6.0 points on 42.8 percent shooting and 3.5 assists (in NCAA 85 games) don’t do justice to his ability to be a multifaceted threat on offense. Whether it’s off a missed shot or a steal, the former UConn Husky can kickstart the offense and outsmart bigger opponents.
Point guard is one of Los Angeles’ biggest needs but Jackson Jr.’s ability to create shots for him and his teammates would allow the Lakers to go for shoot-first guards (regardless if they can be secondary playmakers) and let LeBron James spend more time off the ball.
Castleton has that Walker Kessler vibe, partly due to his height and defensive abilities and while Kessler was a better college prospect defensively, Castleton has the upper hand on offense. While his range is largely limited to inside the 3-point line, Castleton can attack from various approaches and off the pick and roll, with his energy and aggressiveness, making him a tough cover.
The 2023 Western Conference Finals showed how size can lead to success when used well. Los Angeles could use another scoring option in the paint to draw fouls on the likes of 2023 NBA Finals MVP Nikola Jokic and Jaren Jackson Jr. and someone who can stay with them and protect the paint. That the draft is relatively short on centers should make Castleton a sought-after player.
There was a time when Bates was regarded as the best prospect in his class, even earning a Sports Illustrated cover when he was in high school. Things were looking up for the five-star recruit… until they weren’t.
Bates joined the Memphis Tigers as a freshman, but injuries and the adjustments to a new role proved too difficult to overcome. A transfer to the Eastern Michigan Eagles brought back flashes of brilliance, but the Eagles only won eight games last season.
Bates could greatly benefit from spending the season learning from someone like Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy, who has unlocked Rui Hachimura’s offensive game and helped refine the skills of LeBron James and Anthony Davis when they joined Los Angeles.
Of course, Jackson Jr., Castleton, and Bates could be gone by the time the Lakers are on the clock in the second round, but teams ahead of them could either be looking for better fits or prospects they can stash given the changes in the CBA.
The 2023 NBA Draft may not be as deep as compared to previous editions, but like life, the NBA draft is what you make of it. The Los Angeles Lakers have made a killing with their second round draft choices and undrafted free agents in recent times and if they want to make the most out of their title window, they may have to take the same approach given their current constraints.