Darius Garland #10 of the Vanderbilt Commodores is just one of several collegiate standouts who will be considered at No. 4 by the Lakers at the 2019 NBA Draft. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)Getty
The Lakers are on the clock.
The top-three at the 2019 NBA Draft will seriously undermine the drama on the big night. Everyone assumes that Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett will fly off the board before anyone else, and perhaps in that order.
That leaves the Lakers with the first exciting decision of the night, and one of which we wont get any closure on until the actual draft.
Zion Williamson, silly uproar over his lack of an agent aside, will most assuredly go No. 1 to the New Orleans Pelicans. The Memphis Grizzlies, at two, have all but guaranteed they will take Ja Morant.
That leaves the Knicks and RJ Barrett. By all means, if New York wants to pass up on him then the Lakers have an easy decision. The likelihood is that he goes to New York or is sent somewhere else if the pick is dealt.
That leaves the Lakers and the start of the actual guessing game.
The Lakers can still decide to trade away their coveted pick. But lets get wacky and consider the candidates if they hold onto it.
Darius Garland | Vanderbilt | Guard
There are some who believe Los Angeles has already tipped their hand. At least, some team in the lottery has.
Garland has reportedly left the NBA Draft Combine, a possible signal that hes been promised by a team to be their selection. That promise could come from any team in the lottery if thats indeed what has happened. It should be noted, however, that it wouldnt make sense for the Lakers to make such a vow so early in the process.
With that said, Garland is surely an intriguing player and is being lauded as an athlete with star potential, certainly the kind of ceiling one appreciates in a top-five pick.
He averaged 16.2 points on 53.7% in just five games during an injury-shortened season. The way Garland shoots, the Lakers would be willing to overlook the small sample size.
De'Andre Hunter | Virginia | Forward
If you like those nifty intangibles, Hunter did help lead the Cavaliers to the 2019 NCAA Championship, scoring 27 points on 50% shooting with nine boards in the title game against Texas Tech.
The best part of Hunters game is his versatility. There is still no certainty the Lakers keep this pick or how Frank Vogel will utilize his roster, but a man of Hunters size who can run the floor, distribute and hit 43.8% from three as he did in his sophomore season is useful.
Jarrett Culver | Texas Tech | Guard
The Athletics Sam Vecenie has Culver as the Lakers pick in his latest mock draft, citing his playmaking ability and shooting as reasons L.A. could slide him into the rotation immediately.
Its obvious that the Lakers, as currently constructed, are in dire need of a player that not only creates his own shot but also knocks down a few when given the chance. A player like Culver wouldn't waste as many LeBron James passes as the Lakers did this season.
Vecenie does caution that Culver doesnt exactly make scouts and execs swoon with thoughts of the next great NBA guard.
The fit here is too strong to pass up, but I will note that there continues to be some ambivalence to Culver among NBA executives, who question his athleticism and ability to become a true difference maker.
The problem here is the Lakers are looking to garner consistent top-level production thanks to the No. 4 pick. That means either trading it for a proven contributor or drafting someone whose upside is unquestioned.
Bleacher Reports Jonathan Wasserman also notes, Culver lacks explosiveness, and his three-point shooting inexplicably fell from 38.2 percent as a freshman to 30.4 percent as a sophomore.
Cam Reddish | Duke | Guard
I personally like the ceiling of Hunter and Garland, but there is plenty to like about a player like Cam Reddish who has the size and athletic ability to make it in the NBA. But there is no denying that he didnt exactly light the world on fire, shooting 35.6% from the field during a season when Barrett and Zion shined.
The Lakers are in due diligence mode and by Thursday had reportedly met with Reddish, so I guess I should throw him in the mixalthough L.A. would find more consistent production elsewhere in this draft.
At this point, teams will have to hope that Reddishs talent shines after what might be an outlier freshman season at Duke. With the No. 4 pick, however, you have to go with the player who comes in as pristine as possible.
Of course, those are just a few names and none of them jump off of the page as the obvious selection thats going to help LeBron and his young core slay the Western Conference en route to the Finals.
The draft is an inexact science. Remember, Giannis Antetokounmpo was taken No. 15 in 2013. Damian Lillard was grabbed sixth in 2012 and Klay Thompson was drafted behind Jimmer Fredette the year prior.
Lets be honest. None of us know how this is all going to shake out. The only thing we can say for certain is the Lakers will break our hearts while doing it.