As the clock gets closer to the NBA Draft there are more questions than answers, and countless rumors that have every NBA fan excited about this summer. To no one’s surprise, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves right in the thick of those rumors. With the Lakers trying to find a suitable trade, the reality is that there are none worthy of the seventh overall pick in the draft. At this point the Lakers should seriously consider keeping the pick, and select…Louisiana-Lafayette point guard Elfrid Payton. Wait–who?? Ok, let me explain why they should choose him.
The Lakers have needs at every position on their roster, but the one position that has hurt them for a number of years is the point guard position.
In today’s NBA, the point guard position is the most vital position to have well-settled. Teams that don’t have a star point guard or at least a very good one, who’s a good leader, have suffered. The Lakers are in that glut of teams without a star point guard–one who is a real game-changer.
In all honesty, the Lakers could just take Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, or Marcus Smart because that would be the ‘safe’ move, but they should select the player who has risen up the draft board and may actually be the most NBA-ready. Elfrid Payton is that guy.
He could be the player that will come in and play lights-out, and he looks like the one guy who can really help right away. His 6’3 height and his ability to play top-notch defense at the toughest position in the league could cause a lot of problems for opposing teams across the league. He has the ability to get to the rim on any given possession, and has ball-handling skills that will make you jump out of your seat! The kid is a natural when it comes to playing basketball, and the scary part is he’s only going to get better.
At this point, his jumper needs some work, but that will come with time. Payton has been compared to Boston Celtics Point Guard Rajon Rondo for his play-making ability, and his defensive skills. There’s an obvious comparison between they two because of their height, body frame, and overall game. Having a younger version of Rondo, who is not a huge injury risk would be a tremendous addition for the Lakers, who need that kind of player.
As a junior at Louisiana – Lafayette University, Payton averaged 19.2 points per game to go along with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals. Those are high quality numbers for any college player entering the draft. Even though Louisiana – Lafayette is not a big school, picking a player from a top school doesn’t guarantee any kind of return. Players who come out of smaller schools tend to be more driven to prove that they belong with the rest of their peers, and carry a constant chip on their shoulder.
The last player who came out of a small, unknown school was Damian Lillard. He did the same thing that Payton is doing now, rising up the draft board leading up to the draft, all the way into the lottery. I’m not saying that these two players are the same or even on the same level, basketball-wise, but Payton is in a similar situation that Lillard was in a few years ago. A dynamic player with NBA-ready skills, but having played at a small school, where there wasn’t equal NBA talent. Playing at a small school shouldn’t drive the Lakers away; they should be intrigued with the idea. This kid will want to prove that he should have been up higher on the draft board, and will give the Lakers the kind of point guard who has the potential to be a game-changer.
Payton is actually a safer pick now than a guy like Joel Embiid, who has a major red flag on his draft stock all of a sudden. Sure, Embiid offers tremendous upside, but the Lakers need someone who will come in right away, with a clean bill of health, ready to contribute.
If Elfrid Payton is sitting there in the green room (or wherever else he may be sitting) when it’s the Lakers turn to pick, they should seriously consider him as their guy. Good point guards are hard to come by, and great ones don’t come around too often.
As the start of the draft nears, the Lakers will be faced with a decision that could alter the course of the franchise, but Elfrid Payton could really be the guy who helps the Lakers gets back to their winning ways. He isn’t the sexiest pick, but he may be one of the best players from this draft class when it’s all said and done, and that is why the Lakers should consider him as their guy.