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Lakers' Front Office Looks Beyond Finals

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Posted June 01, 2010 - 10:56 PM

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- "Who you got there?" Lamar Odom yelled across the court after practice Tuesday to Los Angeles Lakers athletic trainer Chip Schaefer.

Who he had was a mop-topped prospect, a burly forward in a blank purple practice uniform, who barely raised an eyebrow in Odom's direction and went back to the workout Schaefer and Lakers special assistant Bill Bertka were running him through.

While the Lakers players and coaching staff are preparing for the NBA Finals that are just days away, the Lakers' front office and basketball operations staff are preparing for the NBA draft on June 24.

The Lakers have two second-round selections this year, Nos. 43 and 58, and began working out players Monday. The Lakers do not release the names of the players it brings in to evaluate.

"We'll probably bring in close to 30 or 40 this year," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a phone interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com Tuesday. "But when you have a first-round pick, you'll bring in more players than that. We've brought in 60 to 70 in the past."

Kupchak said the individual workouts are a small piece of the evaluation process when deciding on a draft pick.

"It's a process that starts years ago, especially with seniors," Kupchak said. "You've been watching them for four years."

The draft decision makers -- a group that also includes assistant general manager Ronnie Lester and executive vice president of business operations Jimmy Buss -- also use scouting information and observations drawn from a litany of pre-draft camps in Chicago, Minnesota, New Jersey and Treviso, Italy.

Lakers head coach Phil Jackson and his staff continue to focus their efforts on the postseason. "Every now and then our coaches will stick their head in," Kupchak said of the workouts. "They really don't participate. They don't follow college basketball like we do." (Jackson didn't even fill out an NCAA bracket this year.)

Kupchak said he hopes the Lakers can find somebody to make the roster next season with at least one of their two picks.

"We only have two second-round picks this year and we think we can get a player at No. 43," he said. "It's going to be much tougher to get a player at No. 58 that makes your team, so there's a little less at stake.

"At No. 43 you really can't be choosy. We just have to get a player that we think is NBA talent and has some character where he can improve. Maybe he hasn't reached his potential, which is why he's available at 43, yet he's a hard-working kid and is only going to get better."

Finding a second-round draft pick that can become a meaningful contributor is rare, but not impossible. Luke Walton was selected No. 32 in the storied 2003 draft. Pau Gasol's brother, Marc, was selected No. 48 by the Lakers in 2007. Impact players such as San Antonio's Manu Ginobili, Utah's Carlos Boozer, Washington's Gilbert Arenas and Milwaukee's Michael Redd were also selected in the second round.

Kupchak said even though starting point guard Derek Fisher and backup point guard Jordan Farmar will be free agents this summer and combo guard Shannon Brown is expected to opt out of his contract for next season and test the free-agent waters as well, the Lakers are not committed to drafting a guard.

"I can't pigeon-hole a position right now," Kupchak said. "You just can't be choosy at 43. I think if you're drafting in the top 10, then you can say, 'Hey, we need this, we need that.' I don't think we can look at the draft that way. Having said that, our backcourt this summer could be an area that needs to be addressed but I can't look at the draft and say, 'Hey, we're going to get a starting point guard at 43.'

"That's an area that we have to look to, but I can't say that we'll be able to find that player at No. 43."

Kentucky's John Wall and Ohio State's Evan Turner are considered the consensus top two picks available, with a considerable drop-off in the talent pool after them, but Kupchak was impressed by the overall prospect pool this year.

"We think it's pretty good [talent]," Kupchak said. "For some reason, I don't know -- I've got theories, but I don't know -- there have been underclassmen that have declared, so we think it's pretty good. If you're drafting in the top five, it's really good. But, we think there will be some players that will be in the 30s that maybe might drop to the 40s, maybe even guys that we think we would take in the 20s that could drop to the 40s.

"So, we think we'll get a player. At least that's our hope."


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