Over the past week myself and other members of the realcavsfans.com community have conducted an NBA “redraft” where we were each named general manager of a specific team. At this point, every current NBA player was made available on their current contracts for a “draft.” I was given the Los Angeles Lakers and the sixth pick in the draft.
To start the process I came up with a list of “elite” players. These were the guys who can score in a variety of ways, get others involved, play solid defense, and lead a team as a primary offensive option. Here was the list I came up with:
- LeBron James
- Russell Westbrook
- Kevin Durant
- Paul George
Now obviously, because I was picking sixth, I needed two more players who I would consider taking. At this point, I created a second list of players who currently were superstars or borderline superstars, but do not necessarily have the capabilities to lead their own team. This could manifest itself in lacking scoring versatility, passing, defense, or offensive leadership. Thus this is the second list:
- Steph Curry
- Kawhi Leonard
- Kyrie Irving
- Anthony Davis
- Karl-Anthony Towns
- James Harden
Essentially, I preferred to have LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, or Paul George fall to me; however, I would have been content with Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, and Kyrie Irving as well. Luckily for me, though, the first round turned out favorably.
The first pick belonged to the Miami Heat and they drafted Kevin Durant. I was surprised the owner did not take LeBron, as James is elite in significantly more areas than Durant; yet, I also understand that Kevin Durant is the best shooter in basketball, and that is an uncommon value.
Any excitement I had about LeBron landing to the sixth pick was squashed instantly, however, as the Milwaukee Bucks took James with the second overall pick. Durant and James going with the first two picks is not surprising, and frankly, the draft got significantly more exciting afterwards.
The third pick belonged to Charlotte, where they took Steph Curry, and the fourth to Atlanta, who selected Karl-Anthony Towns. At this point I was elated. It meant I was going to land one of my top-four prospects in either Russell Westbrook or Paul George. Minnesota, with the fifth pick, selected the former, leaving me with the latter.
Los Angeles Lakers First Round Pick: Paul George
As an organization who had to start from scratch, I needed a player who can carry a team offensively while also being a leader on defense, essentially I needed a franchise player. While I love Kawhi Leonard’s game, he can’t lead a team on offense, and Kyrie Irving is a great player but lacks defensive focus at all times. I do believe both Leonard and Irving will become franchise players, but frankly, neither are as complete as Paul George. George is a long, athletic, elite perimeter defender who year-after-year has carried his team to the playoffs where they have outperformed expectations. This was never clearer than when George’s Pacers nearly beat LeBron’s Heat in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
I won’t give a complete breakdown of the rest of the first round, but, it is important to note that we conducted the draft in a “snake format.” I.E., because I picked sixth in the first round, I selected twenty-fourth in the second round, and then sixth again in the third round.
Moving on to the second round, this is where your team starts to have an identity, and I wanted a long, defensively-oriented team with a lot of rebounders and three-point shooters. Because of the way the draft was moving, here was a list of players I was targeting in the second round:
- Justice Winslow
- Nicolas Batum
- Aaron Gordon
- Jeff Teague
- Harrison Barnes
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
- Brook Lopez
- Brandon Knight
- Wesley Matthews
- Danny Green
- Wilson Chandler
What’s important to note, and was one of my two biggest takeaways from this redraft, is that by halfway through the second round all NBA “stars” are off the board. With this pick I was looking for a core role player. The three picks before my selection were Justice Winslow, Gordon Hayward, and Jeff Teague. The three picks after were Myles Turner, Devin Booker, and Rudy Gay. Thus,
Los Angeles Lakers Second Round Pick: Nicolas Batum
Batum is coming off a borderline all-star season and the best one of his career. Nicolas demonstrated that he was capable of being a second offensive option, furthered his reputation of being an elite “three-and-D” player, and learned how to use his length to guard all types of shooting guards, small forwards, and power forwards. This defensive versatility mirrors Paul George, and consequently, gave me more focus on what I want for this team: a ton of versatile wing players. Moreover, if a better fit next to Paul George was available later in the draft, I felt perfectly comfortable bringing Batum off the bench.
Moving towards the third round, I wanted to draft a third player who was a versatile defender, as well as one who had a few select offensive skill-sets. My top choice was Harrison Barnes, however I did not believe he would be available twelve picks later, I was wrong. The three picks before mine were Nikola Jokic, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Jae Crowder; on the other hand, the three choices after were Dario Saric, Derrick Favors, and Emmanuel Mudiay. Therefore…
Los Angeles Lakers Third Round Pick: Harrison Barnes
Barnes, for me, was the ideal player to add. He can guard NBA small forwards, however, he excels defending power forwards in a small-ball, run-and-gun setting. Additionally, he is a career 37.5% three-point shooter. Thus, Barnes gave the Lakers a third wing who excels at both defense and three-point shooting, and forming a clear identity.
However, by the end of the third round, I realized the “meta-game” of this “NBA” would be different than the one we all love and watch. Currently, NBA teams need a bunch of three-point shooters, a player who can drive-and-dish, and a versatile center that can guard guards off of screens. Consequently, in order to interrupt opponent’s offensive efficiency, teams like Milwaukee and Oklahoma City added length and interior defense. This was not the case in the “redraft” league.
As the fourth round began it was clear that “ball handlers” and perimeter defenders were more desirable than three-point shooters. Because of this, most above average point guards were off the board, and I knew I needed to draft one quickly. At this point, the only guy I was considering drafting who was not a ball handling point guard was Wes Matthews. Here was my list.
- Wes Matthews
- Rajon Rondo
- George Hill
- Derrick Rose
- Jrue Holliday
- Deron Williams
Luckily, I was given a little bit of help from the guys drafting before me. The prior three picks were Buddy Hield, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Wes Matthews. The three after were Bobby Portis, Michael Carter-Williams, and Dragan Bender.
Los Angeles Lakers Fourth Round Pick: Rajon Rondo
Yes, I know Rondo has been a difficult teammate at times. Moreover, I am aware of Rondo’s poor shooting and inconsistent defense. Here is the thing, with Paul George, Nic Batum, and Harrison Barnes already on deck, shooting and consistently elite defense is not something I needed from a point guard. The Lakers had to get a point guard who could be an elite distributor and get the occasional defensive disruption. During the 2015-16 season, Rajon Rondo ranked in the top-three players in regards to assist-to-pass ratio and sixth in steals per game. In other words, he was the exact type of point guard the Lakers needed.
After that pick, I knew I needed to fill my hole at the center position. Frankly, the bigger question was what type of center did I want? Did I want a versatile, athletic rebounding machine? Someone who was a rim protector? A three-point shooting big? Ultimately, I thought a guy like Andrew Bogut who excels at rebounding, interior defense, and post scoring would be perfect for the starting lineup. Although, I acknowledged that a three-point shooting big would also be necessary. Thankfully, Bogut fell into my lap. The three picks before me were Rodney Hood, Zhou Qi, and Alec Burks. The three after were Boris Diaw, George Hill, and Enes Kanter.
Los Angeles Lakers Fifth Round Pick: Andrew Bogut
The biggest limit I see with Bogut is he probably cannot play more than twenty minutes per game. Secondly, he does not spread the floor whatsoever nor can he guard small-ball centers. What he does provide, though, is a significant interior presence that alters games by utilizing his sheer size and setting monster screens. Nonetheless, I was able to address his weaknesses in the sixth round. The three picks before me were Al-Farouq Aminu, Brandon Jennings, and Al Jefferson; moreover, the three after me were Alex Len, Nikola Pekovic, and Joe Johnson.
Los Angeles Lakers Sixth Round Pick: Channing Frye
This pick was made for three reasons: first, Frye is strong in all the areas where Bogut is weak; second, Frye is the perfect small-ball five next to Harrison Barnes; and fifth, he gives me another lockdown three-point shooter. Was Frye the best player available? No, definitely not. But he addressed the biggest hole on my team.
Moving into the seventh round it was time to fill holes and find positional players. I isolated four specialities I wanted to fill: perimeter defense, ball handling, three-point shooting, and rebounding. Thus, here were my picks from round seven through round thirteen (where the draft ended):
7. James Johnson
8. Corey Brewer
9. Zaza Pachulia
10. Jameer Nelson
11. Mike Miller
12. Ty Lawson
13. Tarik Black
Starting with James Johnson, he is an excellent perimeter defender that can guard the NBA two, three, and four positions. His shooting is a massive liability, and consequently he won’t start, but the team does have minutes for him, especially when combined with Rajon Rondo and Paul George.
My eighth round pick was Corey Brewer. Brewer’s a decent three-point shooter, above average defender, and superb athlete. More than likely, Brewer will be the fifth wing off the bench, primarily playing when athleticism is needed.
In the ninth round I wanted to draft a player similar to Andrew Bogut who can spell some of the twenty-eight minutes the Australian cannot play at center, enter Zaza Pachulia. Similar to Brewer, Pachulia is not necessarily a core piece, but a crucial depth choice who will play minutes during the regular season.
Going into the tenth round, I noticed three major holes: backup ball handlers, a utility three-point shooter, and youth. The most important hole, though, was clearly more ball handlers, as the only true ball handler on the team was Rajon Rondo, with Paul George as a limited option. Thus, I drafted Jameer Nelson in the tenth round and Ty Lawson in the twelfth round. I filled a utility three-point shooter with veteran Mike Miller, someone who is cheap and on a short contract, and my last draft pick was young Lakers’ center Tarik Black. Thus, here is the “redraft” Lakers’ depth chart:
PG: Rajon Rondo/Jameer Nelson/Ty Lawson
SG: Paul George/Nic Batum/Corey Brewer
SF: Harrison Barnes/James Johnson/Mike Miller
PF: Channing Frye/Tarik Black
C: Andrew Bogut/Zaza Pachulia
The biggest surprise when I made the depth chart was that Nicolas Batum will more likely than not be coming off the bench. Nonetheless, he will play significant minutes when Harrison Barnes moves over to the power forward role and/or when Channing Frye plays center.
Overall, the purpose behind this was primarily to let me role play what an NBA redraft of all players would look like. Secondarily, though, there will be a five-season simulation done via Reddit’s basketball-gm program, however that is not as important to me. Rather, I wanted to build a team I think could win the league as well as come up with some takeaways regarding parity in the NBA.
In sum, I thought the Lakers ended up with an excellent roster. Every player in the first six guys drafted have been featured on this website. The team is long, defensive-oriented, and can shoot three-point shots. This is the exact type of team that current NBA statistics tells me has the greatest chance of winning.
Yet, my biggest takeaway was that the meta-game changes in a complete redraft because stars cannot play together. What this means is that certain positions and roles have higher values than others. Elite wings (such as LeBron James, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard) as well as elite big men (such as Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, and DeMarcus Cousins) will be more valuable than any other single position due to the lack of similar talents; or, more specifically, to build teams that could mitigate that talent disparity. Moreover, due to the limit of elite point guards, those players disappeared quickly as well.
Secondly, I still have questions about how a “redraft” would effectively change the parity in the NBA. From what I see, stars would still seek to leave their teams in free agency and go play with other stars. International club football (or soccer) has dealt with a similar problem. The nature of the youth academy for footballers in England, Spain, Italy, Germany, etc. should allow for parity as young players have equal access to resources. However, as the best players age into young adulthood, the big clubs (Manchester United, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, etc.) nearly always pay godly amounts of money to buy these footballers. In the NBA, where winning and money are separated due to the salary cap, this lack of parity is still apparent as players join other great players. Thus, the idea of having a National Basketball Association with serious parity is unlikely; nevertheless, it is a fun thought experiment.