Well, I was pretty close. Heading into last night's NBA Draft, after reading about the rave reviews being collected from ex-Cardinal forward Anthony Brown's pre-draft workouts with the Lakers, Celtics, Pacers, and Jazz, I was convinced Brown was headed to one of those four teams. And I thought it would be Boston with the 28th pick, as a competitive lower-rung Eastern Conference playoff squad so bereft of long-range shooting. Celtics fans were hopeful Danny Ainge would grab Brown, too, recognizing his potential as a mature asset, ready to contribute right now.
When the Lakers selected Wyoming power forward Larry Nance Jr. with the 27th pick, it looked like Brown's destiny was secure. Until it wasn't, as Boston elected to draft Georgia State shooting guard R.J. Hunter at 28th. But Boston also had the 33rd pick, which is where an aggregated SB Nation consensus draft thought he'd go. So obviously Beantown... added LSU power forward Jordan Mickey. Ainge wound up drafting every position but a small forward last night, when all was said and done. Small forward is a tremendous position of need for these current Celtics, and shooting for these Celts has been very hard to come by, so neglecting Brown twice doesn't make a ton of sense. Maybe there's some kind of handshake deal with free-agent Paul Pierce already in place? Anyway, Brown wouldn't have to wait too long after that. The Southern California native will return home after all, having been drafted by Los Angeles with the 34th pick in the 2nd round.
Brown had been on a bit of a roller coaster as an NBA hopeful ahead of last night's draft. His fellow Stanford prospect, Chasson Randle, was passed up in both rounds, and will have to scrap his way through Summer League. Brown's being favored over Randle -- even though Randle boasts the superior college resume -- makes a lot of sense, since the league is all about spacing and multi-positional defense, and has capable point guards in abundance anyway. That's not to say that Randle won't get a decent look somewhere, because he will. Talent always finds a way. But the fact remains: 3-and-D wings come at a premium now. Brown, at 6'6" and 215 lbs., with a 6'11.5" wingspan, has the tools to be a solid defender at the next level, even if he isn't particularly fast in foot speed or in release on pull-ups. That being said, his lateral agility seems to be quite good (more on this in a second).
Brown, who as a fifth-year senior was a Communications grad student last year, got a big draft boost from his those pre-draft workouts. Where he had entered NBA candidacy closer to the end of the second round than the front of it, his sleeper status was no longer much of a secret by last night, as he's shown the potential to be a nice long-limbed wing in the vein of recent 2nd-round sleepers Khris Middleton and Danny Green. His off-ball movement and ability to create space through screens, while connecting on 44.1% of his treys this past season (leading Stanford in this category), obviously endeared himself to Mitch Kupchak and the rest of LA's think tank. Brown averaged 40.3% from behind the arc for his career at Stanford, so it's not as if last season was a fluke.
In terms of all-time stats for The Farm, Brown ranks 11th in total points scored (1,562), 5th in total three-pointers made (4,200), and 2nd in total minutes. Chasson Randle indisputably had the superior college career, but as an undersized off-guard has a harder road ahead of him in terms of landing with an NBA team. At the NBA DraftCombine, Brown displayed some unanticipated speed, finishing 2nd among small forwards in the 3/4 sprint with a 3.18-second finish. A fifth-year senior (he sat out his third season after hip surgery), he will be 23 by the NBA's opening night. He averaged 10.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 0.7 steals over the course of his tenure with Stanford. He shot 40.3% from three-point range (on 3.7 three-point attempts per), 75.1% from the charity stripe, plus a pretty-solid-for-a-college-wing 42.7% from the field.
Los Angeles is suddenly building up a small war chest of young defensive-oriented assets, and Lakers fans are salivating at the prospect of Brown and #2 overall pick D'Angelo Russell, the balls-out crazy point guard from Ohio State, suiting up alongside All-Rookie First Team guard Jordan Clarkson from Missouri (the 46th pick in 2014's second round) and last year's #7 pick, Kentucky power forward Julius Randle (who played in half a game before breaking his right tibia and missing the next 81 games of the season). There doesn't seem to be much excitement among Laker faithful about Nance, but that's okay. Kupchak himself indicated that he didn't expect three rookies to play for his Lakers next year, and among his three selections last night, Nance seems to be the odd man out. The Lake Show could use all the shooting help they can get and have plenty of mediocre power forwards to their name already (hello Tarik Black and Ryan Kelly). PLUS, I'm not sure how happy Kobe will be to play alongside a kid who, you know, publicly called Bryant a rapist.
Nance or no Nance, Old Man Kobe should be excited about the long-term prospects of this crop of young Laker pups. That being said, this team as it stands right now has virtually no shot at puncturing the West's top 8 and taking Bryant back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Russell is 19; Randle is 20; Nance is 22; Black, Clarkson and Brown will all be just 23 when the season starts. Outside of Brown, all of these kids are still very raw and will take multiple seasons to develop. Brown has an NBA-ready skill set, it's just going to be a matter of tweaking stuff like his release speed and maybe his handle. Kobe will be 37 years old, playing his 20th season in the league, when the 2015-16 season tips off. Not coincidentally, there has been a groundswell of retirement chatter surrounding the self-styled Black Mamba. Will Kupchak stay the course and stick with this youth movement? Or will Kobe mean-mug him into making some win-now trades?
There's still plenty of money for some big fish, even if you project up to $7.5 million in estimated rookie salary for these three newbies. The listed money owed for the 2015-16 season is $35.9 million, but the Lakers will almost certainly not pick up $10.7 million's worth of listed team options, leaving them with just $25.2 million on the books. This would still keep them $33 million beneath the $67.1 million salary cap, roughly a max contract and a half. In terms of a trade, these first- and second-year guys, and their cheap rookie contracts, would function as the main attributes on the Lakers' end of any big trade talks. The only other movable veteran contract belongs to Nick Young, who is himself egregiously overpaid at $5.2 million for the season. So... good luck with that.
Point being, there will be a flurry of free agent signees on this team, maybe some marginal trades, and possibly one very big trade. Prognosticating Brown's fit with the current roster merely assumes one among several sliding-door scenarios. If LA can't trade DeMarcus Cousins (I'm dubious that this deal gets done, personally), expect an aggressive campaign for one of the many available unrestricted free agents. The top candidates are mostly big men, but even if the Lakers added one of the more prestigious wings available this off-season, they could still use Brown's shooting. The jump-shooting cupboard right now outside of Brown, Kobe and Clarkson (a good mid-range shooter, but he only shoots 31.2% from deep) is pretty darn bare. Brown will make an impact.