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Old 06-27-06, 04:14 AM
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Lakers GM says: "Every team wants to move up" in the draft

They own the 26th pick in what shapes up as a fluid NBA draft Wednesday and will hear many names being called before their turn.

By Mike Bresnahan
Times Staff Writer

June 27, 2006

A day ahead of the NBA draft, the Lakers have become symbolic of it: unpredictable and even a bit unknowing.

Such things happen when a team has the 26th pick, although the Lakers aren't alone in the uncertainty of the player they'll end up with in the first round Wednesday.

In the most fluid draft in recent league history, there still remains an overall lack of consensus, starting with which player Toronto will select with the first pick.

Closer to home, the draft brings less anticipation than a year ago, when the Lakers selected Andrew Bynum 10th overall in hopes of socking away a future All-Star center.

The Lakers are back toward the bottom of the draft, their usual place after deep playoff drives, but this time under different circumstances.

They finished with the 21st-best record in the league but traded their first-round pick to Boston two years ago (the pick has since been sent to Phoenix). The Lakers have Miami's first-round selection, which is five spots lower, as part of the Shaquille O'Neal trade two years ago.

The Lakers' needs are across the board, with the obvious exception of shooting guard. They need immediate help at point guard, referred to as a ballhandling guard in the triangle offense, and could also use a big man.

Barring an unlikely trade toward the top of the draft, the Lakers will select a player regardless of his size, and expect eight to 12 players from their preferred list to still be around when they pick.

"Although you look at our roster and you may say we need help in the backcourt, I don't think we're going to get a backcourt player that's going to play for us and help us next year," General Manager Mitch Kupchak said. "That would be great if we did, but we're not going to draft just a backcourt player. We'll see who's there, whether it's a big man, a small forward or a ball-handling guard. The guy that we feel will have the best chance to play in this league for eight to 10 years will be the guy we take."

The Lakers also hold the 51st selection. They have worked out nearly 80 players.

Their first-round possibilities include Shannon Brown, a 6-foot-2 guard from Michigan State with an improving outside shot; Maurice Ager, a solidly built 6-3 guard and a good shooter, also from Michigan State; Sergio Rodriguez, a 6-3 guard from Spain who has been dubbed "Spanish Chocolate" for his smooth, sweet play; and Mike Gansey, a 6-3 guard from West Virginia with a strong outside shot.

Other possibilities are Illinois power forward James Augustine, Michigan State center Paul Davis, Connecticut power forward Josh Boone and Cincinnati forward James White.

There are attractive guards near the top of the draft — Washington's Brandon Roy and Villanova's Randy Foye — but the Lakers would have to trade their way into the top 10, if not higher, to draft them.

"I think everybody wants to move up," Kupchak said. "I've talked to every GM in the league, sometimes several times in a week…. Everybody wants to move up. At the end of the day, it doesn't happen very frequently."

Bynum has been the subject of Internet trade rumors, although Kupchak downplayed them, even saying he joked with Bynum about them.

"I kidded with him that we're not going to trade him. I said I wanted to see one more year of play before I make that decision. He jerked his head and looked at me," Kupchak said. "We're not going to trade Andrew. We're very happy with his progress."

Miami won its first title last week, but Kupchak said the Lakers would pull the trigger on the O'Neal trade again.

"We would not do anything different today than we did two years ago regarding the Shaquille O'Neal trade," Kupchak said. "I understand you'd probably like to ask that question, but the response is … we would have made the deal today, the same deal we made two years ago."
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