The Los Angeles Lakers covet NBA draft prospect Zhaire Smith, who ranks No. 16 overall in our latest aggregate big board.
One person close to the situation told HoopsHype that the Lakers are “super infatuated” with him and “love his potential” and fit with the organization. Another person close to the situation told HoopsHype that the prospect has met with the organization “several times,” including for lunch and dinner.
Both people spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the topic.
The Lakers have the No. 25 pick in the first round and would have to trade up to the first half of the round to have a shot at Smith, who is rated anywhere from No. 8 to No. 17 on various mock draft boards. Kevin O’Connor spoke about rumblings he has heard involving a potential trade (via The Ringer):
“I’ve heard that the Lakers are either looking to add a pick in the middle of the first round or trade up from the 25th pick into the middle of the first round to draft the player that they’re targeting. Zhaire Smith is the name that I’ve heard that they’re very high on.”
Los Angeles would presumably have to trade their first-round pick and an established player to land Smith. The most expendable player in such a deal might be Josh Hart, who would likely be replaced by Smith in such a trade.
The 19-year-old guard had an impressive pro day in Los Angeles, which was attended by team general manager Rob Pelinka. Other teams that could be interested in Smith include the Charlotte Hornets, New York Knicks and Washington Wizards.
He is 6-foot-4 with shoes and has a wingspan that’s nearly 6-foot-10. As a freshman, he averaged 11.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. His offensive rating was the second-best in the Big 12 and his defensive box plus-minus ranked fourth-best in his conference as well.
It’s unclear if Los Angeles will be able to make such a deal happen. But their interest is worth mentioning as the draft nears.