The Los Angeles Lakers prioritized the future in the 2023 NBA Draft, opting to select two players — Jalen Hood-Schifino (no. 17) and Maxwell Lewis (no. 40) — instead of trading up, down, or for a win-now piece.
“I think the end goal, we talk about it all the time, is for us to put a championship-level product on the court,” said Rob Pelinka after the draft. “Sometimes you can’t make all of your moves in one fell swoop. But we’re really excited about the way the draft panned out. Just the value we were able to acquire with the two players.”
The Lakers have since signed three undrafted free agents, which should not be overlooked considering the successes of Austin Reaves and Alex Caruso.
I handed out immediate grades for the Lakers' draft picks. One day later, let's run through each new member of the Los Angeles Lakers organization.
The Lakers, like many draft prognosticators, including ClutchPoints' Brett Siegel, had the former Indiana guard ranked in the mid-teens. Pelinka called Hood-Schifino a “lottery-level” talent with “Lakers DNA.”
Basketball-wise, Hood-Schifino hypothetically fills various needs. On defense, he projects as a switchable, two-way wing with above-average size (6'6, 6'10 wingspan, 215 pounds).
“He comes with such a great physical package and profile to be a great defender,” Pelinka said. “He’s got all the skills with the length to disrupt passing lanes, disrupt shots.”
“I can really guard any position,” expressed Hood-Schifino. “And me having a big body, a strong body, I think that’s gonna help me, obviously, guard point guards and guard bigger players. I think that’s one way that I’m gonna be able to separate myself to earn minutes as a rookie.”
He thrives in the midrange and has a knack for ball-handling and creative playmaking. A true combo guard.
“I would just say I’m an all-around player,” Hood-Schifino assessed. “I check a lot of boxes. Obviously, a big guard. I feel like I can score from all three levels. Really unselfish. Floor general.”
Pelinka envisions a perimeter pairing of Reaves and Hood-Schifino, which would supply IQ, crafty movement (ideal around LeBron James), and two-way versatility.
“People would say, ‘Is Austin a point guard? A 2-guard?’ Well, he’s an on-the-ball guard. He can make plays with the ball in his hand. And I would say the same thing about Jalen Hood-Schifino.”
The question is whether — or when — JHS' shooting will translate. Hood-Schifino shot 33.3% from deep in college (he did win Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2022-23).
He's only 20, but, like Max Christie, the Lakers believe he has the ideal mix of confidence, maturity, and work ethic.
“A well-rounded young man that works his ass off on the floor,” added Pelinka. “He’s a good young man off the floor. That’s it more than anything. The kid was just a pro. In college. I’m like, ‘How in the hell can this guy be this mature?’
“His work ethic is going to get him through the tough times.”
“Fino” grew up a Lakers fan and has a Kobe Bryant tattoo on his arm. The Lakers were the first team he worked out for, and seemed to be his preferred destination.
“It’s honestly really crazy and kind of hard to say how I feel because growing up I was a big Kobe fan. I was always watching his videos, watching the Lakers. For me to get drafted by the Lakers is kind of surreal and kind of crazy.”
The Lakers sent the Indiana Pacers over $4 million to move up seven spots in the second round, ultimately resulting in the selection of the Pepperdine swingman.
Lewis is another rangy wing with good size (6'7, 7'0 wingspan). Unlike Jalen, the 21-year-old is an elite athlete with a more developed shot (35.4% from 3 for the Waves). At the very least, he should be able to knock down open looks off the catch right away.
The Las Vegas native averaged 17.1 points and 5.7 rebounds as a sophomore. He reportedly blew the Lakers away in his pre-draft workouts with his bounce and energy. He's only 195 pounds, but he can follow in the footsteps of Christie, who impressively bulked up within a few months.
His game needs polishing, especially in the areas of ball-handling, passing, and defensive awareness. For a second-round pick, though, the upside and value are obvious.
Lewis intrigues NBA teams with his dimensions, standing 6'7 with a 6'10 wingspan and a frame that should fill out considerably in time. He's a smooth, fluid shot-creator with a wide array of hesitation moves operating out of isolation and pick and roll.
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) March 20, 2023
The Lakers signed Florida center Colin Castleton to a two-way contract. Castleton, 23, stands at 6'11 with a 7'4 wingspan, and he's considered to be a stellar rim protector (2.5 blocks in three seasons) with first-rate spatial coverage on D.
Lakers working out Colin Castleton today.
He’s 6’11 with a 7’3 wingspan. Older prospect, but sound and NBA-ready.
Reminds me of a Kroger Brand Zach Collins.
Could be a quality #47 or even UDFA get.pic.twitter.com/yxJYXq6OiH
— Lakers Legacy (@LakersLegacyPod) June 19, 2023
Two-way rookies rarely crack the rotation, but Castleton could be an exception. The Lakers don't currently have a center besides Anthony Davis signed for next season (Mo Bamba, Wenyen Gabriel, and/or Tristan Thompson are candidates to return). Castleton shares an agent with Reaves, who emerged as a core Lakers piece as a rookie. After the draft, his agent implied that he advised Castleton to take the same draft night route as Reaves — foregoing interest from a number of teams in favor of signing with the Lakers as a free agent.
The Lakers handed out their third two-way contract to former Missouri guard D'Moi Hodge. (Cole Swider's two-way runs through 2023-24. Scotty Pippen Jr.'s future with the organization is TBD.)
Hodge is 6'4 but has the chance to blossom into an exciting 3-and-D. The 24-year-old from the British Virgin Islands started at Cleveland State, where he earned Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was in the conversation for SEC DPOY thanks to his on-ball hounding (2.6 steals per game). He made 40% of his seven 3-point attempts per game.
The Lakers got a STEAL picking up D’moi Hodge as an undrafted free agent 👀🔥 pic.twitter.com/vctxgbSBfQ
— Jake Lewis (@KingJakeVII) June 23, 2023
The Lakers gave an Exhibit-10 deal to Fudge, another ex-Gator. The 6'8 forward with a 7'0 wingspan was one of the few prospects whom they hosted for more than one pre-draft workout. (Exhibit-10s are one-year non-guaranteed training camp invites that can be converted into two-way deals prior to the regular season, and come with a bonus if that player heads to the G-League.)
Fudge, 20, is a raw talent but offers enticing athletic potential and a relentless motor. He has lightyears to go on offense (5.8 points in 19.3 minutes, 22.9% from 3), but perhaps the Lakers' celebrated scouting department can turn him into a versatile, plus defender.
Over the weekend, the Lakers signed Baugh to an Exhibit 10. Baugh, 22, also worked out for the Lakers more than once. The 6'4 guard averaged 12.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists on 43.1% shooting and 33% 3-point shooting in his final season at TCU.
This post will be updated if the Lakers make any more post-draft signings.