The player the Lakers will select in the NBA draft on Thursday night in many ways remains a mystery.
For starters, picking at No. 22 in the first round probably means the player the Lakers want will be long gone by the time comes for them to draft.
Then it comes down to what the Lakers need on their roster and how a draft prospect fits.
They could use a point guard, but the Lakers also could use a power forward or center.
With 21 teams drafting before the Lakers, it’s difficult to project who will be left on the board and who they actually want.
“When you draft in the 20s, most teams are looking for talent,” said an Eastern Conference executive who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. “You can usually find point guards in the lower part of the draft, but every now and then you can find a big man that can be a rotation player.”
Several NBA scouts said the Lakers really like Isaiah Jackson, a 6-foot-10 forward-center out of Kentucky. But the scouts said Jackson is projected to go before the Lakers pick, perhaps as high as No. 14 to the Golden State Warriors.
Most mock draft boards and NBA scouts predict the Lakers taking a guard.
Players such as Chris Duarte, Jared Butler, Jaden Springer and Nah’Shon Hyland have been associated with the Lakers.
Duarte, a 6-6 guard from Oregon, is an older player at 24 and is considered NBA-ready because of his experience.
He is considered a two-way player who averaged 17.1 points and shot 42.4% from three-point range last season. He is projected to go as high as 15 on some draft boards.
Butler, a 6-3 combo guard from Baylor, won an NCAA championship as a junior. Butler was just cleared by the NBA’s Fitness-to-Play panel after he had dealt with heart issues that prevented him from working out for teams.
Most scouts think Butler can be a steal in the draft because of his toughness and ability to score.
Springer, a 6-4 shooting guard from Tennessee, is only 18 but has lots of upside. He averaged 12.5 points last season and made 43.5% of his three-pointers. Springer worked out for the Lakers earlier this month.
Hyland, a 6-3 combo guard from Virginia Commonwealth, averaged 19.5 points last season and shot 37.1% from three-point range. He shows a natural ability to score.
Other potential candidates for the Lakers to draft are combo guard Ayo Dosunmu from Illinois, small forward/power forward Trey Murphy from Virginia and point guard Miles McBride from West Virginia.
The Lakers have had success getting impact players later in the first round and even in the second round.
In 2017, the Lakers drafted Kyle Kuzma in the first round at No. 27. Kuzma also was a key role player during the Lakers’ championship run.
In 2019, they acquired Talen Horton-Tucker from the Orlando Magic in a draft-day deal. Horton-Tucker, who is part of the Lakers’ rotation, was selected in the second round at No. 46.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.