It would be a longshot but if you’re LeBron James and a member of the Klutch Sports bunch, it would be the dream scenario—Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey slipping all the way to the Lakers’ spot at No. 29 in the NBA Draft.
Maxey worked out with two of Klutch’s most prominent clients last week, James and Sixers star Ben Simmons. There was no live footage of the workouts but Maxey was shown in photos alongside James and Simmons released on the Klutch Sports Instagram account.
This could be an important pick for the Lakers, who traded away three first-round picks to New Orleans for Anthony Davis last offseason—last year’s pick of De’Andre Hunter, another pick in 2021 and their 2024 pick, which can be deferred to 2025 if the Pelicans so choose. New Orleans has the right to swap picks with the Lakers in 2023.
That means this could be the Lakers’ only first-round pick in a three-year span. It is possible that the Lakers, mindful of a potential run at Giannis Antetokounmpo or other free agents in 2021, could draft and trade a player this year, but if they hang onto the pick, they’ll be looking to get lucky with a player who can contribute quickly.
Disappointing Season for Tyrese Maxey at Kentucky
Maxey has that potential after a mostly down season at Kentucky. He went to Lexington as the No. 13 recruit in the nation, loaded with potential and hype. He appeared to be a sure thing as a perimeter shooter with deep range who could fill in for former Wildcat Tyler Herro, who has had an excellent rookie season with the Heat.
After Maxey scored 26 points in his Kentucky debut, praise was glowing.
SB Nation held him out as a possible No. 1 pick: “His range is infinite, he’s great at drawing contact, and is a capable passer. He isn’t incredibly tall or long, but he’s quick, smart and looks solid on the defensive end. Ja Morant went No. 2 without mind-blowing measurables last season. There’s no reason Maxey can’t climb higher.”
Another site put him in the company of other great recent Kentucky guards: “John Wall, Brandon Knight, Devin Booker, Jamal Murray, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Tyler Herro. … Soon enough, Tyrese Maxey will add his name to that list.”
Of course, things didn’t go well for Maxey from there. In 10 games after his debut, he averaged 11.8 points, shot 38.2% from the field and 22.0% from the 3-point line. He was quickly taken off the list of potential No. 1 picks. His stock plummeted.
The fact that he’s 6-3 as a combo guard and not blessed with exceptional athleticism left Maxey as a risky prospect subject to a draft-night slide.
LeBron Could Push Lakers to Take Maxey
Should the Lakers keep their pick (under NBA rules, they would have to draft a player and trade him if they don’t want to hang on to the player’s salary slot), they would be looking for a player who might have high potential but is overlooked on draft night, much as the Lakers did when they acquired Kyle Kuzma on draft night in 2017.
Maxey did not live up to his billing at Kentucky but he still is a talented player who might fare better in a reserve role in the NBA. If he lands with the Lakers and can continue to be groomed by James, he might be an ideal fit, especially on a team that will need guard help off the bench.
It would be a serious drop for Maxey to make it all the way to 29. But it’s not impossible. And James’ influence in the front office might be enough to make sure Maxey does not slide past the purple and gold.