There’s still a little over a week until the 2021 NBA Draft, and although the Lakers have publicly coached nearly 30 players, Chris Duarte is not one of them. But while the Lakers have yet to officially host the Oregon 6’6 wing and possibly the first-round pick, that hasn’t stopped other NBA teams from connecting the two sides.
Why? We’re not really sure, but according to The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie, several organizations believe the Lakers promised Duarte to write it up, even though Vecenie himself says he’s not totally buying the rumors (that’s me emphasizing):
Duarte remains the name that comes up the most for the Lakers. He works for teams above the Lakers in the draft order, so I’m a little doubtful that there is a “promise” here – or anywhere – for Duarte, something that teams in the league have speculated on throughout the pre-draft process.
At Vecenie’s point, generally, in draft jargon, a so-called “promise” is given in exchange for a player stopping practices and information for other teams in the hope that they will fall into the hands of the team. ‘team that made them that promise. In return, the player gets an absolute lower tier as to where they might end up in the draft and can potentially join an organization they want to go to.
Rumors that Duarte has a promise go back to the combine:
Chris Duarte of Oregon declined his invitation to the 2021 NBA Draft Combine, fueling discussions between the teams that the combo guard could have a first-round promise, sources say.
– Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) June 7, 2021
But promise or no promise, Duarte looks like the type of player who could help the Lakers. Check out this screening report from our own Ricky O’Donnell, who ranks Duarte as the 24th best prospect in this category:
Duarte will begin his rookie season as a 24-year-old who has taken an unlikely path to become a possible first-round pick. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Duarte moved to New York City for his final years of high school and ended up playing two seasons at the JUCO level. When transferred to Oregon, Duarte quickly showed his skills as a three-point shooter and perimeter defender in the body of a 6’6 wing. Duarte displayed a good conscience as a rotating defenseman who helped produce a 3.2 steal rate which is one of the highest in this draft class. He has managed 42.4% of his three shots in 144 attempts this season and has also managed 81% of his free throws.
It’s easy to project Duarte into an off-ball role in the NBA as someone who can spot along the arc for catch-and-shoot jumpers while defending well in a team context. He doesn’t have a lot of creative ability on the ball which limits his cap, and also has a thin frame that gets in the way against bigger attackers, but he feels like a solid bet for a role player. wing rotating at the end of the first turn.
Given how hard the Lakers struggled to shoot last season and how much Frank Vogel enjoys defense, it’s not hard to see Duarte fit in well in Los Angeles. Still, it’s unclear where the idea that the Lakers were the team to make a promise came from, so take this rumor with a grain of salt, even if other NBA teams believe it.
But all of that has been noted, as a “older” draft prospect Duarte fits a player mold that this recruiting department has seemed to indicate over the past year that he feels undervalued. The Lakers’ picks of Kyle Kuzma (three years in college) and Larry Nance. Jr. (four), for example, was seen as a litter in some circles in recent years – partly because of their age – and these two guys have grown into solid NBA players. Josh Hart (four) was also an older college student, although he was viewed much more favorably by draftniks than the previous two picks. Moe Wagner (three) and Anthony Brown (five) were also elderly candidates.
Is Duarte the next in this esteemed line of old young people? We’ll know when the draft takes place on July 29th.
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