Lakers give draft prospects another look, and keep eye on Joel Embiid

Kansas' Joel Embiid (21) blows through the Baylor defense, sending Bears forward Rico Gathers (2) to the ground as he goes up for a shot during a game on Feb. 4.
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)

The Lakers worked out a handful of players again Friday morning, potential picks in next Thursday’s NBA draft who may or may not be part of their future.

But one player they covet was on an operating table.

Kansas center Joel Embiid had surgery Friday for a stress fracture in his right foot and could miss next season, the second unsettling injury he suffered this year.

The Lakers would be interested if his long-term medical prognosis wasn’t too damaging and he lasted until their pick, seventh overall, though that would be a pretty big fall for the somewhat injury-prone 7-footer who missed the Jayhawks’ two NCAA tournament games because of a stress fracture in his back.

In fact, there was quiet concern in the Lakers camp that Boston would take Embiid at sixth if he somehow tumbled quickly from the top-three consideration he enjoyed since declaring for the draft. Yes, the hated Celtics.

So the Lakers are lining up a bunch of Plan Bs.

They are looking at power forwards Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon and Julius Randle, and are trying to narrow their decisions on a point guard if they decide to go that route.


Friday helped a bit. They brought in Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart and Louisiana-Lafayette guard Elfrid Payton for second workouts. Smart looked good physically, showing a strong upper body and broad shoulders, but wasn’t as quick as Payton, who has been creeping up draft boards all month.

Payton could be this year’s Damian Lillard, a small-college point guard who didn’t face great competition but then lighted up the faces of scouts and general managers at workouts. Lillard was drafted sixth in 2012 and was an All-Star last season for Portland.

Payton, a shade under 6 feet 4, was recently given an invite to the NBA’s green room on draft night, a privilege typically reserved for prospective lottery picks.

“It’s pretty cool. It was exciting when I got my e-mail,” said Payton, who added that he modeled his game after some of the league’s best point guards. "[Rajon] Rondo, Tony Parker and Chris Paul. That’s three guys I really look at, and try to take bits and pieces from their game.”

Dante Exum of Australia is considered the best point guard available but he probably won’t be there at the seventh spot.

At power forward, Gordon continues to be strong athletically, has an intense drive on the court and has been working on his outside touch. He was even seen making some three-pointers Friday.

“I think I did pretty well this workout,” he said. “I kind of had my motor going. My energy was up and I thought it was a good showing.”

The Lakers also worked out Michigan sharpshooter Nik Stauskas, who showed better-than-expected ball-handling skills, and guard P.J. Hairston, who played in the NBA’s Development League last season after being suspended at North Carolina following a long investigation into rule violations.

If nothing else, Stauskas enjoyed his day at the Lakers’ training facility.

“This is a legendary place. A lot of great players have come through here,” he said. “Just to be here and play for such a great team like the Lakers, work out for them, it’s an honor.”

UCLA’s Zach LaVine will work out for the Lakers a second time Saturday. He is considered a project while trying to transition to point guard in the NBA but has great physical ability, including a staggering vertical leap.

Undersized but exciting Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier will work out for the Lakers on Sunday.

Times correspondent Eric Pincus contributed to this report.