Lakers work out six draft prospects with focus on defense

By the end of last season, the young Lakers had improved dramatically on defense.

They were 12th in the league in defensive rating (105.6) and held teams to 45.6% shooting, including 34.6% on threes — both of which ranked in the top 10.

At the start of the team’s pre-draft workouts Monday, the emphasis remained the same: defense, defense and more defense.

The six players who worked out for the Lakers at their practice facility were given a sense of what the team would be looking for during the June 21 draft.


“They were [putting] a real big emphasis on defense,” said Keita Bates-Diop, a 6-foot-7 forward out of Ohio State. “Obviously that’s something that they preach, and it was the first words they said out of their mouths when they brought us together. [They] said defense, moving the ball, that type of stuff.”

Caleb Martin, a 6-7 forward out of Nevada, first talked to the media about his offense and how he averaged 18.9 points last season and shot 45.4%, including 40.3% from three-point range. But Martin also spoke about how the workout — in front of Lakers president Magic Johnson, general manager Rob Pelinka and coach Luke Walton — was all about defense.

“That’s one of the things they keyed in on right away when we came in the door,” Martin said. “We all got here because we know we can put the ball in the hoop. But it’s another thing to separate yourself playing defense.”

In an attempt to gauge the defensive potential of the players, Martin said the Lakers took the group though one-on-one drills from the corners and three-on-three drills “because there is much more space that you have to guard.”

He added, “In five on five you can kind of shrink the floor and cut the floor in half. But they emphasized three on three so that you really moved your feet. [You had to make] quick decisions on ball screens and working with new people.”

All of the participants also had opportunities to show their offensive skills.

Jalen Hudson, a 6-6 guard from Florida, wanted to display his shooting stroke. He shot 40.2% from three-point range last season, 45.4% overall.

“I feel like I can do a lot of other things other than just shoot,” said Hudson, who averaged 15.5 points. “I feel like that’s one of the things I’m better at.”

Hudson hasn’t hired an agent so he still has the option of returning to college. Bates-Diop and Martin have been projected as late first-round picks.

The Lakers, who also worked out Kansas center Udoka Azubuike, Baylor center Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. and Houston guard Rob Gray, pick late in the first round at 25 and in the second round at 47.

Twitter: @BA_Turner