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Lakers should have USC's Taj Gibson high on draft list

June 22, 2009 |  2:20 pm

Taj Since 2000, the Lakers have either won or made it to the NBA Finals six times. That means one thing when it comes to the NBA Draft — they'll be picking very late.

In each of those drafts, following a trip to the Finals, the Lakers have picked either a role player or a guy to ride the bench or have traded the pick.

Expect the same this year.

There are no "future (fill in the position)" type players available that late.

Expect some inconsequential players to come to Los Angeles on Thursday.

The one need the Lakers do have, a need that might be filled by the draft, is that of a fourth power forward/center. The Josh Powell-D.J. Mbenga combination did not get it done this season.

And they may need to find a shooting guard who can push 2004 first-round pick Sasha Vujacic for some playing time, assuming the team decides to let restricted free-agent guard Shannon Brown leave for more money elsewhere.

Another position of concern is the point.

NBA Finals hero Derek Fisher will be 35 next season and Jordan Farmar has shown flashes of being able to take over the starting role, but those flashes have come between long stretches of his being unable to make a simple entry pass to the post.

So, assuming the Lakers keep their first-round pick, here are a few players they could make a play for:

Taj Gibson, USC, PF — He's a very strong rebounder and has improved his outside jumper. According to ESPN's Chad Ford, scouts were impressed by his inside-outside game.

Plus, he has an impressive 7-4 wingspan and 9-1 standing reach. A bit older than most underclassmen, he'll be 24 on draft day.  Gibson should be mature enough to step in and contribute for the Lakers.

Chase Budinger, Arizona, SG/SF—Although it's a bit of a stretch to believe he'll fall to 29, he's much more athletic than Vujacic. Budinger has a 38.5-inch vertical leap and could be a good player to develop if he falls this low.

Good three-point shooter — shot 40% percent for the Wildcats last season.

Jeff Pendergraph, Arizona State, PF — Strong low-post player who was often overshadowed by probable top-five pick James Harden. Some mock drafts have him a second-rounder, but it wouldn't surprise me to see his name called in the first round.

-- Michael Del Muro

Photo: USC's Taj Gibson dunks over Cal's Jamal Boykin during a game on Jan. 31. Credit: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times

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