The 2023 NBA Draft Lottery is now behind us, and we now know the Los Angeles Lakers will draft at the No. 17 pick in the first round. LeBron James and company were one series away from the NBA Final, but they also got swept by a far superior Denver Nuggets team. Now, LA will likely try and load up for one final run with James and Anthony Davis, and their first-round pick will be a big part of that. With that in mind, Michigan freshman Jett Howard to the Lakers is a perfect fit for LA with the No. 17 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
3. LA needs shooting around LeBron James and Anthony Davis
Let’s assume that the Lakers run it back one more time with Anthony Davis and LeBron James, meaning they don’t trade AD and LeBron doesn’t retire. If that’s the case, they’ll need to take a player in this Lakers draft who can come in and help right away.
Michigan’s Jett Howard is a player who has a singular skill that should allow him to contribute in Year 1, helping the Lakers win now.
Howard is a 6-foot-8 scorer who played one season at Michigan, averaging 14.2 points, 2.0 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game. He shot 49.6% from 2-point range, 36.8% from behind the 3-point arc, and 80.0% from the line.
The former Wolverine’s elite NBA skill should be scoring. He should develop into a solid (or better) 3-point shooter at the next level, and he has an excellent pull-up and floater game in the mid-range. Howard also has a high basketball IQ, which should allow him to develop into a playmaker, but in 2023, he should at least be able to put the ball in the cylinder.
LA probably won’t get a superstar at No, 17, and even if they did (eventually), that player probably won’t be a star in his first season. That’s why a Jett Howard-Lakers pairing makes sense, as he is a player who can help the team win next season.
2. The Lakers could lose Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura
AD and LeBron are the Lakers’ stars, but Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura may have been the most important players on the team during this stretch playoff run. Reaves averaged 16.0 points, 4.6 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game. Hachimura put up 12.2 points and 3.6 boards.
This pair came up huge for the team, but there’s a good chance the Lakers lose one or both this offseason. Reaves and Hachimura are both restricted free agents, and teams may come after them hard, especially for Reaves.
If this happens, it will severely would the Lakers in the 2023-24 season, and the team will have to replace their skills in the first-round Lakers draft pick.
Jett Howard is a similar player as Reaves and Hachimura, and he has more upside before he plays an NBA game. He is about the same size as Hachimura, and if his shooting comes along as projected, he should shoot on the same level as Reaves.
Howard is not a defensive stopper, but neither are the two players he’s possibly replacing. He is athletic and has a big body, so the Michigan star should be able to at least keep up with his man on the court.
And the one thing Howard has that Reaves and Hachimura don’t really possess is the clutch gene. He was a big-shot-taker at Michigan, and the moment doesn’t frighten him.
1. Howard won’t be phased by the bright lights in Hollywood
Speaking of what doesn’t frighten Jett Howard, an NBA locker room filled with NBA stars is one of those things.
Jett is the son of Michigan head coach, NBA All-Star, two-time Naismith Trophy-winning, former member of the Fab Five, Juwan Howard. The kid grew up in pro basketball locker rooms as his dad played 19 seasons in the league.
In fact, for the last three seasons of Juwan’s career — when Jett was 7- to 10 years old — the elder Howard was a member of the Miami Heat with current Lakers superstar LeBron James. Now, Jett could become teammates with a superstar he’s known since he was a kid.
Being an LA Lakers draft pick can’t be easy for many college players. Stepping into a star-studded locker room, immediately being expected to compete for championships, and being compared to some of the greatest players of all time is a tough ask for a young basketball player.
However, if any 2023 NBA Draft prospect is ready for this challenge, and who won’t be blinded by the bright lights inside or out o of the Lakers locker room, it’s Jett Howard.