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Lakers select Auburn’s Sharife Cooper in The Athletic’s latest mock draft

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The 2021 NBA draft is slated to occur on July 29, so teams have just until the end of the month to gather as much intel as they can to make the right choice.

The Los Angeles Lakers have just one pick in both rounds, which will be the No. 22 overall selection.

It’s certainly possible that the Lakers could look to move the pick in a deal to bring a proven player to Los Angeles, similar to how L.A. traded last year’s first-round pick and Danny Green to acquire Dennis Schroder.

However, Los Angeles could also draft a young player and hope they’re able to contribute immediately with LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading a championship-caliber team.

READ: QUIZ: How well do you know Lakers draft history?

According to The Athletic’s mock draft by Zach Harper, Auburn Tigers guard Sharife Cooper lands with the Lakers at No. 22. Here’s the reasoning:

“Feels like Dennis Schroder is out the door for the Los Angeles Lakers, so they’re going to need some point guard depth at some point. Cooper could be the guy here, although everybody will be disappointed there was an error listing him at 6-foot-4 instead of 6-foot-1. Still, Cooper is a pretty fun talent at the position. He’s a great passer, and he can score without fear. He’s working on his jumper religiously but it needs a ton of work.”

Cooper, 19, played just one season with Auburn before declaring for the draft and is a rising prospect in the eyes of many.

He averaged 20.2 points, 8.1 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 33.1 minutes a game. He shot 39.1 percent overall on 15.3 attempts, 22.8 percent from deep on 4.8 attempts and 82.5 percent from the free-throw line on 8.6 attempts.

Evident from his shooting percentages, Cooper has plenty of room to grow with his shotmaking. But he neutralized that weakness in college by being an adept foul-drawer and knocking down freebies.

However, Cooper’s 6’1″ frame is a concern physicality-wise in the NBA. In spite of his size, Cooper knows how to maneuver his body to put himself in the best position to succeed.

He’s one of the shiftiest and craftiest guards in the draft, and his feel for the game is incredibly natural. His passing skills are top-notch, but he’ll need to slow things down in the NBA; Cooper averaged 4.2 turnovers a game.

Cooper doesn’t seem like the best fit on paper given the shooting percentages, but if the Lakers aren’t certain of the futures of Dennis Schroder, Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker, who are all free agents this summer, then Cooper would make sense from a ball-handling and playmaking perspective.

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