With the 2016 NBA draft only a month away, rumors pertaining to the Los Angeles Lakers and their plans for the No. 2 overall pick are heating up. While the Lakers are guaranteed to have the opportunity to pick either LSU Tigers forward Ben Simmons or Duke Blue Devils forward Brandon Ingram, questions are starting to come up regarding the team’s first-round pick in the 2015 draft. While D’Angelo Russell ultimately ended up going to the Lakers with the No. 2 overall pick, the team was reportedly close to drafting current New York Knicks center Kristaps Porzingis instead.
As reported by Silver Screen & Roll, former Lakers head coach Byron Scott appeared on the Dan Patrick Show earlier today. One of the topics that came up was the 2015 NBA draft. With the No. 2 overall pick, the Lakers had the option of drafting D’Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor, or Porzingis. While all three of those players were reportedly in contention to be the pick, the Lakers ultimately drafted Russell. According to Scott, the decision may have come down to the level of conditioning that Porzingis was in at the time of his workout with the Lakers.
“Yes. [the discussion of whether or not to take Porzingis was] pretty close. Like I said, he just came in town, he was pretty worn out after like 20 minutes. So you just didn’t get a chance to see everything he’s capable of doing until the season started and we saw him in the summer league. I said ‘whoa, this kid’s going to be good.’ So there was serious discussion about him, and probably if he’d have been in great shape, then there would have been even more serious discussions about him.”
At only 20 years old and standing at a height of 7-foot-3, Porzingis has the potential to be a true star in the NBA. While many analysts and insiders did not believe that he would make a huge impact in his rookie season, Porzingis’ play impressed pretty much everyone. He averaged 14.3 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game, and 1.9 blocks per game. He also improved on his defense as the season went on, and some believe that he can eventually become an elite player on the defensive end.
While Russell had some issues in his rookie season, both on and off of the court, he gave Lakers’ fans a lot of hope for the future. His 13.2 points per game, 3.3 assists per game, and 3.4 rebounds per game earned him a spot on the NBA’s all-rookie second team, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. At only 20 years old, Russell is only going to get better, and the Lakers would have still taken him over Porzingis with the information that they have now, according to Scott.
“I still think we would take D’Angelo. Probably so.”
Whether or not that is actually true is anyone’s guess, but it is still too early to tell which player is going to have a better career. Porzingis’ height and offensive abilities make him a fairly safe bet to have a solid, if not great, NBA career, but Russell is not even close to reaching his ceiling.
Regardless, it appears as though Porzingis is currently leading the way between the two players. As USA Today reports, he was just named to the 2015-16 NBA All-Rookie First Team, and the decision was apparently unanimous. For a player that was, despite being drafted with the No. 4 overall pick, not expected to contribute a ton in his rookie year, that is an extremely impressive accomplishment.
With Russell on the Lakers and Porzingis on the Knicks, the focus is now on the upcoming NBA draft. Barring a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers for the No. 1 overall pick, it appears as though the Lakers are going to end up with Duke Blue Devils forward Brandon Ingram. While the rumors may say that a trade is a real possibility, it appears as though the 76ers are not going to deal the top pick.