The Los Angeles Lakers got kind of lucky with the draft lottery but ultimately may not keep the pick.
Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News,Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report, and Chad Ford of ESPN believes that there is a good chance that the Lakers will make the No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft available.
Los Angeles finished with the second worst record in the NBA last season at 17-65, which set a franchise record for futility. The Lakers, who had a 54.9 percent chance of securing a top-three selection, ended up with the No. 2 pick in the draft lottery that took place on May 18. If Los Angeles had not secured a top-three pick, their selection would have been conveyed to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of an earlier trade with the Phoenix Suns that involved Steve Nash.
With the Lakers keeping the pick year, it means their first round selection next year will likely go to the 76ers (top-three protected) and their 2019 first round pick will be conveyed to the Orlando Magic.
But back to what the Lakers should do with the No. 2 pick?
The good news for Los Angeles is that they won’t have to choose between LSU forward Ben Simmons or Duke forward Brandon Ingram, since the Sixers have the No. 1 choice and will make the decision for them. NESN is reporting that the 76ers favor Simmons over Ingram, which should suit the Lakers just fine, according to Medina.
“Ingram would bolster both the Lakers’ deficiencies both in 3-point shooting and on defense. Even if he lacks strength at 190 pounds, Ingram appears a better wing option than an inconsistent Nick Young or an undeveloped Anthony Brown.”
Ingram is athletic and is a good shooter with outstanding range. The 6-foot-10 small forward also is a very good passer and possess a high basketball IQ, just like Simmons. In addition, he attacks the offensive glass relentlessly.
Ingram, 18, does need to work to add strength and improve his ball-handling skills. He also needs to be more of a complete player on the defensive end.
Ingram produced eight double-doubles and scored in double figures in 29-of-his-34 games at Duke. He finished his freshman season, averaging 17.3 points along with 6.8 rebounds while shooting 44.2 percent from the floor and 41.0 percent from beyond the arc. He also recorded 1.4 blocks and 1.1 steals a game.
If the Lakers do indeed draft Ingram, he would join D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle to form the team’s nucleus for years to come.
Russell, who was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team recently, was much better in the second half of the season than he was the first half. The 20-year old point guard increased his point production from 12.2 points a game to 15.1 points a game after the All-Star break. He finished the season averaging 13.2 points, along with 3.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists, while turning the ball over 2.5 times a contest.
Randle was relentless in his pursuit of hitting the boards but struggled shooting the ball, failing to reach double-figures in 27 of his 81 games. He produced 34 double-doubles, averaging 11.3 points along with 10.2 rebounds. The 21-year old shot 41.9 percent from the field and 27.8 percent from the three-point line.
Clarkson, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, has said he would like to return to the team and be a Laker for a long time. He told ESPN that he is excited about Luke Walton coaching the team.
“I want to be here in L.A. — a place where I can call home — and leave a legacy. The hiring makes it even better.”
Last season, Clarkson played and started in 79 games for the Lakers, averaging 15.5 points on 43.3 percent shooting, to go along with 4.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.1 steals in 32.3 minutes.
Los Angeles had a myriad of problems last year. The Lakers ranked in the bottom third of the league in most categories, including last in scoring (97.3 points), field goal percentage (41.4), three-point percentage (31.7 percent) and assists (18 per game). Defensively, they were much better, ranking 27th in scoring defense (106.9) and 29th in field goal defense (47.3 percent).
Los Angeles won’t have leading scorer Kobe Bryant back this upcoming season (retired), and could have nine free agents — if Brandon Bass exercises his player option, as expected. Bass shot a career-high 54.9 percent from the field last year, averaging 7.2 points and 4.3 rebounds in 20.3 minutes of action.
Roy Hibbert, Robert Sacre, and Metta World Peace will also hit the open market as unrestricted free agents. Tarik Black, Marcelo Huertas, and Ryan Kelly are slated to be restricted free agents, as well. Clarkson may not be the only player free agent that the Lakers bring back, as they should pursue Bass as well as Black.
Black averaged 3.4 points and 4.0 rebounds and shot 54.8 percent from the floor in just 12.0 minutes a game. The 24-year old produced four double-doubles and averaged 7.2 points along with 6.3 rebounds in 2014-15.
If the Lakers did trade the No. 2 draft pick it would likely cost them Clarkson, Randle, or Russell as well. But by doing so the Lakers may be able to pry DeMarcus Cousins away from the Sacramento Kings, Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls, Paul George from the Indiana Pacers, or Kevin Love from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Despite the rumors, it doesn’t seem that the Lakers are really interested in dealing the pick according to general manager Mitch Kupchak
“Getting the pick, to me, is a bonus and it’s a wonderful asset to have. At number two, you should get a good player,” Kupchack said on AM 570 LA sports with Bill Reiter and LeeAnn Tweeden. He went on to say “But between now and the draft I expect to talk to most GM’s in the league, whether I reach out to them just to touch base or whether they reach out to me and inquire about players that are on our roster now or even the pick, there will be a lot of conversations.”
Los Angeles will have at least $60 million in cap space once July 1 rolls around, per Basketball Insiders, meaning they can possibly sign two players to a max contract. The Lakers have already been linked to Kevin Durant and Mike Conley, Forbes believes that they should also pursue Harrison Barnes, Solomon Hill, Al Horford, and Ryan Anderson.
In other news, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times has tweeted that the Lakers are close to a deal with Brian Shaw to join the team as an assistant coach.
[Photo by Steve Helber/Associated Press]