LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers could take a giant step toward respectability with the second overall pick in the NBA Draft June 25.
With Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns expected to go first to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Lakers are considering two players were different skill sets for their first pick.
Duke center Jahlil Okafor is 6-11 with good low-post offensive skills who also can pass the ball. Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell is a 6-5 point guard who can run the offense and also shoot from outside.
With the Lakers’ tradition of having an impact center on their championship teams (George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and Pau Gasol), Okafor would be the easy choice most years.
But in recent years, the NBA has moved away from dominating low-post players to teams that shoot well from the outside and move the ball around the perimeter.
The Golden State Warriors won the NBA title this year with that type of team, playing most of the final three games of the championship series against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers with no one taller than 6-8 on the court.
Whoever the Lakers choose, they figure to be much improved next year. Okafor or Russell should start from day one and possibly contend for rookie of the year honors next year. Add either to a mix that includes last season’s rookie discovery Jordan Clarkson (he would move to shooting guard if Russell is drafted) and the return from injury of last year’s top draft choice Julius Randle and the Lakers could have three young players to build their next championship team around.
At this point in time, Kobe Bryant is an unknown quantity. He brings a win-at-all-cost attitude and is either playing out the final year of a stellar NBA career or playing for a new contract a year from now (whether that be with the Lakers or another team), so you know the desire and effort will be there.
How much he actually has left in his body remains to be seen.
The Lakers also have the 27th pick in the first round (courtesy of the Jeremy Lim trade last year) and the fourth pick in the second round, so coach Byron Scott will have at least three rookies to break into the lineup next season.
Unless they make a deal between now and the time the draft ends, the Clippers do not have a draft choice this year.