If I was a betting man(and for those who read my MLB & NBA DFS advice columns know…I am) I would be willing to be that the Lakers winding up with the 2nd overall pick was ‘influenced’ by the league in some way(notice I didn’t say ‘rigged’) and most GMs around the league would most definitely agree with me too. With the publicity of KD going to Golden State, Westbrook averaging a triple-double, and part III of GSW-CLE, having Lonzo Ball wearing a Lakers hat on June 22nd would be the match to the TNT dynamite that has been the NBA’s popularity & publicity over the past year, but no matter….the NBA’s most popular franchise has the #2 pick in next Thursday’s draft and the stars have aligned for it to basically be a sure thing that the Lakers will take Ball…but would it be the best move for the franchise? And even so…would the Lakers dare pass on the opportunity to take the former Chino Hills alum and UCLA standout?
Since the lottery, it has been the consensus that the 1 & 2 picks in this draft would be Fultz to Boston and Ball to the Lakers, but buzz around the league is that LA’s front office is torn between Ball and Josh Jackson. I know it’s still early, but the Lakers have severely botched these last two drafts with Brandon Ingram & D’Angelo “D’tective” Russell. Before this last season the Lakers set a record for losses three straight years in a row and things don’t seem to be looking up. Right now nobody on the Lakers is “untouchable” and teams around the league have been calling LA for all their young players Randle, Clarkson, Russell. The elephant in the room for LA regarding this draft is that the Lakers’ two best players are their point guards, they don’t necessarily need backcourt help with Ball. However, the Lakers front court…heck positions 3-5 are arguably the worst in basketball. Starting with Ingram, who averaged 29 MPG last year, averaging just 9 points on 40% shooting and an abysmal 61% from the line. Right now on their depth chart 19 year old Ivaca Zubac is listed as their starting center for next year and will be splitting time with a 31 year old “I already have a ring and already signed a 64 million dollar contract” Timofey Mozgov.
The best one of the three is of course Randle, who is wildly inconsistent and averaged the 4th most fouls/game in the league last year, which really cut down on his minutes. The goal of building through the draft is to fill as many different positions with serviceable starters as possible…and I can’t believe I’m using them as an example, but if the Lakers do pass on Ball…Philly’s starting five for the future will be Ball, Covington, Simmons, Saric, Embiid with Okafor off the bench.On paper… it truly makes no sense to take Ball if you’re a Lakers front office member, there are just too many other holes in that starting five that need to be addressed before going after another point guard. If you remember back to late last season, D’Angelo was playing at an all-star caliber level after the all-star break, averaging 22 PP, 5 RPG, and 8 APG. He exploded for 41 against Cleveland and hit a game winner against the T-Wolves in the last week of the season. If the Lakers take Ball, then either Russell/Clarkson have to go and it will be a Nerlens Noel Type situation where other teams around the league recognize that your team has an embarrassment of riches at one position, so the value of all those players goes down.
Now it’s been four straight years of terrible basketball for LAL fans and #LakerNation are becoming impatient because it really doesn’t seem like the franchise is getting much better(The Panic button would have really been hit if LakeShow lost out on the pick this year) The pressure of winning is no greater in the NBA than for the Lakers and although it would be the sports marketing boom of the decade if Lonzo was to wind up a Laker…winning always comes first in the NBA and if that is what’s most important to the Lakers, Josh Jackson makes the most sense for the franchise right now. Jackson can be an elite defender with with his unique size and speed and although his jump shot is still a WIP I can see him being a Jimmy Butler type of player. A Randle, Jackson, Russell, Ingram core might just be the core(of course with some big free agent signings) that brings LA out of the depths of mediocrity and back to championship aspirations…but for now Luke Walton has a lot of work to do.