The Los Angeles Lakers are a long way from focusing their efforts on scouting the 2016 NBA Draft, but with college hoops underway while the first quarter of the NBA season burned away, the first mock draft since basketball returned was released by Chad Ford of ESPN (Insider). Kentucky Wildcat Skal Labissiere is projected to Los Angeles with the No. 2 pick, should they hold their current draft position.
Labissiere is the latest elite frontcourt prospect to play under coach Calipari, standing as a true seven-footer out of Haiti who ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the nation before the season. He's averaging 11.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game while shooting 60 percent from the floor. His leaping ability is his most standout physical attribute, though how smooth he strides through the court is impressive in its own right. Skal lining up next to Julius Randle would make for an all-Kentucky, highly athletic frontcourt of the future, though it's way too early to start dreaming up hypothetical fits.
Here's what Ford had to say about Labissiere and the Lakers. via ESPN:
Kobe Bryant's retirement should be great news for Lakers fans in the long run. The Lakers are no longer pretending that they are playoff contenders and with Bryant retiring at the end of the season, they can enter into full-scale tank mode. That's important because L.A. must send this pick to the 76ers if it falls to fourth or lower in the lottery. Finishing with the second-worst record gives the Lakers a 56 percent chance of keeping their draft pick.
Labissiere seems like a terrific fit. He has size, athleticism and a versatile offensive game that allows him to stretch the floor. He's off to a slow start at Kentucky, but skilled bigs are all the rage right now in the NBA and with Roy Hibbert heading into free agency next summer, Labissiere would be a major get for the Lakers. Think LaMarcus Aldridge 2.0.
LaMarcus Aldridge 2.0 seems pretty bold this early in the college season, but Skal's been incredibly effective from everywhere on the court. His Shot Analytics chart is absolutely fire (through nine games):
Now for the big disclaimer. The Lakers lose their pick if their position falls out of the top-three on lottery night. As it stands they have a 55.8 percent chance their pick stays in that safe zone, but that drops to 46.9 percent if they end the year with the third-worst record. For a very intuitive look at draft standings, Tankathon.com has one of the most user friendly and clear looks at where things stand. This is the first of many times we'll say this here, but save your heart and don't fall in love with any prospect until the fate of the pick has been decided.
With that said, here's Skal's best game thus far -- a 26-point game against NJIT. Yes, quality of competition certainly weighs in, but seeing how he looks with all systems is a good way to get familiar with a lottery prospect:
Ben Simmons from LSU is the No. 1 pick, with Brandon Ingram, Dragan Bender and Jamal Murray rounding out the top five picks in the mock lottery. It's way too early to feel any particular way about this, but it's hard not to be even slightly excited the Lakers could end up with a player like Labissiere if things bounce their way again.