Ever since it became apparent that the Lakers would not be fielding an overly competitive team this season, most of our attention has been focused on the Lakers' draft position. And before we were graced with Jordan Clarkson's arguably All-Rookie quality campaign, this was for good reason: the Lakers had to deal with Julius Randle's season-ending injury, a panoply of veterans playing with no future on the team, and Byron Scott's grating system that is at odds with how nearly every team plays offense in 2015. The draft pick is the validation for all of the losing this season and, as has been noted over and over again at Silver Screen and Roll, a central part of the Lakers' rebuilding efforts.
That noted, we often talk about the pick in generalities, in that the pick is essential but we don't necessarily pinpoint a specific player that would be going to the Lakers should they keep it. This is in part because the pick is valuable just in terms of raw asset acquisition -- we are better off with the pick than without it -- but also since if the Lakers keep their pick, there are quite a few awfully good players available, all of whom the Lakers should feel very fortunate to obtain.
On that note, we will commence with our big board. Each writer was asked to list their top seven prospects in the draft along with a short blurb containing their thoughts on that player. These rankings were compiled and presented as group consensus. In addition, we are ranking these players specifically from a Lakers-centric perspective, so the Lakers' roster situation and needs are accordingly weighed. This is meant to differentiate this analysis from most big boards you might see that rank players in a vacuum and make it a bit more relevant for our readers. In any case, without further ado:
#7: Kelly Oubre (tie)
Tom Fehr (ranked him #7): Freakishly long arms, has a lefty jumper that is way better than was expected, has incredibly nice touch in the lane on some hanging jumpers, and he might be one of the best rebounding wings I've ever seen. He's pretty much grabbing any rebound that is in his vicinity with his aforementioned arms that I must stress are absurdly long.
Sabreena Merchant (ranked him #6): I'm generally wary of Kansas products in the NBA - Andrew Wiggins being the notable exception to that rule - but our guy Tom Fehr has me convinced that Oubre's floor is at least a 3-and-D guy. He has a huge wingspan and a nice jumper, both tools that should translate really well to the next level.
#7: Justise Winslow (tie)
Ben Rosales (ranked him #7): The one guy who might be able to crash into the top five with a strong tournament, Winslow oozes athleticism and upside. In fact, it's helpful to contrast him with Johnson, as while the former has no issue finishing and has been decent from range, the latter is the only one with an in-between game and has better handles in general. In the end, Winslow might very well be the best wing taken, but he has more development to get to that point than many of the options discussed here.
Sabreena (ranked him #7): Winslow oozes potential. He's long and athletic and projects nicely as a wing stopper who doesn't use too many offensive possessions, but can still make plays at the rim. Winslow's been on a tear ever since a rib injury slowed him in January, coming up big for Duke down the stretch in close games. He's not a good shooter yet, and that's the major flaw keeping him below Oubre.
#6: Stanley Johnson
Ben (ranked him #6): For most of the year, he was widely considered the best all-around wing in the draft and that still might be the case. His poor finishing ability, however, has torpedoed what was once rock solid top five credentials and raised questions about how much his offensive game will work on the next level. He has been able to stay afloat courtesy of his midrange and long range shooting but he no longer looks like the superstar-in-the-making he once appeared to be. He's still a versatile, two-way wing worthy of a high selection, however.
Tom (ranked him #6): This guy doesn't really blow me away, but I think he's a pretty safe bet to be a solid wing in the NBA for a long time. He is very versatile and has a very well-rounded game. His jumper is okay-not-great, but he already does a lot of everything and has fit in really well on a really good Arizona team.
Drew Garrison (ranked him #5): The Lakers desperately need a wing for the future and Stanley Johnson could be that dude. He's NBA strong and would be a great player to develop along with Randle. LA just has more pressing needs at point guard and center to see Stanley going before any of those four players.
Harrison Faigen (no ranking): A little higher on Johnson than than most. I think in today's NBA you need a rock solid wing more than anything, and I love the way Stanley fills up the box score even if he is not shooting well i.e. their recent game against Utah.
#5: Willie Cauley-Stein
Ben (ranked him #5): The best defensive player in the draft, bar none. He can switch onto nearly anyone on the perimeter, covers a huge amount of ground on rotations, and along with Towns, forms the heart and soul of Kentucky's defense. How much he can produce on the other end is a bigger question, although his athleticism and willingness to furiously dunk on people's heads lead one to believe that he'll be productive in the P&R in the pros, and he has seemingly added a 15 footer to his repertoire.
Tom (ranked him #5): He's not gonna blow people away with a ton of scoring, but he's athletic, provides fun posterizing dunks, and is quite a force on defense already. He would be a nice start on the long road ahead to making the Lakers a competent defensive team.
Sabreena (ranked him #3): Just an absolute destroyer of worlds on defense, which is what the Lakers really need going forward. He can defend multiple positions, and that'll help him stick in the league for a really long time. Plus, he's a great lob target, which is always fun to have.
Harrison (no ranking): The Tyson Chandler comparisons are legit. I love this guy's size and overall presence in the paint, both offensively. Looks set to be a solid pick and roll player for years to come.
#4: D'Angelo Russell
Ben (ranked him #4): He has fallen back to earth a bit as of late, his performances against Purdue and Penn State notwithstanding, and it is slightly worrying that he occasionally has trouble creating when his shot isn't falling and the defense is pressuring him heavily. He's still an ace shooter from nearly every spot on the floor, makes solid passes, and has great size for the point guard position.
Tom (ranked him #3): My favorite guy in this draft class, and I'm very close to wanting to put him #1. Very fun to watch, he gets his shot off anytime he wants, has a super quick release on his jumper, and has learned to play point guard very well, very quickly.
Sabreena (ranked him #4): There's a high standard for a lefty point guard coming out of Ohio State, but Russell aces the eye test. He has good size for his position, shoots well, sees the floor, and generally looks the part.
Drew (ranked him #4): D'Angelo has a smooth game and the jumpshot that would make Mudiay the best thing to hit the NBA since Andrew Wiggins. Great size for the position, phenomenal court vision and touch on his pass. Whether he can get inside against NBA-level talents is a concern, however.
#3: Emmanuel Mudiay
Ben (ranked him #3): The big unknown of the draft but courtesy of his play in the CBA, we at least have some meaningful video to examine unlike say Dante Exum last year. And that film reveals a player with superb tools for the point guard position who still tries to be pass-first, makes good reads, and is always a threat to get to the rim and finish. Only his poor shooting holds him back from moving higher on this list.
Tom (ranked him #4): He was very highly regarded before going overseas, but hasn't had the chance to play much, and I haven't been able to watch him when he does. Feel free to ignore my opinion on him, as a lot of us are just guessing when it comes to him. He does not seem to have as good of a jump shot as Russell, but has more athleticism.
Sabreena (ranked him #5): I haven't seen Mudiay in action at all, but it's hard to discount all the praise he received coming out of high school. Again, he has good size for a point guard, and he'll probably come in with a huge chip on his shoulder after disappearing from the national consciousness for a year.
Drew (ranked him #2): I have my doubts about Mudiay but it's mostly due to lack of sample size. He's very good at so much across the board it's hard to knock him down right now. His ability to get to the rim is what really drives me toward his game. The majority of scouting reports I've read on him still say he has an incredibly high ceiling, which outweighs concerns about his shot. I can see Mudiay translating well.
Harrison (no ranking): Going off of his online clips, what jumps out is the fact that the highlights Mudiay routinely makes are against men, rather than over matched college kids. Adds the unique appeal of being more pro-ready than his draft eligible peers despite his youth.
#2: Karl Anthony-Towns
Ben (ranked him #1): This has been long in the making and we should still stress how high Okafor's floor is, but Towns' tremendous two-way potential can't be discounted at this point. Towns can operate from nearly any spot on the floor on offense effectively, is a force on the boards on both ends, and is a central part of an absolutely suffocating Kentucky defense. If you created a player from scratch that complemented Julius Randle best, you'd get Towns.
Tom (ranked him #1): Very athletic, high scoring potential, rebounds really well, and has tremendous defensive upside as well. His numbers across the board on a per-minute basis are pretty fantastic, and he fits today's game better than Okafor. He would be a great fit next to Julius Randle.
Sabreena (ranked him #2): The best Towns tidbit will always be that John Calipari seemingly coached the Dominican Republic national team for two years just to have pole position on recruiting him to Kentucky, and it was probably worth it. Towns' athleticism and shooting ability make him a really good fit with his fellow Wildcat, Randle, in the Laker frontcourt for years to come.
Drew (ranked him #3): Towns has the highest potential to skyrocket up the Lakers' draft board. Julius Randle wasn't considered a defensive player when the Lakers nabbed him, and finding a player to protect the rim behind him is a big need. Towns can do that, run the floor, work from mid-range and use his size around the rim. He had a monster game against Georgia that can serve as his blueprint into becoming the top pick.
#1: Jahlil Okafor
Ben (ranked him #2): His flaws have been highlighted and examined under a microscope and in part, this is for good reason. He has a Pau Gasol-esque lackadaisical approach to the defensive boards, his overall awareness on that end is poor, and his athleticism is a bit lacking. This shouldn't detract from how dominant of a force he is offensively and the reality that many of his flaws are fixable.
Tom (ranked him #2): Okafor would also work well as a fit next to Randle. He's almost guaranteed (almost) to be a fantastic post scorer at the next level for many years, and that's tough to pass on. He and Randle would provide little floor spacing, but it would still be a badass old-school front court for many years to come.
Sabreena (ranked him #1): Okafor's an increasingly rare case of the best player in college actually being the best NBA prospect. He's going to be a stud on the offensive end - his post game is as polished as anyone I've seen in some time. He is still miles away defensively, but so are most college players, and he has the length and size to become good on that end given time and the right coaching.
Drew (ranked him #1): You can get back to me later in the year and this could change, but a big man as polished as The Real Deal Jahlil is too hard to pass up. I have serious concerns over his motor on defense, but right now his ability to score is downright intoxicating. Veins. Now.
For a list of our participants' own top seven, observe the table below:
|Ben Rosales||Tom Fehr||Sabreena Merchant||Drew Garrison|
|1||Karl Anthony-Towns||Karl Anthony-Towns||Jahlil Okafor||Jahlill Okafor|
|2||Jahlil Okafor||Jahlil Okafor||Karl Anthony-Towns||Emmanuel Mudiay|
|3||Emmanuel Mudiay||D'Angelo Russell||Willie Cauley-Stein||Karl Anthony-Towns|
|4||D'Angelo Russell||Emmanuel Mudiay||D'Angelo Russell||D'Angelo Russell|
|5||Willie Cauley-Stein||Willie Cauley-Stein||Emmanuel Mudiay||Stanley Johnson|
|6||Stanley Johnson||Stanley Johnson||Kelly Oubre||Willie Cauley-Stein|
|7||Justise Winslow||Kelly Oubre||Justise Winslow||Justise Winslow|