Los Angeles Lakers fans can finally exhale. Los Angeles has been holding its collective breath all season, and the NBA Draft lottery graced the purple and gold with the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. The Lakers will pick behind the Minnesota Timberwolves, likely leaving them with one of Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor, along with lottery talent like D'Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay.
Who do we want the Lakers to take? Our staff is ready to discuss what comes next:
The cop-out answer here is "whoever the Minnesota Timberwolves don't take", of course in reference to Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor. But answering the question a bit more directly, the Lakers should take Jahlil Okafor with the second overall pick. While it seems that Towns has the upside, from all scouting reports, the Duke big man may have a lower ceiling but is ultimately the more "sure" thing. While it's important in the long run for any NBA team to get the more productive player, for the Lakers at this junction, it's probably more important for them to take the safest bet possible. LA is too demanding of a market and the team's season ticket holders have too strong of a voice for the organization to miss on this pick. Given the incredibly unlikely choice that Towns and Okafor are available at number 2, Okafor should be the choice.
It feels shameful to split hairs between Towns and Okafor after being blessed with the No. 2 pick, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm pulling for the Timberwolves to take Jahlil. Towns feels like a better fit because of defensive reasons, but if the Lakers end up with Okafor that's still a wonderful talent to bring into the fold. No matter what, the ping pong balls awarding the Lakers the second spot means they've already won by virtue of getting a chance at an elite player this summer. I'll hope for Karl-Anthony but I'd be pretty much just as ecstatic with Okafor joining the purple and gold on June 25.
I would select either D'Angelo Russell or one of the Towns/Okafor duo that the Timberwolves pass on. If you would hold a gun to my head, I'd actually lean towards selecting Russell. I'm a huge fan of his potential as a combo guard, as he's an excellent facilitator and has developed a sweet perimeter jumper. He's a dominant pick-and-roll facilitator which could make his pairing with Randle into one of the more exciting combos in recent Lakers memory.
First of all, what a huge relief for Lakers fans. Los Angeles was on pins and needles waiting for word on whether or not the Lakers would keep their pick, and fortunately the basketball gods smiled on the purple and gold. As for what they should do with the pick, if Minnesota indeed takes Jahlil Okafor as rumored then the Lakers should say thank you and happily take Karl-Anthony Towns. Not only is he a phenomenal defensive player, he also has impressive range for a big man and would be an absolutely perfect fit alongside Julius Randle. If the Wolves take Towns then things get a little dicey, and in my mind the decision would be between Okafor and D'Angelo Russell. While Okafor is a fantastic talent I think Russell's combination of size, shooting, and playmaking give him the best chance of becoming a superstar, and as such the Lakers should go with him.
It really depends on what Minnesota does. If it's really the case that Flip Saunders prefers Jahlil Okafor over Karl-Anthony Towns, then the choice is fairly clear: Take Towns. There's no one in the draft that better complements Randle and it would form a frontcourt tandem that might hold down the fort in LA for the next decade. If not and Saunders takes Towns, then the choice is between Okafor and D'Angelo Russell, which is a harder decision that might appear on the surface. Both are exemplary offensive talents but the position Okafor plays might be the edge there. On the whole, however, the Lakers will add a hellacious talent and we should all be quite pleased with whomever ends up donning the purple and gold on draft night.
I want the Lakers to draft Karl-Anthony Towns. With reports that Minnesota seems to prefer Okafor, I'm holding out hope for that, which would be a dream realized for the Lakers. If not, I'm torn between Russell and Okafor. Part of me says that it's too hard to build a good defensive team with Okafor as your anchor inside and part of me says screw it because he's that damn good offensively.
What a rush it was to watch the draft lottery. My Laker fan friends and I were strutting around afterwards like we were the ones in the conference finals. As I sit here in my 2015 Duke national championship shirt, I would love nothing more than for the Lakers to select Jahlil Okafor with the No. 2 pick. His offensive game is as polished as any college player I've seen in years, and his frame suggests he could be a decent defensive player with a little bit of seasoning. Any player with his size and talent is just too good to pass up on. No matter who Minnesota takes with the first pick, the Lakers will have a killer player available in Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns. Okafor just seems a little more ready to contribute right away.
The Lakers should keep it simple and take whichever of the Towns/Okafor combination falls to them. I am as big of a fan of Russell as anyone, and Okafor indeed has potential fit issues with Randle, but both of the bigs are too talented to pass up. If Okafor/Randle ends up being redundant offensively or irredeemably bad on defense, then you can look to move on from one of them down the line. For what it's worth, I think Okafor's defense can improve when he is not demanded to carry an entire team's offense in the pros. Towns is such a perfect fit next to Randle it almost seems to be too good to be true. Whoever the Lakers end up with, Mitch Kupchak and company deserve to pop bottles and celebrate. The Lakers future is looking bright already.
Maybe I'm alone here, but once the fourth pick was announced and the Lakers were locked in to the top three, I got greedy. Maybe I was drunk on relief and the tears of Knicks fans, maybe it was a sense of entitlement or Lakers exceptionalism, but I was practically shouting in the face of the very Basketball Gods who had just been so kind to the Lakers, "That's right, give us the No. 1 overall pick, we DESERVE it!"
Needless to say I'm still overjoyed with the No. 2 pick, but now, instead of a Simba-esque, "everything the light touches can be drafted by you" scenario, there is now the factor of Minnesota's choice to weigh here. I hope Flip takes Okafor, because I want Towns. Bad. The way the league is going, a rim-protecting, sweet shooting big man to pair next to their bullish, offensive-minded power forward seems like a dream scenario.