The ripple effect of the Los Angeles Lakers landing the No. 2 pick might already be in effect. Mitch Kupchak and the front office will have a new bag of tricks to work with this summer, boasting a core featuring the second overall pick, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson along financial flexibility. The new foundation being constructed in Los Angeles helps the Lakers' pitch to free agents "in a big, big way," an agent told Sean Deveney of Sporting News.
The Lakers swung for the fences last summer, but LeBron James returned home to Cleveland while Carmelo Anthony decided to stick around New York. Randle was -- and still widely is -- an unknown commodity, the roster was still recovering, and the Lakers pitch wasn't heard out by any of the top available players.
The Lakers are expected to be in play for talent this summer, though their strategy may depend on whether they take the available big man between Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns, or if D'Angelo Russell is part of the picture. The Lakers already held an interview with Russell at the NBA Draft combine in Chicago, and he is expected to be selective with the teams he works out for leading up to the draft. Kupchak and the basketball operations team will surely take their time through this process to make the most out of this key moment for the franchise, which means preparing for that kind of one-two punch scenario.
The best available talent this summer is in the unrestricted free agent frontcourt pool, which features Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan and LaMarcus Aldridge. The Lakers are rumored to be one of several teams preparing a pitch for Gasol. Russell -- who tied with Okafor at No. 2 on our big board -- could be a serious option if signs point to the Lakers having a chance at an established center this summer. There's a much better chance now because of their lottery luck, according to Deveney's sources:
"I think it is something that helps out their sales pitch in a big, big way," one agent told Sporting News. "The past couple of years, their pitch has sort of been, ‘Come play for us because we're the Lakers and the weather is nice.'That's not enough. You've seen that. They have not had a direction, and that's why players don't want to go there."
Russell certainly seems like a longshot, though, with the first mock drafts since the lottery all projecting Okafor to the Lakers at No. 2. Taking the best big man available could be the safest and best route for Los Angeles.
The Lakers should be in great position to stabilize the roster while re-establishing itself as a destination franchise. They're in line to draft an elite talent, and have yet to see Randle begin his journey. Free agency begins on July 1, but expect to hear little leaks and reports linking Los Angeles to talent leading up to it.