On Thursday morning Mitch Kupchak appeared on ESPN's radio program "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" to discuss a wide variety of topics, including the Lakers draft pick, free agency, and the future of Kobe Bryant. The nearly 11-minute interview included some juicy discussion about the Lakers future, and although Mitch was, as usual, very selective with his words he did slip in a few purposefully vague comments that give us some idea as to which way the Lakers are leaning with the number 2 pick.
Here is what Mitch had to say:
On trading the pick
"I think that's something that we would have to look at, we have had the pick for less than two days, and it's been pretty busy although we haven't sat down and gone through our options, but that is an option"
On the pressure to rebuild quickly:
"In Los Angeles, and maybe in New York, some of the bigger markets...particularly in Los Angeles because we've had such great success, there probably is more pressure here,more expectation, to rebuild quicker verses taking your time through the draft. The draft presently really presents a lot of opportunity and benefits with the new rules. It's tough to get free agents, as a team trying to acquire a free agent, if it's a max player can't offer the same amount of money as the home team can, so you have to find a unique situation to get a max player."
On the Lakers rebuild around Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and the number 2 pick:
"Last year we got two good players. Jordan Clarkson ended up making the all-rookie team and we drafted him in the 40's, didn't know he was going to have the kind of year but he played a lot of minutes on a team that wasn't very good, so we are very encouraged but the jury is still out on him. Julius Randle, our lottery pick, got hurt in the first game of the year, and it looks as though we will use our pick this year, so that would mean three really highly acclaimed players in two years. So we have a head start on building through the draft, and then this summer we have a lot of cap room, and with the cap going up next summer we will still have a lot of cap room. We are going to use the draft and we have to be aggressive in free agency.
On Kobe getting involved in deciding who to draft:
"7 or 8 years ago he (Kobe) just backed away and said you guys know what you're doing, which was very flattering...and that's kind of where we are today"
On Kobe returning after this season:
"We haven't even begun to go down that road...the last time I talk to him about something like this this was it. The 2 years, he was gonna run through a wall for us, and then...he was gonna hang 'em up, and that's where it is today. I would be very surprised if there was any kind of discussion until, if at all, a year from now."
On the shift towards a more guard-oriented NBA
"There is no doubt that the game that is being played today is very different than the game that was being played 8-10 years ago. It's the three point shot, the drive and kick...but the teams that have great success still have centers....so you still need size in this league. You need a rim protector, a guy to take space, a guy to run an offense through"
On the quality of talent available in the 2015 draft:
"It's always kind of a crap shoot....there are a couple of players in Europe that have put their name in and I think they are really, really good prospects...there could be 5-7 players that, looking back on this thing 7 or 8 years from now, could be All-Star players"
On the rumors of Rajon Rondo coming to LA
"We have a rookie who had a good year who is a ball-handling guard, who could also I think share the backcourt with another ball-handling player, I think that would work. The other thing we have is a lot of cap room, and we have to be aggressive. Now we also have the pick, which takes a little bit of the pressure off to do something borderline this summer."
On Jordan Clarkson's position:
"I think you classify him as a ball handling guard and if there is a player who plays like him it's Russell Westbrook. Now I'm not saying for a second that Jordan Clarkson is the next Russell Westbrook, but he's that kind of a ball-handling guard, he looks to attack the rim, he's aggressive offensively, he's not gonna walk the ball up the court, make the entry pass, and cut through. He's gonna push the ball, look for a crack and try to get to the rim and make a play...but he's not your typical prototype ball-handling point guard"
Finally, a major hint on who the Lakers are leaning towards in the draft:
"We haven't worked anybody out, we haven't interviewed anybody, but clearly, at the top of the draft there are two bigs and we have the second pick"
Mitch Kupchak offered up some very revealing tidbits there, and he definitely makes it sound as though the Lakers are indeed leaning towards selecting either Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor in the upcoming draft. Even Kupchak's general insight on the modern, guard-driven NBA suggests that he considers having a dominant post-player to be a key factor in the success of a team. W
However, smoke screens are very common this time of year, and it is all but guaranteed that the Lakers will look at all options, including selecting a guard like D'Angelo Russell or Emanuel Mudiay. The Lakers are known to be a tight-lipped organization, and it's always possible that Mitch has an ulterior motive for giving the impression that the purple and gold will go big in the draft.
The great thing for Lakers fans is that regardless of who the team selects in the upcoming draft, the future is looking bright in Los Angeles.