The 2015 NBA Draft is over, and the Los Angeles Lakers are all picked out. Their decision to select D'Angelo Russell came as a bit of a shocker following a month of speculation Jahlil Okafor would be the name called to become the next franchise big man in Los Angeles. Instead it's Russell who has the tall-task of living up to the expectations of being the next backcout talent to lead the Lakers back to contention.
The Lakers also had picks No.'s 27 and 34 to make use of, and they decided to select Larry Nance, Jr. and Anthony Brown with them to round out their draft night. It will take years to see properly judge how these players developed compared to where they were selected, but what matters is how it looks now.
Our staff pulled out our red markers and took to the task of drafting each selection the Lakers made Thursday night. Here's what we thought.
Tom Fehr, Grade: A
I said all along I was incredibly conflicted between Russell and Okafor, and I don't think you could go wrong with either. Leading up to the draft, I was leaning a bit toward Okafor, though. If the Lakers have a big guy coming in free agency, this becomes an A+. Russell is incredibly fun and awesome and should fit wonderfully with Clarkson and Randle.
Drew Garrison, Grade: A
From the moment the Lakers landed the No. 2 pick I thought it was unfair to think Russell had no shot at being the guy for Los Angeles. Russell has the kind of toolset that makes him a dream for an NBA dominated by talented guards, and if the Lakers really do have a big man in their back pocket in free agency, they've gone a long way in addressing roster needs in a single summer. I was ready for Okafor, but I'm even more excited about watching D'Angelo work his magic.
Trevor Lane, Grade: A+
The Lakers were in a great position with the second pick, as either Russell or Okafor would have earned an "A" from me. I gave Russell an "A+" though because he projects to be such a great fit alongside Jordan Clarkson in the Lakers' backcourt of the future. I can't wait to see those two playing off each other. Russell's ability to pass the ball and tight handle should make him an instant fan favorite and get him on plenty of highlight reels. While Okafor was the consensus pick I think the Lakers made the right decision in taking Russell.
Harrison Faigen, Grade: A
The only reason Russell doesn't get an A+ is because I personally would have chosen Okafor, but for all we know Russell could very well end up the best player in the entire class. His combination of bullseye shooting and precognitive passing will almost certainly make the Lakers infinitely more watchable than they have been in a few years.
Sabreena Merchant, Grade: A-
The Lakers desperately needed a point guard, and findng one with the size to defend 2's is a tremendous get as well. Russell is a great scorer and outstanding passer and should help the Lakers immediately. I just can't give it an A because I believe Okafor was the pick here.
Ben Rosales. Grade: A
For nearly the entirety of the draft process, I was focused on Jahlil Okafor as the natural and obvious choice for the Lakers, accepting the arguments for Russell at No. 2 as well-reasoned and logical but not where my heart was. So it was strange to see the Lakers apparently waffling on a decision that I thought would be fairly straightforward for them: continue the line of great centers by taking Okafor. I rationalized this as a smokescreen but as time went on today, the Lakers' interest in Russell appeared genuine rather than simple misdirection. When confronted with this reality, you are forced to reexamine your preconceptions and I arrived at a happy agnosticism as to the virtues of each choice in which I would be fine with either.
And it's hard to disagree with why the Lakers were enamored with Russell; an ace shooter and amazing pick-and-roll operator who was as titanic of an offensive force as Okafor was this past season. He and Clarkson will form a fascinating backcourt for years to come, and while we shouldn't ignore Russell's own flaws -- whether it is his lackluster defense, poor weak hand, or so-so explosion -- he's a worthy entry into the rather distinguished history the Lakers have high in the draft. To make this selection, moreover, no doubt required a certain amount of courage from Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss to buck what was viewed as the traditional mainstay of the Lakers (see the reaction of a certain Plaschke, Bill) and it speaks volumes as to the type of prospect Russell is that allowed them to move past those considerations.
Dakota Schmidt, Grade: A+
From the very beginning of this draft process, I was all-in on the team taking Russell over Okafor. While that thought did waver a bit as I watched more film of Okafor, I still think that Russell is the most versatile offensive weapon in this draft class. The OSU alum is an absolute magician with how he works in pick-and-rolls, as he can either throw beautiful dishes to the cutting big or work over the screen to hit the perimeter jumper. That versatility could cause opponents headaches, as they won't know whether they'll be dealing with him working the game as an off-ball guard or as the primary ball-handler.
AVERAGE GRADE: A
Larry Nance, Jr.
Tom, Grade: D-
Honestly, this is not a good pick. Even if Nance turns out to be wonderful, he almost certainly would have been available at No. 34, and likely would have been available late in the second round, which would have been very easy to acquire, provided the Lakers actually did like him that much. I don't feel comfortable giving draft picks an F, since he could end up being solid, but this was an extreme reach.
Drew, Grade: D
Maybe the biggest shock of the night was the Lakers taking Nance, Jr. while R.J. Hunter was still on the board. The Lakers are potentially losing a handful of players that filled out their power forward depth, and from what I've seen, Larry is a high-motor, effort player. It feels like a reach with the 27th pick, but this is the kind of pick you have to wait and see with even if it seems odd from the outset.
Trevor, Grade: D
This pick was a definite surprise from the Lakers. While it was reported that Nance was fantastic in workouts, the Lakers don't need another power forward with Julius Randle, Ryan Kelly, and Tarik Black all able to pick up minutes there. There were a number of other options available, and if they really liked Nance all that much the Lakers probably could have snagged him with 34. That said, his hustle, defense, and hops will surely make him a favorite of Byron Scott's, although doing a D-League draft and stash like OKC did with Josh Huestis to preserve cap space would make this pick a lot more sensible.
Harrison, Grade: D
My main issue with this is value. Would Nance have really not been available at 34 given where he was going in most mock drafts? There were more highly touted players (such as Kevon Looney) available, but Kupchak and company continued the theme they began the night with: picking the player they wanted regardless of what the "safe" choice was.
Sabreena, Grade: B-
Seems like reach in the first round, especially when R.J. Hunter was miraculously available at this pick. That being said, the Lakers forward position depth has been a train wreck the past two seasons, and Nance's athletic numbers jump off the page. I wish he were a better shooter, though.
Ben, Grade: C+
The best way to describe this pick is "odd." The issue isn't insomuch Nance as a prospect, as he offers an intriguing physical profile (6'9'', 7'2'' wingspan, 37.5'' vertical) combined with a solid defensive background and some signs of offensive talent. The issue is more that the Lakers' apparently misread the value of this pick, as almost no one had Nance going in the first round. Even if you think that Nance can live up to his first-round billing, that doesn't necessarily make him a good pick, especially since the four wasn't a big need. Regardless, the Nance pick likely signals the end of the Ryan Kelly experiment and considering that Kupchak and co. appeared to be particularly enamored of Nance's upside, we probably should give them the benefit of the doubt given the team's recent draft history. Out of all the Lakers' selections tonight, this is likely the choice that will require the passage of time to best evaluate, but at the moment, it's hard to argue that it wasn't their weakest selection.
Dakota. Grade: D
This was a confusing pick for me based on how he wasn't even projected to go in the draft until a few weeks prior. Nance has a good frame (6'9 with a 7'2 wingspan) which has allowed him to become a solid defensive player. Nance looks like the roadrunner on offense the way he's constantly moving off-ball to either get open cuts or collect offensive boards. He could have easily been selected with a second round pick at the earliest, with the good chance of him being an undrafted player. Alas, we're going to have to patiently wait and see what Kupchak and co. found so appealing about this prospect.
AVERAGE GRADE: D
Tom, Grade: B+
I like this pick much more than Nance. Brown is pretty old (relatively), but he shot 45 percent from three his last two seasons at Stanford, and was a pretty solid rebounder too. At the least, he should provide some shooting depth.
Drew, Grade: A
I love the this selection. Brown could become a three-point specialist at small forward with the defensive chops to make him valuable on both ends of the floor. The Lakers addressed a huge roster need with their final selection, which is all you can ask for.
Trevor, Grade: A
Selecting Brown almost completely made up for the puzzling Nance selection. Brown is a long-limbed small forward with defensive potential who excels as an outside shooter, which is something that the Lakers sorely need. With guys like Russell, Randle, Kobe, and Clarkson all getting into the paint it's important to have shooters they can kick the ball out to, and that's Brown's specialty. While he won't be a star, Brown is a solid role-player who gives the Lakers a non-Wesley Johnson option at small forward, and that's a very good thing.
Harrison, Grade: A
I am highly biased on this one because of my lifelong love for Stanford, but honestly a three-and-D small forward who is not Wesley Johnson was always going to get rave reviews from Yours Truly. Picturing Brown trailing in transition behind Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and Russell pushing the ball in transition off of opposing miscues already has me salivating for Las Vegas Summer League.
Sabreena, Grade: A
Brown seems like the real deal as a 3-and-D player. He has good size as wing and shot over 44 percent each of the last two seasons from three. That kind of potential in the second round is wonderful value.
Ben, Grade: A
Brown's a relatively straightforward prospect: you're hoping he develops into a 3-and-D wing player and he's made significant strides over his college career towards realizing that vision. An ace shooter from literally every part of the arc and especially from the corners, Brown is about as ideal of a shooter you want providing spacing for the likes of Clarkson, Russell, and Randle. More than a spot-up shooter, he can also come off screens and will be especially interesting in semi-transition on a Lakers squad that profiles as fast and furious as far as tempo goes next season.
As far as the defense part goes, he has the length to be effective on the wing, although he'll have to add some strength in the pros. This is definitely a selection that hits the "need" part of the draft far more than raw upside, but in that respect, the Lakers hardly could have made a better selection.
Dakota: Grade: A
While the Nance pick made me scratch my head, this selection could be an absolute steal. Brown is a long (6'7 with a 6'11 wingspan) guard that can shoot the lights out (45 percent from three during his senior season). At the very least, Brown could provide some much needed wing depth, with the chance of him possibly starting a few games if the team doesn't grab a stud SF in free agency.
AVERAGE GRADE: A