As the Los Angeles Lakers have pushed through another dreadful season, occasionally relieved by exciting performances from the team's young players of note, thoughts of the team's upcoming first-round pick tend to be more muted because of the uncertainty of the Lakers actually retaining it. Indeed, the team's struggles seem to produce a certain morbidity with respect to the pick, as at this juncture, the best the Lakers can hope for on draft night is a coin flip chance, as opposed to last season's more-than-80 percent possibility that still had most fans quaking.
We, however, would be remiss if we did not at least thoroughly engage the possibility of the team ending up with it on draft night, so even with Ben Simmons and LSU not dancing along with the majority of the top prospects, the Silver Screen and Roll staff give their thoughts on the Lakers' options in the top three.
If the Lakers end up with the number one overall pick, would you take Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram and why?
Ben Rosales: There's no easy answer here, as while Simmons has a slight lead in sheer talent in my book, Ingram wins the fit side of the equation hands down. Mind you, this state of affairs is one that exists independent of the Lakers roster context: Ingram's skill set is one that can seamlessly fit into not only practically every team, but also the current style of play in the league. A long, sweet-shooting player who can switch between both forward spots, run the pick-and-roll, and check several positions is someone that has value in every team context. In contrast, Simmons requires a roster tailored around the idea of him initiating the offense frequently from the top of the key or the block.
With his lack of shooting, there exists an onus to utilize his playmaking skills as much as possible in order to maximize his utility. The Lakers are sufficiently bereft of talent that they could very well build the type of team context that Simmons would thrive in, but they would have to make certain sacrifices along the way. Given the significantly narrowed talent gap between Simmons and Ingram, we can start to introduce factors other than pure BPA concerns, and as a result, I'd lean toward taking Ingram.
Tom Fehr: If I'm the Lakers, I would take Brandon Ingram over Ben Simmons with the No. 1 overall pick, and the primary reason is fit. I'm not sure whether Simmons or Ingram will end up being the better player long-term, but I am entirely positive that Ingram fits the Lakers roster much better. Not only is there a gaping hole at small forward, but the Lakers are badly in need of a wing that can both play defense and shoot threes. Ingram would fit that description. He has tremendous scoring ability and has the tools to develop into a great defensive wing as well. At 6'9" and a 7'3" wingspan, he has great length to both shoot over defenses and contest defensively and would fit in quite nicely with D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson.
Chinmay Vaidya: I would take Ben Simmons, not only because he's the more versatile and NBA-ready player, but also because his weaknesses (defense and perimeter shooting) are teachable things. Simmons has a game similar to Randle's, which is slightly concerning as far as fit goes. If Simmons can shoot from the perimeter better then that concern is gone. The Lakers can play Simmons at the three, four or even five in small-ball lineups and I already have to stop putting ideas in my head about LA trotting out an uber-athletic unit with Russell, Clarkson, Nance, Randle and Simmons all on the floor.
Daman Rangoola: First of all, if this happens - I would not be opposed to a Byron Scott statue being put in front of Staples next. This would be a huge moment for this organization and would certainly accelerate the progress of the current rebuild.
As to Ingram vs Simmons, I still stay Ben Simmons. Simmons has managed to look good on a lesser (both in terms of coaching and talent) LSU squad, has showed next-level passing ability and vision and to me his biggest shortcoming, shooting, is the most fixable in the pros. Brandon Ingram is a worthy No. 2 option and could be seen as a better fit on the Lakers current core of Clarkson, Randle, and Russell, but I believe that it is always the right decision to pick the most talented player who also happens to have the higher upside and figure out fit later. In this case specifically, Simmons is versatile enough that it would be surprising to me if he didn't fit in to whichever situation he was put in.
Harrison Faigen: I would probably lean Brandon Ingram. I don't think the gap between he and Simmons is as large as many made it out to be, and despite Simmons' unbelievable playmaking skills, his lack of any semblance of a jumper does worry me. Ingram on the other hand is making 40.6 percent of his three-pointers and looks like a promising defensive specimen as well. Ingram would also slide seamlessly into the Lakers' gaping hole on the wing, whereas there is still a large doubt as to whether or not Julius Randle and Simmons could co-exist.
Simmons could turn out to be the better player, but the gap does not appear to be so large as to be worth passing on a player in Ingram who looks like the perfect fit for the Lakers.
Ryan Kelapire: This is a tough decision. For me, this would be a classic "fit" or "best player available" decision. I consider Ben Simmons to be the top prospect in the draft, but Brandon Ingram is such an ideal fit with the Lakers' current roster. He'd give the Lakers the perimeter shooting, scoring, length, and defensive ability that they desperately need on the wing. With Simmons, you get a guy that's a ridiculously creative passer, ambidextrous, rebounds, can score off the dribble, but the fit with the Lakers is questionable at best. Given that Simmons' jumper is rather non-existent, you can't play him at the three alongside Julius Randle. Simmons, in my mind, is strictly a four and so is Randle. If the Lakers were looking to maximize their talent, they'd have to trade Randle if they select Simmons. Ingram, on the other hand, might not be as skilled, but you can't doubt that he fits seamlessly with what the Lakers already have. He could start from day one with D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle.
That being said, Simmons is a special prospect, and he's the guy I'd want. I'd be on board with trading Randle if it meant having D'Angelo Russell and Ben Simmons running the Lakers' offense for the next decade. That would be can't miss stuff.
Jameson Miller: This is hard. Simmons and Ingram both fit nicely (but differently) into the league's current orthodoxy, and the age old "fit vs. best prospect" debate is muddled all the more by the fact that not everyone can agree on who the best prospect is. Fit goes to Ingram, hands down. Perceived star potential likely goes to Simmons, but the Lakers will be facing some very real, multi-layered redundancy issues should they go that route. It's easy to say "grab the best talent and figure it out later" now, but it's not always that simple. I'd probably take Simmons as a matter of principle, but count me among the conflicted souls secretly hoping the Lakers are picking second, slotted just behind a team hell bent on nabbing the Aussie.
Craig DePriester: I would take Brandon Ingram because I think he fits our needs from Day 1. He projects to be a great defender and is already a good shooter, things that the Lakers need in spades right now. There is no doubt that Simmons is a special talent, but I don't believe he'll ever be a good fit next to Randle. Ingram has come on strong lately and looks to be the same caliber player as Simmons, with the added benefit of filling some huge gaps on the roster.
Who would you take if the Lakers had the third overall pick and why? If Dragan Bender cannot come to the NBA next season, would that change your answer?
Ben: In an ideal world, the Lakers could take Bender, an ideal of a frontcourt counterpart for Randle as you could find in the draft. Bender's three-point shooting and superlative lateral quickness complement Randle's heavy drive game and current lack of back-end defense respectively quite well. Although Bender would have to put on quite a bit of bulk to man the five full-time, his style of play would be a great fit for the current core, and courtesy of his age (he's even younger than Ingram) he still has quite a bit of upside left to mine. However, if Bender can't come over right away, something that seemingly has a significant chance of occurring, then the Lakers' willingness to take him would likely decrease tremendously. The Lakers certainly aren't in a position to be contending anytime soon, but they still would prefer for their key young players to be on the team immediately developing with one another.
As such, if Bender can't come over, I'd take Jaylen Brown. His shooting is worrisome and he's had uneven performances during the Pac-12 tournament, but he checks every other box you would want for a NBA wing. His frame and athleticism allow him to project well on the defensive end and his furious dunking would fit well in the likely uptempo ethos of a squad led by D'Angelo Russell. Jakob Poeltl and Kris Dunn are also in this discussion, but Brown has the kind of upside worthy of a pick this high in the draft.
Tom: Now that's the tricky one, and the truthful answer is I have no idea. Jaylen Brown is certainly an intriguing small forward but I'm incredibly hesitant taking wings that can't shoot. Brown is shooting around 30 percent from three on the season and south of 65 percent on free-throws. Fortunately, that's about all I can say negatively about him. He could be quite good. In terms of Bender, I won't even pretend to have any expertise - I haven't been able to watch him in any actual games. Ben yelled at me for this take earlier, but I wouldn't completely hate considering Buddy Hield, even if it's a bit of a reach. All things considered, at the moment, I probably would lean towards Jaylen Brown, but I would feel rather conflicted.
Chinmay: I'm going to take some heat for this answer, but I would take Jamal Murray with the third pick. The guy is averaging 19.9 points and shooting 41 percent from deep. He would fit perfectly as a second-unit ball handler so Lou Williams slide into his more natural position at SG. I know Jaylen Brown is a consensus two-way guy, but I think Murray will be a better NBA player. Bender's situation doesn't change anything for me.
Daman: In contrast to my "choose talent over fit" mantra I described in the first question, I simply can't stop imagining Jaylen Brown as a wing that can complement the current core. I love Brown's defensive energy and his athleticism has me drooling - him running a fast break with Clarkson, Russell, and Randle could be absolutely electric. Playing with a playmaker like D'Angelo Russell will also help Brown develop his offensive game at the next level.
It could be absolute recency bias, but the Warriors style of play has me concerned about any seven-footers coming into the league such as Dragan Bender. In addition, some of the best values in free agency or otherwise will be big men, and for that reason I devalue them in the draft. Here's how and why Dragan Bender can prove me wrong: He is extremely young and raw, has unparalleled perimeter defense skills for a player his size, and can continue to develop his outside shot. For now though, I'd prefer the Lakers not go for the "project" prospect and add Jaylen Brown to the roster.
Harrison: As I wrote last week, my answer would be Jaylen Brown out of Cal. His three-point shot is starting to come around, and he's already shown elite athleticism, defensive potential, and is a one-man wrecking crew in transition and driving to the basket. I also think Brown is the type of player that will look much better as one of several options rather than the center of the universe like he is in Berkeley, and with NBA-level shooting spacing the floor on his forays to the rim. Like Ingram, he would also perfectly fit the Lakers' need on the wing.
Ryan: It's probably a good thing that the Lakers' pick is only top-3 protected this year, because I'm not a huge fan of this draft class outside of Simmons and Ingram. But if I had to choose someone to take third-overall, I think you have to go with Jaylen Brown out of Cal. Like Ingram, Brown is a natural fit with the Lakers' current roster since he could start at the three from day one. Brown reminds me of Stanley Johnson in terms of his body type and athleticism, though Jaylen is a better finisher and ball handler. The knock on Brown is that his jumper isn't NBA-ready yet, and given that he's shooting just over 30 percent from behind the arc at Cal, I'd tend to agree. But he is shooting 36.5 percent from three since Pac-12 Conference play started and his shooting form isn't broken or in obvious need of repair, so I do think he can become at least an average shooter in the pros. And given his athleticism and slashing ability, he'll be a force to be reckoned with if that happens.
Jameson: This scenario is laced with far less potential controversy, and to me, the choice has got to be Jaylen Brown. Without a (widely perceived) potential superstar still on the board, the Lakers would be free to search among the next tier of prospects for the player they feel best complements their current core of young'uns. Brown's game needs plenty of polishing for sure, but his great length, strength and natural defensive ability give him the raw materials necessary to grow into the kind of versatile combo forward coveted around the league.
Craig: I think I would go with Jaylen Brown - who's been really impressive this season. Many of the reasons I would support Ingram over Simmons (defense, shooting) are things that Brown could provide, albeit not necessarily right out of the gate. I would love to see him run the break with D'Angelo, murdering the basket in transition. As far as Dragan Bender is concerned, it would be mighty tempting to take the big man out of Croatia, but I don't think it's answer changing. He's a great prospect and the idea of a five that can shoot the three is tantalizing; however, I am still concerned about finding a five that complements Randle at this point and I'm not sure Bender will be the kind of rim protector the Lakers need.
Under what circumstances would you support the Lakers trading their first rounder?
Ben: Very few. To find something resembling proportional value for the pick, you need a young, up-and-coming player with a good contract, something teams are loathe to deal even under the best of circumstances. Given that the Lakers would be getting that very type of asset simply by staying put and taking a player with their own pick, it further limits the field to that select group of (relatively) young players who are better options than the top three prospects. As we saw last season with the Lakers' reluctance to move the pick or any of their current assets for that matter for a more win-now option, that's very difficult to pull off and remains a highly unlikely turn of events.
Tom: I'm mostly opposed to it, but the scenario that comes to mind is if someone looking to move up is really high on one of the options at No. 3 and offer you something more valuable than you think the pick is worth. Then again, such a deal seems unlikely. The Lakers should still probably look to add the best young piece they can to continue building this core. I would avoid looking for deals where they trade the pick for a deal packaged around a veteran player -- the Lakers need to build with youth, as they're still incredibly far away from even sniffing contention.
Chinmay: The only scenario where I would trade the pick (and I'm assuming the pick falls outside of the top-2 in this situation) is if the Lakers can get somebody who is young and good along with another first-round pick. Would the Bucks do that with Jabari Parker? Would the Suns part with TJ Warren? Would the Nuggets be willing to deal Nikola Jokic? I think if the Lakers get the third pick, they would have to see what player those teams want and make a decision: Do we like that player enough to keep him if a trade offer doesn't materialize and is there a player we like that could still be around when we pick again the first round if a trade is made? It's a tricky situation, but I would want a young, talented player and another first-round pick to consider trading LA's third-overall selection.
First of all, draft picks in the "new NBA" (I hate how much this phrase is used) are absolute gold due to the low cost and guaranteed years that come with the rookie contract. So here's where the scenario is even plausible to me: either a star player becomes available in the trade market with an asking price of that draft pick or a free agent (let's go crazy and say Kevin Durant) asks that the pick be used to facilitate a deal to bring along another player from another team to join forces. That first scenario is simply unrealistic because teams like the Celtics have been dangling MULTIPLE great picks to try to acquire a star and it hasn't happened for them yet. The second scenario is one that has been proven to be quite difficult to justify after the Lebron James-orchestrated Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins trade.
While I'm sure Lakers brass will be tempted, if a free agent is that close to considering to join the team, it is their job to close the deal and explain to him that it is not wise for the organization to make a hasty move like that. Lastly, and really this is my main point: the Lakers aren't getting a big free agent this summer, and they shouldn't be disappointed if they don't. They need to first hire a good coach, keep adding young players and good mid-level values as they become available and build a stable of assets - now is not the time to cash in on limited resources. Let's let this Lakers core play with a coach that runs a modern offense and a modern defense and begin the "keep or trade" evaluations later.
Harrison: I would only trade the pick if the Lakers were getting a superstar in return, an unlikely proposition given both A) the paucity of disgruntled superstars in a position to demand a trade and B) the ability for other teams (such as the Boston Celtics) to top most offers the Lakers could put together. No, the Lakers will in all likelihood be better off selecting a player and continuing to rebuild at a natural pace. A fanbase used to championship or bust expectations will have to show a little more patience, but as long as the young players are playing exciting basketball and showing signs of growth, the Lakers are better off just adding around their young core in free agency rather than moving the pick for an established veteran who only makes them marginally better.
Ryan: I'd only trade the pick if the Lakers received the third pick (assuming Simmons and Ingram are off the board) and could trade it for a proven star with team control for at least two seasons. Otherwise, having a superb talent on a rookie deal is the best option, in my opinion. Especially with the salary cap exploding this summer.
Jameson: As a part of a package deal that nets the Lakers an in-prime All-Star. I'm not saying I know exactly what that package is, or if it even exists, but that's the only scenario in which the Lakers willingly cough up this pick that doesn't result in a grassroots movement to overthrow the front office. Say what you will, but Mitch and Jim are smart enough to know they're better off not having to navigate a shanty town of disenfranchised Laker fans outside of the team's practice facility every morning. At any rate, the Lakers are likely better served by keeping the pick and developing a young player whose tabula is extremely rasa as opposed to making any shortsighted moves in an ill-fated attempt to "be relevant" in a hurry.
Craig: This would be very unlikely for me to be honest. I think I would need to see the Lakers getting back both an All-Star and someone who is in their prime. I'm not interested in getting someone whose age / career arc doesn't align with the young talent on the roster like Carmelo Anthony. The Lakers need a building block for the future instead of a win-now move focused on next year's playoff picture. They've been patient at building the core the right way the last few years and should stay the course.