The Los Angeles Lakers currently look locked in to finish with the second-worst record in the NBA. It hasn't made for a fun year to watch the team, but it does give them the second-best possible odds (55.5 percent chance, per Tankathon) to have top-three selection in the NBA Draft. This is an important distinction given that the Lakers will only get to keep their selection, their reward for suffering through the worst record in team history, if it remains in the top-three spots. If it falls to fourth or lower, it will be conveyed to the Philadelphia 76ers.
While it's almost unanimous that freshman phenoms Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram will go first and second overall in some order, which player will be taken third is far more in doubt. Your's truly argued for Jaylen Brown from Berkeley, but there are several prospects of note in that range and it would be a tough decision for whichever team has the third selection.
Making the situation both more crowded as well as possibly simpler is this bit of news from Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders on Monday:
Looks like NBA out for Dragan Bender could be pretty manageable. Had one team say they believed it was the $650k teams allowed to pay.— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) April 4, 2016
This is noteworthy because Bender is considered by many to be the clear third-best talent in the draft, but his buyout situation was previously thought to be expensive and complicated. If he couldn't come over immediately, that was going to hurt his stock with some teams, but if Bender can be bought out relatively easily, he could be more of an option for the Lakers should they select third overall.
For more on the mysterious Croatian prospect, we turn to Silver Screen and Roll Draft Expert Ben Rosales:
Bender has excellent size (7'1'', 7'2'' wingspan), is a fluid athlete who can run the floor really well, a burgeoning shooter from range, and has fascinating potential as a guy who can switch onto smalls and stay with them on the perimeter. Needs to put on a lot of strength but decent motor and he competes.
The idea would be that he and Randle could play in the same frontcourt together, Bender spacing the floor as Randle attacks the rim. In addition, both would play really well in an aggressive, switching defense a la Golden State.
In short, Bender fits the profile of the specific type of player the Lakers are looking for to slot in next to Randle going forward. The team still needs to keep their pick and see where it lands, but Bender's situation is certainly one worth keeping an eye on as the regular season ticks away and the draft lottery draws closer.
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