Next Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers will find out whether or not they get to keep their top-three protected first round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and, if they keep it, where they will be picking. The Lakers could either have the first, second, or third overall pick, but if it drops to fourth or fifth overall, they will have to convey their selection to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Phoenix Suns originally had the Lakers' top-three protected pick as a result of the Steve Nash sign-and-trade but sent it to the Sixers in a three-way deal sending Brandon Knight to the Milwaukee Bucks and Isaiah Thomas to the Boston Celtics.
If no teams move up or down in the draft, the Lakers would be slated to pick second overall by virtue of accumulating the second-worst overall record in the NBA during the 2015-16 season. If they do end up picking second, Jonathan Givony of the Vertical and Draft Express projects that they will select D'Angelo Russell's high school teammate Ben Simmons out of LSU:
In a draft many consider to have a significant dropoff after the No. 2 pick, the Lakers will be happy to "settle" for whomever the Sixers decide not to draft. It will be interesting to see how the Lakers fit the non-shooting Simmons alongside the ball-dominant backcourt of D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson, but there really isn't much of a choice here. New head coach Luke Walton could try and mold Simmons into a bigger and more athletic version of Draymond Green, which could help quite a bit alongside as many shooters as possible.
There are quite a few interesting notes here. The Simmons-Green comparison in Luke Walton's system is interesting, because that is a player Julius Randle has also spoken several times about attempting to emulate, so Green is clearly the type of power forward Walton wants in his offense.
That's easier said than done, because 29 other teams in the NBA would love to have Draymond Green too. As you may have heard, he is pretty good. To project Randle, or even Simmons, to reach his heights of being able to distribute the ball and space the floor on offense while guarding all five positions on defense is incredibly premature (and to be fair, not what Givony is doing).
Simmons phenomenal passing skills would seem to give him a pretty good shot to emulate a lot of the things Green does offensively, but he will have to improve a ton as a shooter and defender if he ever hopes to approximate Green's value. There is also the question of how he and Randle would fit together as mobile power forwards with limited range.
Those questions aside, at just 19 years old there is still plenty of time for Simmons to develop into a solid player in his own right, and the Lakers would be lucky to have him or any of the other players available if they are fortunate enough to keep their pick.
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