The Los Angeles Lakers have conducted a multitude of pre-draft interviews at the NBA combine in Chicago so far, talking to players such as Henry Ellenson, Brandon Ingram, Jaylen Brown, and Jamal Murray. The front office added one more name to that list on Friday, interviewing Jakob Poeltl, a sophomore center out of Utah.
Draft Express currently ranks the 7'1 center as the eighth best prospect in the draft, so like with a lot of the names they have spoken with, the Lakers would be defying conventional wisdom by selecting Poeltl with their top-three protected first round pick (if they even get to keep it after the lottery takes place on Tuesday).
Despite there being other more highly touted prospects in front of him, Poeltl would fill a need for the Lakers at center with the likely departure of Roy Hibbert. Poeltl told Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News that he is ready to fill that hole for the Lakers, but he is aiming to fill bigger figurative purple and gold shoes than Hibbert's:
"I can be a lot like Pau Gasol... He's a guy who has good touch around the basket and is a very good passer. He can dribble the ball. He's even stepping out and shooting 3's. I hope I can get there too. He's a winner and won championships. I can do that, too."
Poeltl referencing Gasol is fitting, because while the Lakers tried to fill the gap left by his departure with various players the last two years, the Big Spaniard was the last great player the team has had manning the pivot.
However, despite his promising tools, it seems unlikely Poeltl will ever reach Gasol's level. He is certainly an intriguing prospect, but should the Lakers be fortunate enough to keep their top-three pick, Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram appear all but certain to have better careers. If the Lakers go with a big man, Croatian prospect Dragan Bender would seem to fit the Lakers needs better with his potential to stretch the floor and protect the rim.
Poeltl could go on to have a very nice career, but the Lakers would probably want a little more from a top-three pick, and their interview with him is likely just more due diligence as they continue on through the pre-draft process.
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