The Los Angeles Lakers are hours away from finding out whether or not they will get to keep their top-three protected first round draft pick or be forced to send it to the Philadelphia 76ers. Los Angeles has a 55.8 percent chance for the pick to land in the top-three during the NBA Draft lottery, according to the invaluable Tankathon, and a 19.9 percent chance to land the first overall pick.
In the second and much more fortunate of the two previously mentioned scenarios, the Lakers reward for the worst season in the history of the franchise would be a choice between two highly touted freshman forwards. On one hand, the Lakers could select Ben Simmons, the phenomenal facilitator from LSU. On the other, they could select the superb sniper from Duke, Brandon Ingram.
Both players have their strengths and weaknesses, and it wouldn't be an easy call for any front office to make. Before finding out if they even have their pick, however, the Lakers reportedly are leaning towards Simmons:
If Lakers get No. 1? Major debate in front office between Simmons-Ingram. Ingram a better fit. But team leans Simmons b/c of star potential— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 17, 2016
The Lakers similarly took D'Angelo Russell last season because they believed he had the highest potential to be a star, so there is some precedent for the Lakers thinking this way, and when the 6'10 Simmons is running a fast break, it's easy to figure out why Los Angeles would look at him and see a star. In a league that increasingly values versatile athletes, an almost seven-footer who has better floor vision than most point guards certainly has a ton of appeal.
Simmons does not come without warts though, as nearly anyone even passively following the draft is aware. His outside shot will need to be demolished and completely reconstructed if he ever wants to have shooting success outside of the paint, and it is thus unlikely he could fit alongside Julius Randle, whereas Ingram's three-point stroke and ability to play small forward arguably make him a much better fit with the current Lakers' core.
This is all complete fantasy for a few more hours at least anyway. The Lakers don't yet know if they will keep their pick, but if they do, it sounds like the front office is extending it's "star-or-bust" mentality from free agency the last few years to the NBA Draft. This makes some sense (having star players is a good thing!), but if the Lakers don't think the gap between Simmons and Ingram is that huge, there is an argument to be made they could be better off drafting for fit.
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