The Los Angeles Lakers received a major boon to their franchise on Tuesday night when a few ping pong balls bounced their way and left them with the second overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Most consider Duke's Brandon Ingram and LSU's Ben Simmons the top two players in the draft in some order before a major (perceived) talent drop-off, meaning the Lakers seem likely to select whichever of the two players Philadelphia doesn't choose first overall.
Reports have conflicted on who the Lakers would pick between the two players if given the choice. Chad Ford of ESPN reported that Simmons had the slight edge on Los Angeles' draft board on Tuesday, while Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report said that the team was "wowed" by Ingram during a pre-draft interview at the combine in Chicago while Philadelphia prefers Simmons.
Who Philadelphia or Los Angeles values may not matter, however, if they are not the ones actually making the selections. Ding reports that the Lakers will "actively explore trading the pick," and it sounds like the Sixers will do the same:
The 76ers, despite suggesting they don't anticipate trading the No. 1 pick that already had club officials dancing the night away in New York, actually may be the team more likely to get a draft deal done.
New general manager and team president Bryan Colangelo, hired to jump-start former GM Sam Hinkie's much maligned "process" that sucked the life out of the franchise, is very much looking to trade.
Colangelo has other picks and one of the big men from the youthful group of Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid to offer. Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague, 27, would be a logical target with the rise of Dennis Schroder, 22.
But the 76ers also have in mind that Simmons can initiate a lot of offense, something they've lacked as much as outside shooting. And they're going to need time to grow anyway.
Putting aside how hilarious it would be if Philadelphia actually traded the first overall pick (rather than one of their other mentioned frontcourt players) for Teague, as Ding notes, neither team may be able to find appropriate value for their picks if they decide to deal them.
Whether or not Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and the rest of the front office "want to get better as soon as possible—in part to make sure Philadelphia doesn't get too good of a pick next year when the Lakers' first-rounder conveys to the 76ers if it's outside the top three," as Ding writes, it probably makes a lot more sense for the team to forgo immediate improvement and concentrate on developing a sustainable core going forward.
Whether the Lakers end up with Simmons or Ingram second overall, at 19-years old by the start of the season, both prospects would fit better with the development timeline of the Lakers' last second overall pick, the 20-year old D'Angelo Russell, as well as Julius Randle (21) and Jordan Clarkson (23). Allowing those four young players to develop while shuttling in veterans around them would seem to make more sense than making a trade just to avoid giving up slightly higher pick that they are almost surely going to lose no matter what.
As Ding notes, it is also an open question as to what the Lakers could really get in a trade for their first rounder. The team is reportedly interested in Paul George, but Indiana does not appear to have a ton of incentive to deal their superstar who is under contract for at least two more seasons.
The Lakers tried to get DeMarcus Cousins last summer before the price got too high for their liking, but Sacramento Kings general manager Vlade Divac has openly said the team will not trade their perpetually disgruntled star this season.
Coming off of the worst three years in franchise history, it's understandable that the Lakers would want to get better immediately. This is not exactly breaking news, but losing is not fun. However, Los Angeles was lucky enough to receive a reward for their suffering this season, and given the current climate, it makes more sense for them to be patient and let their youthful core play and grow together for at least one season under new head coach Luke Walton before deciding if they need to start dealing players to improve immediately.
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