The prevailing thought throughout the lead-up to the 2017 NBA Draft is has been that the Los Angeles Lakers will be choosing between Josh Jackson and Lonzo Ball with the second overall pick, with De’Aaron Fox as a potential wild card.
Markelle Fultz is also a top-prospect, but with the Lakers holding the No. 2 pick and nearly everyone even casually aware of the draft expecting the Boston Celtics to select the Washington product first overall, him ending up in purple and gold never seemed like a real possibility.
It turns out it might be. On the same day Fultz gave Lakers fans a tease of what he’d look like in the team’s practice gear while saying how good of a fit he feels he’d be next to guard D’Angelo Russell, NBA Draft expert Chad Ford of ESPN is reports that the one-and-done wonder ending up in Boston may not be such a sure thing after all:
Josh Jackson, who was No. 1 on Big Board 1.0, has emerged as an intriguing option for the Celtics and team president Danny Ainge (even though he canceled a workout with Boston this week, according to ESPN's Jeff Goodman and Marc Spears).
"I've picked Danny's brain for years," one GM said. "Jackson is an Ainge player all the way. Tough, athletic, long, versatile, elite motor. If he's keeping the pick, Jackson just to me, far and away, is the most Celtics-type player for them to draft. From all my conversations with them, I'm convinced they'll take Jackson No. 1."
In addition to cancelling a workout in Boston and fueling rumors about the Lakers in the process, Jackson hasn’t worked out for the Celtics at all, something Ford reports that “league sources believe” is because “it's likely that Jackson's camp feels that both the Lakers and Sixers would give Jackson a larger role from day one.” Given that the Celtics are a contender AND have other young talent on the wing, this seems like an accurate evaluation of the situation.
If the Celtics take Jackson anyway, it would leave the Lakers with a choice: Go with Ball, the player many have expected them to roll with from the beginning, or end Fultz’s unexpected fall and grab the player widely believed to be the best available.
If the Lakers are as split on Ball/Jackson as they reportedly are and Fultz workout went reasonably well, the second option would seem to be the logical choice, and give the Lakers the type of shiny, can’t-miss prospect they haven’t quite been able to snag with their prior two second overall picks (Russell and the untouchable Brandon Ingram are good players, their stock just never quite reached Fultz’s level).
The draft is a crap shoot, and any player the Lakers choose might end up being a bust (it’s always possible, even if it doesn’t seem likely in this case). However, ending up with Fultz would certainly seem to be the exact type of lucky boost the Lakers need to kick-start their rebuild and elevate the way their young stable of talent is seen around the league.