Nestled away in Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report’s overarching look inside the Los Angeles Lakers’ draft process was a nugget potentially far more meaningful than which player in the 2017 class they’re leaning towards at this very second.
We have very little information on the Lakers’ new front office of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka’s vision for the team, but they reportedly share something in common with the way the last regime seemed to envision their current young core playing.
Ding notes that Josh Jackson “is the only forward among the four [players the Lakers are considering],” but adds that “the Lakers are not expected to decide based on position.”
Coming off of a season that saw the team lose 56 games, they probably shouldn’t be worried about fit as much as taking the best player available. But if position doesn’t matter, what are they basing their decision on then?
The organizational goal is to get to a point where the team is playing largely positionless basketball the way Walton’s former team, the Golden State Warriors, do—with current youngsters Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson all already capable of bringing the ball up the floor.
Ball raised some eyebrows by saying the Lakers "need a leader, a point guard, and I feel that I can bring that to the team"—potentially a slight to Russell.
However, the Lakers view Russell as a combo guard, and Walton played him primarily at shooting guard late last season.
Some will dismiss this by saying that of course the Lakers want to play like the Warriors: They’re really good!
But this desire seems to reflect a goal to play with the same style before attempting to get the same results. The Lakers are obviously a long ways away from getting to the Warriors’ level of success, but they are starting to get on track towards playing a similar style, per 82games.com:
Only two of those lineups featured what one would call a “traditional” center (Timofey Mozgov/Ivica Zubac), because while Tarik Black isn’t some “stretch-five,” he moves well and offers much of the switchiness on defense that teams aim for when going to smaller lineups. As Ingram gets a little bigger, he’ll be able to take some minutes at the four, and a player like Jackson (should the Lakers take him) would add another multi-positional weapon to head coach Luke Walton’s tool box.
Now obviously there is more to the Warriors’ success than playing the small. The verve the team passes with and having three of the best shooters in NBA history on the floor for much of the game is something the Lakers can’t hope to match just yet.
However, as the team ages and the players’ games grow individually and collectively, and the front office continues to add versatile players to the roster? It’s possible they could reach their goal of being the Golden State Warriors South. Or maybe just Showtime, Jr.
Here is an updating list of every player the Lakers have worked out or met with. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here, or listen to our latest episode below), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.