Is it just me or is the sun a bit brighter today?
Even if it’s not, it sure feels like it after the Lakers not only held on to their top-5 protected draft pick, but moved up to the 2nd slot overall by leapfrogging the Knicks (sorry, Phil) and the 76ers (more on them in a minute) at Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery. No, the Lakers didn’t get all the way to #1, but getting to #2 is a fantastic turn of events for an organization which hasn’t had many things go right in the last two plus seasons.
So, in the wake of all this happiness, below are 10 thoughts in the aftermath of the Lakers lucky lottery:
1. I do not think the Lakers can go wrong selecting any of the Towns, Okafor, Russell trio. All three would fill major needs and all three have immense talent.
2. Of the three players, my ideal choice would be Towns. His offensive polish isn’t what Okafor and Russell offer, but his defense is beyond what theirs appear to be at this point. I also believe that Towns’ offensive game is more diverse than what he displayed at Kentucky (sort of like Julius Randle), which will show in the pros.
3. Notice, though, that praising Towns doesn’t come at the denigration of Russell or Okafor. The former looks to be a fantastic offensive talent, boasting a combination of sweet shooting and playmaking for others that will serve him well in the pros. And Okafor is, simply, a low post artist who has very good size, great length (a 7’5″ wingspan and 9’2.5″ standing reach), and has great feel for the game. From the tape I’ve seen on both (and I will watch more), both look to be outstanding prospects.
4. A lot of talk about who the Lakers’ draft will be about fit with some of their current young players. I am not immune from this. One of the reasons I prefer Towns is that he fits best with Randle compared to Okafor, especially defensively. However, a different way to look at this isn’t whether Okafor fits with Randle (I think he does, maybe just not as well as Towns), it’s how talented Okafor is in general and, on top of that, asking the question is Okafor better than Randle? That last point isn’t to dismiss Julius in any way, but to emphasize that Okafor is super talented and overly worrying about fit may not the be the most prudent approach if the guy you’re worrying about fitting in may be the better player.
5. All players — especially young players (and especially 19 year old young players) — have flaws. They will all have learning curves and, except in the rarest of occasions, all need to learn, on the fly, what it means to play consistently well and help contribute to wins at this level. The hope with any of these kids is that as they mature and learn the league they will minimize their flaws while improving on and maximizing their strengths. It is fine to point out those flaws, but when drafting this high, I think it’s almost always good to remember that these kids really are super talented. The key is nurturing and developing that talent in a way that helps the player reach his ceiling. That’s not only on the coaches, but on the organization, and, of course, on the player.
6. I don’t know how I can say this without it coming off as dick-ish, but I’m sort of happy that the 76ers ended up with only one lottery pick and fell below the Lakers in the process. They clearly have an organizational plan and are executing it. But they have made tanking an art-form (and seemed to revel in it) and after heading into the day with a chance to get three lottery picks (their own, the Lakers’, and Heat’s), to only end up with their own put a little smile on my face. Just a little one.
7. After the lottery, Mitch spoke with TWC Sportsnet folks on moving up, their process heading into the draft, and more. The nine minute clip is informative and is worth your time.
8. This could easily be at the top of this list: Between now and the draft there will be a lot of banter, media leaks via sources, and reports tying prospects to teams and vice versa. Understand some (a lot? most??) of this stuff is simply one party trying to influence the process to get a desirable outcome for the team, the player, the agent, or all three. Now that the results are in, the smokescreens and misdirection truly begins. Just be aware most everything you read that is “sourced” is agenda driven.
9. With all the talk of the lottery, the Lakers still have two pretty good assets in the #27 and #34 picks. I would imagine any number of scenarios are in play, including drafting one or more European prospects to keep in Europe, drafting older/more seasoned college players who aren’t “rookies” in the classic sense of the word, packaging the picks to try and trade up for a higher 1st rounder, or looking to trade one or more of the picks (and, maybe a current player on the roster) for another team’s veteran. Keeping this year’s lottery pick allows for greater flexibility in roster construction and I expect the front office to explore all opportunities.
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— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) May 20, 2015