The NBA Draft is finally here and it seems as though the whirlwind is only intensifying. Whether we’re talking about who the Lakers may draft, whether there are trades to be made, what may happen in free agency, and how the latter two items may affect the former, it seems the only thing we know about the Lakers right now is how much we actually do not know.
Consider the following:
- Today Kevin Ding reports the Lakers are leaning towards drafting Ohio St. point guard D’Angelo Russell
- Today Mike Bresnahan reports the Lakers are leaning towards drafting Duke center Jahlil Okafor
- There are still rumors the Lakers are in the mix to trade for Sacramento Kings’ big man DeMarcus Cousins
- CBS’ Eye on Basketball has a report that Portland Trailblazers’ big man LaMarcus Aldridge will not return to the Blazers and will depart in free agency. And this comes on the heels of Marc Stein reporting the Lakers will be one of the teams considered by Aldridge (passing the Mavs and only trailing the Spurs in terms of desirable destinations).
Not only is that a lot to digest, some of these things directly contradict each other. If the Lakers draft Okafor, does that mean they are more or less likely to pursue Cousins via trade? If they take Russell, does that mean they feel they can sign Aldridge (or another big man) in free agency? Or, if they draft Russell, does that mean they might still make a deal with the 76ers (who reportedly covet him with their #3 overall pick) or with the Kings (who may want a point guard to lead them forward even if they deal Cousins in the process)?
We cannot know any of this stuff for sure and that’s what makes today both extremely stressful, but awfully exciting too. The Lakers are in a great position. They have a top pick, other young assets who are developing nicely in Randle and Clarkson, and even have two additional picks which can be used to either grab useful players for today (or tomorrow via draft and stash opportunities) or be used as assets in trades they may want to execute. Add all this to the looming cap space the team is set to have and there are seemingly any number of ways the team could go and still end up having a successful draft night (and off-season).
For what it’s worth, my preference in the entire pre-draft process has been for the Lakers to keep their pick and draft Okafor. As I have stated, I see him as a fantastic talent who has the opportunity to be a special offensive player who can be the foundation of a top attack. However, I have also always held firm that if Russell was the selection, I would also be quite happy as his combination of scoring and playmaking also make him an offensive talent worth building around. In saying all this, today, I couldn’t be more split on what I actually want. If I had to put a percentage on my preference, it might be 51% Okafor and 49% Russell. Those percentages could also easily switch in 15 minutes or an hour. It really is that close.
All of this is just a long way of saying that I could not be more anxious about tonight and cannot wait to see how this goes. The Lakers have suffered through a severe downturn these last couple of seasons, but tonight they look to take a step back in the right direction. And I cannot wait for it.