Though the draft may still be months away, Bryant has already voiced his approval of two big-name prospects: Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. Responding to a fan on Twitter, Bryant said he would be willing to mentor either player:
This makes sense, as Bryant will be chasing his sixth championship in Los Angeles over the next few seasons—he signed a contract extension in November that will take him through the 2015-16 season. The 35-year-old guard isn't getting any younger, and he will need a second star at his side if he wants to compete in the rugged Western Conference. The quicker Kobe's young teammate blossoms, the better it will be for both Bryant and the Lakers.
But don't make the mistake of believing Bryant's interest in mentoring young teammates will lead to a career in coaching. He expressed zero interest in a post-retirement coaching position in an interview with CNBC: "Well, you know, you have to find something you're passionate about. And I'm passionate about playing the game. Coaching...I just don't have that obsession to be a great coach."
Of course, Bryant's endorsement of Parker and Wiggins does not necessarily guarantee that the Lakers will draft either player. While Bryant likely has the ear of the Lakers' brain trust, he is not among the group that will make the final decision.
Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding outlined the major players helping general manager Mitch Kupchak with this all-important pick:
The Lakers' research for this precious pick will obviously not be conducted by Kupchak alone, and there are two familiar names who will be part of the process. Jesse Buss, the youngest of Jerry Buss' six children in the trust that owns the majority of the Lakers, is the team's scouting director. Ryan West, son of Lakers legend Jerry West, is the assistant scouting director and is often out in the field seeing college players firsthand.
Per the website Tankathon, Los Angeles currently has a 21.5 percent chance of landing a top-three pick and a 6.3 percent chance of drafting No. 1 overall. Parker, Wiggins and Kansas big man Joel Embiid are usually considered the three top choices among the 2014 class, and the Lakers have approximately a one-in-five chance of getting one of them.
Regardless of whom they draft, the Lakers will look to Bryant to take their brand-new toy under his wing. It's better for everyone involved.