Lakers Rumors: Latest Rumblings on Ben Simmons and LA's 2016 Draft Plans

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2016

How the Lakers attack the draft is the key thing to watch this month.
How the Lakers attack the draft is the key thing to watch this month.Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers remain the most interesting team in the NBA despite the superb postseason battles raging this month.

It has little to do with the Lakers we've known, too, with Kobe Bryant gone and the franchise slogging through one of the league's most significant rebuilds.

No, it has more to do with the fact that new head coach Luke Walton still has to round out his coaching staff. It has to do with general manager Mitch Kupchak, who clutches the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NBA draft and is expected to make a gigantic effort this summer in free agency.

As for the coaching staff, it sounds like Brian Shaw has come full circle, according to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

Shaw acted as an assistant coach with the Lakers from 2005-2011 but fizzled out as coach of the Denver Nuggets, leading the franchise to a 30-52 mark in the 2014-15 season before getting the boot.

This only gets a mention because Shaw's addition could not only influence whether free agents want to join the Lakers, but also the draft plan.

And said draft plan remains up in the air even after the franchise took a major gamble on the lottery and won big with No. 2. As Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding pointed out recently, Kupchak isn't afraid to seek out a major trade:

Still, the Lakers will actively explore trading the pick. They want to get better as soon as possible—in part to make sure Philadelphia doesn’t get too good of a pick next year when the Lakers’ first-rounder conveys to the 76ers if it’s outside the top three. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak is also seeking a better blend of youth and experience on the roster.

Most should have seen this coming. One of Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram would look great with the Lakers, but a young lineup featuring prospects such as D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle only has so much room for new additions—and if the Lakers want to get in the playoff conversation, any additions to that core likely need to be veterans.

Besides, the Lakers cannot even be sure they'll get the player the staff desires at No. 2. If it's Ingram, for example, there's nothing to say the Philadelphia 76ers won't spoil the plans.

Heck, in that scenario, there's nothing to say Simmons won't ruin the plans.

According to Nick DePaula of The Vertical, Simmons' agent, Rich Paul, wants the LSU product to land with Nike, not Adidas. This means landing with the Lakers, who didn't land the top pick as Paul would have hoped: "Nike is offering $7.5 million over five years with fewer performance incentives than the Adidas contract structure. Nike, which presented second to Simmons last week, has shown an unwillingness to budge, sources said. Both offers are considered fair for a top pick."

DePaula pointed to Russell's boost in cash from Nike to sign with the Swoosh after going No. 2 last year, and the theory is that Paul could attempt to pull some strings and make that happen.

Los Angeles cannot complain with either of Simmons or Ingram, but keep Ding's key points in the back of the mind if Kupchak wants full control of how No. 2 goes down—or doesn't.

And it's not like the Lakers can't address needs later in the draft. The Lakers also have the No. 32 pick and can add more via trade, if not by getting out of No. 2 then by trading back into the draft in the second round.

It's hard not to think about the latter scenario when seeing a workout note by Michael Scotto of the Associated Press:

An under-the-radar prospect such as former Washington star Andrew Andrews makes perfect sense for the Lakers if the staff wants to bolster backcourt depth at an affordable cost.

One only has to see the former Huskies star's improvement on a year-to-year basis to understand the interest:

SEASONMINPTSREBASTSTL
2015-1633.820.95.74.91.4
2014-1533.815.04.32.21.4
2013-1430.212.33.92.61.2
2012-1324.77.83.02.30.7
ESPN.com

A do-it-all combo guard who shot better than 40 percent from deep as a senior, Andrews is the type of ready-now depth contributor who could free the Lakers of a need for players such as Lou Williams and Nick Young. 

Which is what the rumblings all amount to—the Lakers looking to usher in a new era, a dismissal of the downtrodden ways of the last few years via a smart balance of upside and proven talent. 

How the Lakers can strike such a balance is what makes them so interesting. Possible trades and the rumblings around Simmons suggesting the Lakers are still viewed as a top-tier locale bode nothing short of excellent for the rebuild.

If there's a team that can turn a serious rebuild into an overnight change, it's the Lakers.

 

All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

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