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Full Scouting Report for the Los Angeles Lakers' Top 2015 Draft Targets

C.J. Moore@@CJMooreHoopsCollege Basketball National Lead WriterJune 8, 2015

NEW YORK - MAY 19: Draft Prospects Karl Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor poses for some portraits prior to the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery on May 19, 2015 at the NBA Headquarters in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jennifer Pottheiser/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are in the perfect spot to rebuild, but since it's L.A. and Kobe Bryant's time in the league is dwindling, there is some pressure to win now.

The good news for the Lakers is that they are in a position with the second pick in the draft to get a guy who can help right away and the decision is pretty much made up for them: take the big man who Minnesota passes on.

The consensus among most experts is that the top four players in the draft are Karl Anthony-Towns, Jahlil Okafor, D'Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay.

If you buy into what's happening as the future of the league, the best way to build a winner is to get a playmaking guard who can make shots. But the Lakers have traditionally built around a big man and have already expressed their preference for one of the draft's top two bigs.

In a recent interview with ESPN's Colin Cowherd, general manager Mitch Kupchak said:

There is no doubt that the game that is being played today is very different than the game that was played 8-10 years ago. It's the three point shot, the drive and kick... Now the teams that have great success still have centers... So you still need size in this league. You need a rim protector, a guy to take space, a guy to run an offense through.

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It's wise not to believe too much of what you hear from NBA personnel this time of year, so don't completely rule out Russell or Mudiay just yet, but let's first take a look at the two big fellas and how'd they would fit in LA. 

Jahlil Okafor

Apr 6, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Duke Blue Devils center Jahlil Okafor (15) drives against Wisconsin Badgers forward Frank Kaminsky (44) in the second half in the 2015 NCAA Men's Division I Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Strengths

  • Excellent back-to-the-basket scorer. Okafor's post game is more evolved than any big man in the draft since Tim Duncan. He has a great feel for how to use his big body and score on the blocks. He has great feet and can score over either shoulder. 
  • Good passer. Okafor faced a lot of double-teams at Duke and has no issues finding open teammates on the perimeter. One key to Duke's championship run was the decision to move Justise Winslow to the 4 and surround Okafor with four shooters. He deserves credit for making that move turn out to be brilliant by being a willing passer out of the post. 
  • Runs the floor well. Okafor has no issues catching the ball on the run, and he's even shown off the ability to dribble in the open floor. When he's in shape, he can be a weapon in transition. 
  • Great hands. Okafor's hands have created a lot of buzz because of their ridiculously size, but equally as impressive is the fact that he catches everything thrown his way. He's also able to use those big paws to his advantage by evading any pressure from double teams by simply palming the ball away from the defense and firing one-handed passes.
Shannon Spake @ShannonSpake

Took this picture of Okafor holding a basketball back in February. Now you understand? http://t.co/wBb0WyzUFM

  • Good offensive rebounder. Okafor's ability to snare the ball out of the air with his big hands helps him on the glass, and he also does a solid job carving out space with his body. 

Weaknesses

  • Poor defender on the perimeter. This is his most glaring weakness. He really struggled defending ball screens, and the Duke coaches tried to come up with schemes to keep him from having to do much of anything in ball-screen coverage. It's hard to hide a guy in the NBA, and covering ball screens is an important responsibility for bigs in the league. 
  • Poor free-throw shooter. Okafor made only 51.1 percent of his free throws at Duke, and that's worrisome, as his game will get him to the line often in the league. He's also not much of a jump shooter. But I believe he'll improve in both of these areas as he gets older and makes them both a priority. His stroke is not as awkward as most bigs who can't shoot. 
  • Being in shape. Okafor has carried around some extra pounds before, but his conditioning improved when he got to Duke, and anyone who has seen him lately says he's in shape. Still, there's reason to actually be concerned whether he'll continue to take care of his body, where it's not really a concern with someone like Towns. 
Jonathan Givony @DraftExpress

Jahlil Okafor has only been here for four days, but he came in phenomenal shape. As lean as I've ever seen him. Hasn't been vacationing...

Karl Anthony-Towns

Apr 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Karl-Anthony Towns (12) loose control of the ball against Wisconsin Badgers forward Duje Dukan (13) and forward Vitto Brown (30) during the first half of the 2015 NCAA Men's Division I Champion
Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Strengths

  • Versatile scorer. Towns can score with his back to the basket, but he also possesses a nice jumper with range. He wasn't able to really show his range because UK didn't need him popping threes—he attempted only eight—but his shooting percentage on two-point jumpers (43.1 percent, according to Hoop-Math.com) shows his ability to knock down jumpers. His free-throw shooting (81.7 percent) also suggests he'll be a reliable shooter. 
  • Good passer. Towns averaged only 1.1 assists per game, but if you watch enough of him, it's obvious that he has excellent vision and is a willing passer. You can play through him on the blocks or in the high post area. 
  • Good offensive rebounder. Towns pulled down 13.9 percent of UK's misses—best on the team and 29th nationally, per kenpom.com—which is impressive considering he played with several great offensive rebounders. He was often battling his teammates as much as the opponent on UK misses. 
  • Good defender in space. Town's moves his feet really well for a man his size (6'11") and the defensive versatility of he and Willie Cauley-Stein often allowed UK to switch ball screens. His ability to guard in ball-screen situations, which is very important in today's NBA, is probably the biggest edge he has over Okafor. 
  • Great shot blocker/rim protector. Towns had a 11.7 block rate—ranking 16th nationally, per kenpom.com—and the intimidation he provided at the in the paint was just as valuable as his shot blocking. UK opponents made just 39.1 percent of field-goal attempts inside the arc and Towns changed a lot of shots at the rim. 

Weaknesses

  • Much like Andrew Wiggins when he was at Kansas, Towns provided reason to question whether he has it in him to be an alpha dog. He had games where you'd barely notice him, like in the Sweet 16, when he scored just one point against West Virginia. 
  • Slightly foul-prone. Finding a noticeable weakness is difficult for Towns, so this is a bit of a stretch. He committed 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes. Part of that had to do with the luxury he has at Kentucky to be ultra-aggressive on the defensive end because of UK's depth. The 'Cats also played a defense that tried to funnel drivers toward the bigs. This shouldn't be too much of a worry at the next level. 

L.A.'s Big Man Needs

The Lakers have a big need for an interior scorer. Jordan Hill (12.0 PPG) was their top-scoring big man, and on a good team, Hill is probably coming off the bench. 

Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

There's also a need for scoring in general with Bryant aging and no one else on the roster who has proven himself as a go-to guy. Okafor is the best bet to help in that regard right away. 

The Lakers already didn't shoot a lot of threes last year—only 22 percent of their attempts came from deep, which ranked 26th in the league—and a concerted effort to play through the post could give this team an offensive identity. It could also help boost the team's shooting from outside. Duke's shooters definitely benefited from playing with Okafor and his ability to pass out of double-teams.  

Most of the good teams in the NBA these days have embraced the three, but there's not that only way to win. Okafor could be a nice complement to last year's lottery pick Julius Randle, and the Lakers could try to mimic what Memphis has done building around Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol

There's also recent proof that the Lakers in their current form aren't as lousy with a scoring big man. Two years ago when Pau Gasol was still around, the Lakers went 21-39 in games he played and 6-16 when he was out of the lineup. That's not much reason for optimism, but it at least shows the team was more competent with a big man to play through. 

While Towns is not the scorer Okafor is yet, his value would likely be felt right away on the defensive end. 

The Lakers were the second-worst defense in the league last year in terms of efficiency and third-worst the year before. Towns would give them a true rim protector and he has the talent to be one of the most versatile defensive bigs in the league. He'd also be a good weapon right away in the pick-and-pop game with Bryant or point guard Jordan Clarkson. 

D'Angelo Russell

Greg Wahl-Stephens/Associated Press

Strengths

  • Creating his own shot. Russell has some Steph Curry and James Harden in him with his ability to shake defenders off the dribble and knock down shots from just about anywhere on the floor. He made 95 threes last season and 53.2 percent of those were unassisted, according to Hoop-Math.com
  • Can play both guard spots. Most see Russell as a point guard, but he played both at Ohio State and would be able to play in a backcourt with a fellow point guard.
  • Passing. One NBA scout, who compared Russell to Curry and Harden, told B/R that he believes Russell is an even better passer than both All-Star guards. Russell sees the floor really well and has a bit of daredevil in him with the chances he'll take with the ball. 

Weaknesses

  • Athleticism. Similar to Curry, I believe that Russell is a good enough athlete to get by, but he's not as explosive athletically as many of the top point guards in the league.
  • Not always engaged as a defender. Russell's role with the Buckeyes was to score and carry the offense. He was not a poor defender, but his effort would go in and out on that end. Ohio State went from third in defensive efficiency in 2013-14 to 37th last year, per kenpom.com, and it was Ohio State's second-worst defensive team under Thad Matta. The personnel was similar with the biggest change being swapping Aaron Craft for Russell.

Emmanuel Mudiay

Strengths

  • Slashing. Mudiay is in the Derrick Rose/Russell Westbrook mold of point guards. He's big (6'5") and can bulldoze his way to the rim, overpowering smaller guards. He can also get into the teeth of the defense, draw help and create for others.
  • Transition. Mudiay thrives in the open floor and getting easy buckets in space is something he should be able to do right away.
  • Upside. One scout told B/R that he doesn't believe Mudiay is as explosive as a Rose or Westbrook, but the fact that those names are even thrown around speaks to his potential. It's hard to find guys with that kind of size, strength and quickness, so you can understand why he'll end up one of the top picks.

Weaknesses

  • Perimeter shooting. Mudiay shot 34.7 percent from beyond the arc and 57.4 percent at the line.
  • Turnover prone. He had 39 turnovers in 12 games in China. 
  • The unknown. Mudiay played in only 12 games in China. The fact that scouts haven't been able to watch much of him outside of what he did in high school All-Star games has to be scary to NBA teams. 

Could the Lakers Use a Point Guard?

For a team that won only 21 games, obviously they could get better at every position. But one of the few brights spots last season was the play of Clarkson as a rookie.

Clarkson averaged 17.2 points and 5.6 assists over his final 26 games of the season and his emergence makes point guard the one position where there's some certainty for the future. Mudiay is probably too similar a player to go that route.

But if the Lakers believe that Russell has the best chance to be a star in the league, they should take him. Both he and Clarkson have the size to guard either guard position and Russell is such a good spot-up shooter that it makes sense to stick him next to someone who can penetrate and pitch like Clarkson.

What Will the Lakers Do?

Clarkson and Randle are the only players currently in the organization who should fit in L.A.'s long-term plans. Clarkson showed enough late in the year to give him a shot over the next year or two to be the team's starting point guard.

The potential of the big who is left at No. 2—whether it's Okafor or Towns—is just too much to pass up on. Okafor/Towns fill an immediate need and fit with those two building blocks already in place.

C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @CJMooreBR

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