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Lakers Rumors: Latest Buzz on Jahlil Okafor and Robert Sacre's Return

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2015

SANTA BARBARA - MAY 27:  NBA Draft Prospect Jahlil Okafor works out on May 27, 2015 at The Peak Performance Project in Santa Barbara, California. 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 Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)
Juan Ocampo/Getty Images

The Lakers head into this offseason at perhaps the franchise's nadir. Their front office has mangled nearly every decision since the beginning of the Dwight Howard era, starting with its treatment of Howard himself and continuing on down the line.

The Kobe Bryant contract. Hiring Byron Scott. The ill-fated attempts at superstars and refusal to look around the league to find bargains. We could sit here and list at least a dozen individual moves that resulted in the Lakers setting a franchise record for losses.

But that wouldn't accomplish anything. The Lakers for the first time in 24 months have reason to celebrate. Their lottery luck will give them the opportunity to land a potential building block at No. 2, where they are widely expected to choose the leftover between Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns. 

Which player of the two do they prefer? And is there another big man heading back to Los Angeles? Let's check out the rumor mill and find out.

Lakers 'Locked In' on Okafor at No. 2

The Lakers have done their best to hide their intentions with the second pick. They've done their due diligence, bringing in D'Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay for workouts. The two young point guards even got a free dinner out of the deal. But both players better hope they got their most out of the free trip to Los Angeles because they won't be settling there for their pro careers.

As Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated notes, the Lakers are "locked in" to selecting Okafor with the second pick. Things could change if Minnesota switches its plans and takes Okafor No. 1—in that case I'd fully expect the Lakers to take Towns—but the draft's top two appear set in stone.

I've had Russell ahead of Okafor on my board since May, but the Lakers' thought process is sound. Okafor spent most of the college regular season atop every draft board. He was (correctly) viewed as the perfect throwback option on the block, developing into an Al Jefferson type with better lateral quickness.

Towns' two-way potential eventually won out, but Okafor has weirdly become the player it's trendy to "hate" as the process has gone along. Scouts (some real, others #TwitterScouts) have picked apart his defense, wondered if his style of play fits into the modern NBA and thrown around the word overrated regularly.

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

I'll admit: Part of the reason Russell moved ahead of Okafor is the skill set he brings, matching with leaguewide trends.

That said, don't think for a second Okafor is undeserving of this selection. He's an instant Rookie of the Year favorite, by far the most NBA-ready player in this class. If he's not averaging a cool 15-8 line next season, consider me really surprised. His back-to-the-basket game is next level, and he's even been flashing some three-point range in workouts.

"I'm coming from Duke University…where the entire atmosphere is about winning," Okafor said, per Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times. "That's what the Laker organization is about, that's what I want to be part of."

There are legitimate fit questions if the Lakers plan on building their frontcourt around Okafor and Julius Randle. Both are at their highest comfort level near the basket and are glaring minuses when it comes to rim protection. It would be silly to move on from Randle now, but the long-term viability of their partnership deserves closer examination.

For now, it's a no-brainer.

Lakers Expected to Bring Back Sacre

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 13: Robert Sacre #50 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the game against the Sacramento Kings on April 13, 2015 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by dow
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

If you're looking for another reason the Lakers shouldn't draft Okafor, look no further than Robert Sac—OK, maybe let's not go there. But Sacre has quietly developed into a nice NBA player over the last couple seasons, emerging as a solid backup big. 

The Lakers hold a team option for Sacre next season at just under $1 million, a small enough number that it won't do anything to harm their cap sheet. As such, RealGM is reporting the team plans to pick up that option and bring Sacre back for 2015-16.

This move won't move needles, but having a usable backup big at that price is a valuable commodity. The Lakers could float Sacre's name in trade talks over the summer or even keep him around long term as a mentor to Okafor on the defensive end. With Jordan Hill's future uncertain due to his $9 million team option, the team's backup big spots are also looking a little thin.

Sacre and Jordan Clarkson are the two locks among the Lakers' sea of non-guaranteed contracts. The team has until June 30 to make it official with Sacre.

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