After finishing with a 21-61 record, it's clear the franchise needs a lot of help at just about every position on the floor. Even if Kobe Bryant returns to full health, the squads must focus on rebuilding for the future with an infusion of young talent.
The upcoming draft is as important to the organization as any in recent memory, so the front office better make the right decision. Here is a breakdown of the top options for Los Angeles heading into Thursday night.
Best Big Man Available
For months, the top of the draft has been a debate between centers Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor. It was assumed whoever wasn't taken with the first pick would be an easy call at No. 2.
While there are other options, this remains the most likely scenario for the Lakers. With the Minnesota Timberwolves seemingly set to take Towns at No. 1, ESPN's Chad Ford recently reported Okafor was the most likely option:
He added the Lakers would prefer Towns but would be happy with either center:
There are certainly weaknesses in Okafor's game. He is a poor free-throw shooter who hasn't proven himself as a great defender. Additionally, he was limited at times by bigger defenders, similar to what he will see at the next level.
Despite all of these problems, the former Duke star is the most pro-ready big man the league has seen in years. He is an elite low-post scorer, and the Lakers would love to bring in an immediate contributor like this one.
Although he is considered by many to be a tier below the first two players, D'Angelo Russell is still arguably the top guard in the draft.
According to Joe Kotoch of Sheridan Hoops, this is enough for the Lakers to seriously consider drafting him over Okafor if given the choice:
Russell put up outstanding stats with Ohio State this season, averaging 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and five assists per game. Not only is he a silky smooth scorer, but he also can create for others and fill up the stat sheet in a number of ways.
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News explained why the New York Knicks shouldn't hold their breath for the talented player to be available at No. 4:
Los Angeles has a quality young point guard in Jordan Clarkson, but he hasn't proven himself enough to pass on a potentially game-changing player with the No. 2 pick. Russell can be a big-time playmaker right out of the gate and is worth considering for the Lakers.
Trade for DeMarcus Cousins
This might be the most intriguing option for the Lakers, and certainly one that excites their fans.
ESPN's Marc Stein reported this week Los Angeles is doing what it can to bring in DeMarcus Cousins:
The Los Angeles Lakers have emerged as one of the most determined trade suitors for Sacramento Kings All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN that the Lakers have been actively pursuing trade scenarios in recent weeks in attempt to construct a deal that would convince the Kings to part with Cousins.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports clarified that head coach George Karl is the one pushing a potential trade.
The appeal for the Lakers is obvious. A team without a healthy superstar would be adding an elite center who averaged 24.1 points and 12.7 rebounds per game last season. Unlike any potential draft pick, Cousins is a proven performer at this level and should continue this type of production regardless of what uniform he is wearing.
Even if Los Angeles is forced to give up its draft pick as well as young prospects like Julius Randle, it could be worth the move.
Unfortunately, Sacramento's front office isn't as excited to give up the All-Star as the coaching staff. When asked about it, both team owner Vivek Ranadive and vice president Vlade Divac denied the potential deal.
"It is not happening," Divac told Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee. "I don’t care what the agents or the media people are saying. I don’t know why we are wasting time talking about something that is not going to happen."
A trade is still possible, but it will be tricky to convince the decision-makers to complete any transaction.
Verdict: Draft Russell
The Cousins deal seems unlikely to happen, which leaves the Lakers with Okafor and Russell as the top options.
While both players have the opportunity to be elite performers, it's important to consider the future in both cases. With Russell, the squad could have a legitimate point guard of the future who could also play the 2 if needed.
Meanwhile, there are other ways to add to the frontcourt, as ESPN's Baxter Holmes noted:
Conversely, Okafor wouldn't pair well with Randle. Both players are offensive-minded big men with limited range, neither of whom can spread the floor or protect the rim. The squad could end up in better shape by using its later picks to take a true shot-blocker or a stretch 4.
Although Okafor has serious talent as a low-post scorer, the versatility and upside of Russell makes him just as worthy of the No. 2 pick.
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