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Lakers Rumors: Latest Buzz on 2016 NBA Draft Plans

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2016

Los Angeles now has to decide what to do with the second pick in the 2016 draft.
Los Angeles now has to decide what to do with the second pick in the 2016 draft.Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers won the lottery.

That sounds dramatic, but general manager Mitch Kupchak and the organization gambled it all on another tanked season despite the risk of losing a pick.

The suffering got Lakers fans one last memorable ride, one of the worst seasons in franchise history and the No. 2 pick—which means a possible stab at LSU's Ben Simmons or Duke's Brandon Ingram.

Just as the team planned it. 

Kupchak and Co. now have versatility. The No. 2 pick allows the front office to go out and get a top-tier prospect to help a young foundation that already has strong upside thanks to D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle. Or the team could deal the pick and get a major, more immediate return.

Either route leads to one thing: the pursuit of major names in free agency this summer.

Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding recently revealed the Lakers will review all options, including letting the pick go. "Still, the Lakers will actively explore trading the pick," Ding wrote.

This isn't surprising, right? This is Los Angeles, a team unexpectedly willing to fight through a few years of a traditional rebuild instead of finding a way to fix things overnight. Sooner or later the tide was going to turn in this direction.

But it's more than that in large part because the Lakers need to ensure that a past mistake doesn't come back to bite them too much. Ding elaborated on a situation possibly on the horizon in next year's draft:

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.

Dealing No. 2 would net a monster haul, though two of the three names Ding mentions—Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins and Jimmy Butler—don't seem like surefire trade candidates. Only Butler does after a miserable season in Chicago, and with the Bulls set to lose Pau Gasol to free agency.

Regardless, if the Lakers want to move the pick, they will find a willing partner. It's a matter of compensation, and with a potential top-five NBA player such as Simmons or Ingram available, somebody will bite on the asking price. It's a tricky task to give the Lakers an upgrade, but teams with enough excess are out there.

But there's always the chance the Lakers will keep the pick as well, and the knee-jerk reaction seems to be that the team would pick Simmons over Ingram.

Ingram might have a better chance in such a scenario than some would think, though, as Ding pointed out: "Ingram’s drive to be great and dedication to winning, according to sources, resonated deeply with the Lakers’ front-office contingent."

It's probably a good thing the Lakers like Ingram more. After all, the main point of Ding's column is to point out how likely it is that the 76ers grab Simmons at the top.

And believe it or not, Ingram is the better fit anyway. The Lakers need a shooter in the lineup next to Randle, and Simmons doesn't offer such talent. Ingram does after knocking down 44 percent of his shots from the floor and 41 percent of his attempts from deep last year.

An Eastern Conference executive talked with the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner about how the top two prospects in the 2016 class fit with the Lakers:

But the question mark about Simmons is his shooting. Now that's the one thing you do all the time and you can get better at. But not only is he not a shooter, but he's a reluctant shooter. So if the Lakers pick him, I don't see Simmons and [Julius] Randle meshing that well. But if the Lakers get Ingram, they could throw him at small forward and keep that young nucleus together.

Based on the rumblings and logical fit analysis, it's Ingram or a high-profile trade.

Which move is better? That's up for the rest of the Association to decide via offered compensation for the second overall pick. Trading for a star before free agency is scary. Perhaps more scary, though, is a lineup featuring Russell, Clarkson, Ingram, Randle and a star center added over the summer that grows together for years.

No matter which way the Lakers go, Kupchak won't have a contender on his hands right away. Even dealing the pick and bringing on a few veterans will require a chemistry-growing period, something the entire organization will have to deal with as it adapts to new head coach Luke Walton. This is even more the case if Ingram hops on board and the core develops without a guy such as Kobe Bryant to hog most of the looks when he's on the court.

This is an exciting time for the Lakers, though it's easy to get excited about almost anything after last year. But that's underselling it—it's hard for the Lakers to mess up these opportunities. After all, the only direction to go from here is up.

Look for the Lakers to continue entertaining trade options right up until they walk to the podium. If they still have it when the buzzer rings, the Lakers would have one of the best young cores in the league with perhaps more talent on the way via summer free agency.

A better—and more realistic—reward for winning the biggest gamble the franchise could have taken is hard to imagine.

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

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