Lakers Rumors: Latest Trade Buzz on 2nd Overall Pick, Top Free-Agent Targets

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIJune 2, 2016

Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak talks about the announcement by Kobe Bryant of his retirement at the end of the season before an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers in Los Angeles, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers are entering one of their more pivotal offseasons in recent history, one that figures to set the tone for the future of their illustrious franchise and lift them out of a dark time.

They're off to a strong start by finding a quality successor to Byron Scott in new head coach Luke Walton. Scott was fired after guiding the Lakers to their two worst regular-season records in franchise history, so a change in leadership was certainly warranted.

Now it comes down to the personnel general manager Mitch Kupchak and Co. make available to Walton as the Lakers attempt to restore their historic organization to its former glory.

What follows is a breakdown of the latest Lakers rumors, including the buzz around their No. 2 overall draft pick and who they intend to target in free agency.

Lakers May Consider Jahlil Okafor Trade, But Likely to Keep 2nd Pick

PHILADELPHIA,PA - DECEMBER 1: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers drives baseline against the Los Angeles Lakers at Wells Fargo Center on December 1, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by d
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

ESPN insider Chad Ford responded in a Q&A to a fan's proposed trade involving Philadelphia 76ers big man Jahlil Okafor going to Los Angeles, along with Philly's top 2017 draft pick, in exchange for this year's No. 2 overall choice.

Ford said the Lakers "might" consider that because they loved Okafor while evaluating him for the 2015 draft, but he acknowledged that the price would be high for the Sixers.

Whatever the offer may be, there's certainly a scenario in which a trade like that could be pulled off.

L.A. would have the second and third picks from the 2015 draft in D'Angelo Russell and Okafor, while Philadelphia would presumably collect this year's consensus two top players in Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram.

Kupchak acknowledged the Lakers have a big need up front in a recent interview with TNT analyst David Aldridge:

If you look at our depth chart, you can make an argument that we need a player in the frontcourt. We need a big. Jordan [Clarkson] is a free agent, and we'd like to sign him. D'Angelo, we're very high on, and we have Lou Williams. I think we're more set in the backcourt than the frontcourt. Two days after the lottery, that's where we are. In six weeks, we'll see.

But also included in the Aldridge report is his inkling the Lakers won't make any moves at No. 2 overall and will instead take either Simmons or Ingram. Aldridge wrote, "Few expect the Lakers to move the pick, after all the angst they had to go through this year to secure it."

The angst Aldridge mentioned referenced how if the Lakers' pick fell out of the top three, Philadelphia would've wound up with it. How ironic it would be for Los Angeles to sweat out even getting the second pick in the first place, only to ultimately package it as part of an Okafor trade.

Whether L.A. lands a versatile point forward like Simmons or a lengthy, lights-out shooter on the wing like Ingram, Kupchak can't really go wrong.

It's an interesting balance for the Lakers to strike between what's best for the long-term future and who can make a more immediate impact.

As dynamic an offense as a future frontcourt of Julius Randle and Okafor could be, the Lakers need defense badly. They could opt instead for Miami Heat star Hassan Whiteside, who's an unrestricted free agent and elite rim protector who led the NBA in blocks this past season.

DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant On Lakers' Radar?

TORONTO, ON - MAY 27:  DeMar DeRozan #10 of the Toronto Raptors reacts in the third quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre on May 27, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

L.A.'s premium draft pick is the big wild card, because whoever is selected will go a long way in determining its free-agent needs when the market opens.

In need of a 2-guard following the retirement of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, Toronto Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan is rumored to be a huge priority. Sportsnet's Michael Grange reported Los Angeles is prepared to "offer him the moon."

Should that be the case, it may come more out of desperation than a real desire to make DeRozan a max-contract recipient.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders believes the big-name free agents aren't likely to give Los Angeles serious consideration as a destination:

Steve Kyler @stevekylerNBA

I don't think top free agents consider the Lakers... Most likely staying where they are. https://t.co/Ni8lu0mujA

If the Lakers retain restricted free agent Jordan Clarkson and stick with Russell as a franchise cornerstone, though, the need for DeRozan will be diminished. Plus, DeRozan is deeper into his career, and his game relies on a lot of long two-point shots.

As the Golden State Warriors have proved—Walton is currently one of their assistant coaches—execution from beyond the arc is the way of the NBA's future. Clarkson and Russell are superior to DeRozan in that area.

The Raptors veteran just shot 15.4 percent from deep in the postseason, making him less than ideal for Walton's system. Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding also went against Grange's report recently, suggesting DeRozan isn't as rampant as some may believe:

Noah Coslov @NoahCoslov

From @KevinDing with us @br_radio on #Lakers: “There’s a lot of presumption about Derozan and I’m told the Lakers aren’t that high on him"

Both Clarkson and Russell are combo guards who can run the point or play the 2, so DeRozan would be an overpriced, burdensome accessory and a No. 2 franchise player at best.

ESPN's Marc Stein reported Tuesday the Lakers are one of eight teams expected to pursue Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant this summer.

Now that's a free-agent move Los Angeles can fully get behind.

Durant is a multiple scoring champion and league MVP who has one of the most versatile offensive skill sets in the Association. He has lifted his game on the defensive end in recent years to a large degree, too.

The Lakers present Durant with a big-market destination, the chance to be the alpha dog and a golden opportunity to carve out an epic legacy for the prime of his career. Catalyzing a turnaround in L.A. would be a massive achievement, and a realistic one at that, for Durant.

Although much of what the Lakers do on the open market will be dictated by draft night, they should put their best foot forward and do all they can to lure Durant and provide a huge spark to their rebuild.


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