Lakers Rumors: Latest Buzz on Jordan Clarkson, Draft Plans and More

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJune 10, 2016

Jordan Clarkson is the latest to hear his name on the rumor mill when it comes to the Lakers.
Jordan Clarkson is the latest to hear his name on the rumor mill when it comes to the Lakers.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers remain one of the rumor market's headline acts ahead of the 2016 NBA draft and free agency.

Being the Lakers sure doesn't hurt. Even without such a prestigious brand and market, a team undergoing one of the Association's most significant rebuilds under the supervision of a new head coach and featuring young stars, a possible top-two pick and salary cap to play with in free agency demands attention.

Got all that? This is one of the offseasons that folks have circled on the calendar for years when it comes to the Lakers. Slowly, the rumors trickling out of the woodwork confirm big things might be in the cards for the organization.

Here's a look at the latest rumblings with the draft approaching on June 23.

The No. 2 Pick Is...

...not Dragan Bender?

Maybe this isn't the most shocking development in the world. Conventional wisdom has suggested for the better part of a year that Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram would be the one-two punch at the top of the 2016 class.

Alas, a guy with the traits Bender brings to the table always stands a chance at disrupting the draft. At least until he doesn't, according to reporter David Pick:

David Pick @IAmDPick

Told the Los Angeles Lakers have fallen out of interest in Dragan Bender. Sounds like No. 2 pick is Brandon Ingram.

It's interesting to hear that a team with as many needs as the Lakers could lose interest in a guy who's 7'1" and 216 pounds and has the ability to shoot from anywhere on the court.

One could argue for Bender in one of two ways: Either the Lakers already have Julius Randle down low and want him to develop, or they could pair Bender with Randle and let the former's shooting free up space for the latter.

Regardless, it sounds like the Lakers would rather add a pro-ready hybrid player such as Ingram, who can score well from all ranges after averaging 17.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a freshman with Duke last year.

Ingram, like Bender, wouldn't fix everything overnight. But he would contribute more right out of the gate and generate some excitement while growing with a strong young core.

Oh, and Ingram would go a much longer way toward helping the Lakers recruit big free agents than Bender would, given the project status of the international star.

Interest in Skal Labissiere?

Kentucky's Skal Labissiere is one of the more polarizing players in the 2016 class, so of course the Lakers would have an interest in bringing him on board.

Kidding aside, Labissiere catches the eye at 7'0" and 216 pounds. As a freshman, he averaged only 15.8 minutes per game and mustered 6.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, yet he still decided to hit the next level.

According to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders, the Lakers will get an up-close look at the Kentucky big man soon:

Alex Kennedy @AlexKennedyNBA

Skal Labissière worked out for the Phoenix Suns today. His next workout is Friday with the Los Angeles Lakers.

It's a critical moment for both parties. Labissiere sure wouldn't mind going to the Lakers, joining a young core and learning from Roy Hibbert.

More interesting is how the Lakers can get to Labissiere. If they trade out of No. 2, he could be a target later in the round. Or the Lakers could look to pluck him out of a fall with the No. 32 pick.

There isn't an easy way to predict where Labissiere will end up. He had a rocky one-and-done season, but the upside of a guy his size is usually worth the risk in today's NBA.

If the Lakers choose to find an eventual Hibbert replacement and not grab one of Simmons or Ingram, it will probably say quite a lot about how the team intends to attack free agency. Said attack might start with Kevin and end with Durant. 

Budding Jordan Clarkson-Knicks Storyline

It's hard to imagine the Lakers don't want to keep budding guard Jordan Clarkson around for the long haul, but the New York Knicks wouldn't mind if things went in the other direction.

According to ESPN.com's Ian Begley, the Knicks have an eye for the restricted free agent: "Restricted Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson also has fans in the Knicks organization, but it seems as if Los Angeles will retain the second-year player."

It's a shocker that the franchise responsible for playing Jose Calderon as a starting point guard in 2015 wants a young upgrade, right?

More interesting from Begley's report is the fact that it doesn't sound likely that the Lakers will let Clarkson walk. That makes sense after the 24-year-old guard posted averages of 15.5 points, 2.4 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game last year while pairing well with backcourt partner D'Angelo Russell.

Clarkson sounds like a guy who wants to stick around in Los Angeles and learn from head coach Luke Walton, who helped Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors as an assistant, as captured by Begley's colleague, Jovan Buha:

It went really well. He told me about his style of play, and how he really wants the young core to really bond together. Mostly it was about how he wants to play and how he sees us, along with the future of the franchise.

It’s definitely good to have the head man believing in you. We’re definitely going to go out there and compete for him and play hard.

Keeping Clarkson in town does much more for the Lakers than retaining a budding potential star. Doing so also shores up the spot next to Russell and ensures the Lakers can address other positions such as forward and center in the draft and free agency.

Given everything about Clarkson, though, the Knicks can't be the only team with a close eye on how the situation between the Lakers and their crucial young piece continues to develop. 

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

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