Lakers News: Latest Buzz on No. 2 Pick, Free-Agent Targets and More

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJune 23, 2016

D'Angelo Russell and Los Angeles remain heavyweights of the rumors market going into the draft.
D'Angelo Russell and Los Angeles remain heavyweights of the rumors market going into the draft.Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Of the rebuilding former juggernauts that are expected to make major splashes this summer, the New York Knicks beat the Los Angeles Lakers to the punch. 

The Knicks struck a deal with the Chicago Bulls to acquire point guard Derrick Rose, according to Knicks public relations on Twitter. This isn't to suggest the Lakers had an interest in Rose, but those who were hoping the Lakers would make a big splash will have to wait.

But not for long.

Los Angeles owns the No. 2 pick heading into Thursday's draft, and the rumor market has plenty to say about the process. Let's review the notable rumblings while the excruciating wait for the draft continues.

Lakers Tag Brandon Ingram at No. 2?

This shouldn't come as much of a shocker, but the Lakers plan on taking Duke's Brandon Ingram at No. 2. 

Granted, this would be LSU's Ben Simmons in an alternate timeline, but this one features ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst confirming a Cleveland.com report that the Philadelphia 76ers, owners of the first pick, will grab the LSU product. 

ESPN.com's Chad Ford, alongside Ramona Shelburne, shared the rumor:

Chad Ford @chadfordinsider

Barring a last minute blockbuster trade offer, the Lakers intend to select Brandon Ingram #2 league sources tell me & @ramonashelburne

The Lakers win with either player, but Ingram should excite fans because of his pro-ready game. While he might be a tad light at 6'9" and 196 pounds, Ingram averaged 17.3 points and 6.8 boards last year while shooting 41 percent from deep and prompting some interesting comparisons in a scouting report at ESPN.com:

Six-foot-10 small forwards with a 7-foot-3 wingspan don't come along very often. Ingram's shooting ability, defensive versatility and overall feel for the game could make him a future All-Star in the league. The Kevin Durant comps feel over the top. But a less athletic Paul George or a better-shooting Giannis Antetokounmpo are both real possibilities on the high end.

A Paul George lite to pair with Julius Randle and D'Angelo Russell, not to mention perhaps a veteran free agent, doesn't sound so bad, right?

This seems to be a lock now, but it's important to understand the Lakers' phone will continue to ring off the hook until they either make a deal or call a prospect's name. For now, though, Ingram seems like the safest bet. 

Lakers in on Al Horford?

The Lakers might be one of many teams after Al Horford this summer.
The Lakers might be one of many teams after Al Horford this summer.David Goldman/Associated Press

Remember the note about a potential free agent above? 

Said veteran could wind up being former Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford. Given Atlanta's disappointing fourth-place finish in the Eastern Conference and ugly sweep at the hands of the eventual champions in the conference semifinals, the Hawks don't seem like a team ready to retain the usual suspects.

Hence the team trading point guard Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.

The Lakers could capitalize on the woes of the Hawks by offering close to a max contract for Horford. He's worth it, and a note by ESPN.com's Marc Stein seems to reinforce the idea:

Marc Stein @TheSteinLine

Free Agency Rumble: Orlando, Detroit and the Lakers are all among the teams that intend to make a run at Atlanta big man Al Horford.

Horford, 30, posted 15.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game last year despite fading in terms of priority on offense.

Los Angeles doesn't need Horford to be a top option; instead, he can be a mentor for Randle down low, an upgrade over Roy Hibbert and a strong defensive presence.

While it's hard to know how Horford would rank the teams that are ready to throw cash his way, it's clear the Lakers wouldn't mind upgrading at center through big spending if necessary.

Lakers Shoot Down D'Angelo Russell Rumors

Let the rumor mill tell it, and one rookie mistake by Russell and the ensuing never-ending drama with Nick Young will encourage the team to trade the promising point guard.

So said a rumor last week from ESPN's Chad Ford on SportsCenter (h/t CBS Sports), suggesting the Lakers might dish Russell in exchange for another pick.

The Lakers, though, have been quick to shoot down any such thing, as Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News explained:

Mark Medina @MarkG_Medina

D'Angelo Russell not worried about trade rumors for a simple reason. He said Mitch Kupchak texted him and said not to worry about it.

“You hear trade talks,” Russell said, according to Medina. “Then you get a text from your [general manager] saying he trusts your work ethic and don’t worry about it.”

It's only natural for Russell to come up in trade rumors. He's perhaps the lone asset the Lakers can dangle on the market for a serious return, and the aforementioned drama only made it easier for folks to bring up the idea. 

In reality, Russell was the No. 2 pick just one year ago, and some would say former coach Byron Scott didn't use him well, not to mention he had to learn while playing with Kobe Bryant. Through all that, Russell managed to show some promise, averaging 13.2 points and 3.3 assists per game.

It seems unlikely the Lakers would let Russell slip away just to start over with another rookie point or spend the max on one in a mediocre free-agent class. If they keep Russell, they could have an All-Star on their hands and spend the cash on a guy like Horford to round out a quality lineup.

Many times quotes such as these are necessary just so a team can control the message and not reveal anything. The Lakers standing behind Russell, though, seems like a legitimate public backing with no chance of things swinging in the opposite direction.

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

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