The NBA Draft Lottery occurred Tuesday night, proving to be a big night, as the outcome certainly shifted the approach many teams now have to take with the draft order set. The lottery saw the Boston Celtics receive their first #1 overall pick in history, and saw the Phoenix Suns seemingly cheated, sliding to fourth overall, despite the second-best odds at first pick (19.9%). The Los Angeles Lakers were represented by their new President of Basketball Operations, Magic Johnson, and came away with the second overall pick, jumping up a spot from their third pick prediction.
The Lakers kept their pick, and it seems likely to stay that way. With the NBA Draft order now set, with the Los Angeles pick locked at 2nd, it is time for them to start to really weigh their options and think about what they should do. This is the Lakers’ fourth consecutive year being in the NBA Lottery, as they have constructed a young core with those selections. Those players are Julius Randle (7th overall, 2014), DeAngelo Russell (2nd overall, 2015), and Brandon Ingram (2nd overall, 2016).
On top of this, the Lakers also added now 24-year-old, Larry Nance Jr., with the 27th overall pick in 2015. Los Angeles finished 26-56 this past season, but this young core is expected to eventually blossom (preferably soon) and quickly develop into a contending team in the stacked Western Conference.
With their 3rd consecutive 2nd overall pick, the Lakers look for another young asset with a lot of potential to add to the nucleus that they have already constructed. The most highly touted players in the 2017 NBA Draft are Markelle Fultz (PG/SG, Washington), Lonzo Ball (PG, UCLA), Jayson Tatum (SF, Duke), Josh Jackson (SF, Kansas), De’Aaron Fox (PG, Kentucky), Malik Monk (SG, Kentucky), Jonathan Issac (SF/PF, FSU), and Dennis Smith Jr. (PG, NC State).
The Boston Celtics are almost certainly going to select Markelle Fultz with the #1 overall pick, which would provide them with a second scorer who can shoot the ball well. This leaves the Lakers left with Ball, Tatum, Jackson, Fox, Monk, Isaac, and Smith to choose from. Many people are confident that the they will select Lonzo Ball, out of UCLA, with the second overall pick, including his very outspoken father, Lavar Ball. UCLA saw their one-and-done player average 14.6 points, 7.6 assists, and 6.0 rebounds a game –an exceptional stat line, as he led the team to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament this year.
However, it may be to the best interest of the Lakers to pass on Lonzo Ball and look elsewhere for a rookie to speed up their rebuilding process, post-Kobe. Here, we will explore the reasons as to why Los Angeles should not select the UCLA point guard with their draft pick.
1) D’Angelo Russell & Jordan Clarkson
The Los Angeles Lakers just drafted current 21-year-old point guard, D’Angelo Russell, two years ago with the 2nd overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. In his two seasons, Russell has been a good fit for the Lakers and has played a good brand of basketball. He averaged 13.2 points per game and dished out 3.3 assists per game in his rookie year, while being named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. Those numbers increased in his sophomore season, along with his production, as he averaged 15.6 points and 4.8 assists.
Russell is doing a marvelous job for the Lakers as the floor general and is looking at a bright future in LA. Lonzo Ball plays the same position as him, and neither of them will be able to translate well to the shooting guard position. Both Russell and Ball are ball dominant guards who thrive with the ball in their hands. In the case that one of them is moved to the two-guard position, we may see their production deteriorate and suffer.
On top of that, 24-year-old guard, Jordan Clarkson, just re-signed with Los Angeles last summer, inking a 4-year, $50 million deal. He has also played great basketball in Los Angeles, showing his natural ability to get to the rim, scoring 14.7 points per game on 44.5% shooting this past season.
There are not enough minutes in Los Angeles to give out and there is simply no room for Lonzo Ball to fit into the Luke Walton’s system. It would be absolutely silly to bring him in and carry these three guards at the same time.
Last season, the Los Angeles Lakers ranked dead last (30th) in the NBA when it came to defensive efficiency. The Lakers had trouble on the defensive side of the court throughout the season, giving up an average of 111.5 points per game to their opponents, who shot 48.3% from the field. As a result, they should be targeting a two-way player who can contribute to the team on both ends, such as Kansas’ forward, Josh Jackson. Ball is not a very good perimeter defender and saw himself get blown by many times over the course of the season.
If the Lakers are looking to improve their defense through the NBA Draft, Lonzo Ball is not the way to go.
3) Other Prospects
The Lakers are seemingly set on selecting either Markelle Fultz (most likely not around), Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, or De’Aaron Fox.
Josh Jackson had a very impressive season with the Kansas Jayhawks this season, proving himself to be a consistent two-way player. The 6’8 forward scored 16.3 points per game while grabbing 7.4 rebounds on a nightly basis. Jackson is a fantastic perimeter defender who suffocates his opponent. He always manages to get his hands on deflections to start fast breaks, averaging 1.7 steals per game. He also has the ability to come up with big, highlight-reel blocks with his athleticism.
Jackson is an efficient scorer as well, as his 16.3 points per game came at a 51.3% clip, including 37.8% from beyond the arc. Look for him to be on the Lakers’ watch list come draft night. If he ends up going to Los Angeles, look for him to make an immediate impact on both ends of the court.
D’Aaron Fox is easily the most athletic player in this year’s draft. His speed and quicknes are unmatched. He averaged 16.7 points with 2.6 assists per game. Fox is also one of the best perimeter defenders in the draft, with his on-ball defense being top notch. He always has his hand in the passing lane and creates a lot of deflections.
Fox pesters opposing ball handlers and came away with 1.5 steals per game on the season. In his head-to-head matchup with Lonzo Ball in the Sweet 16 game of the NCAA Tournament, Fox clearly outplayed Lonzo, outscored him 39-10. Fox shot lights out, going 13-20 (65%) from the field. His Kentucky Wildcats came away with the 86-75 win.
If the Lakers select Fox, they will be getting a promising young star who has a talent for getting to the basket and finishing, and can also play solid defense on the opposite end of the court.