When 2nd Place Feels Like 1st: What Does the 2nd Pick in the 2016 NBA Draft Mean for the Lakers?


Picking first in next month’s draft would have presented the Lakers with a tough choice. Now, by the time they’re on the clock, the hard work will have been done for them.

I, and the entire basketball world, would be shocked if Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram didn’t go one and two right, one after the other. With the Lakers 2nd pick, they won’t really have a choice; the team will gladly accept whomever the Sixers don’t take out of the two.

If the Sixers select Simmons, he offers them a transcendent player and potential superstar, the exact type of draft pick Sam Hinkie’s process was designed to attain. That would leave the Lakers with Ingram.

Let’s be honest. Ingram is the best fit for this Lakers team of the two. He plugs the whole at small forward that Anthony Brown simply won’t be able to fill, and lets Larry Nance and Julius Randle push each other at the power forward position. Ingram’s shooting will help open the floor while Randle develops his mid-range game, especially since whatever big man the Lakers manage to attain in free agency or the second round most likely won’t be hitting threes (read: Al Horford isn’t coming to LA).

His scoring will help take some of the defensive pressure off of Clarkson and Russell as well. Ingram operates well out of the post already, but needs more weight on his frame in order to really back down NBA-sized defenders and show off that turnaround jumper he used as a Blue Devil. He’s got good footwork and a nice touch around the basket; but once again, his ability to get to the hoop at the next level will heavily depend on how much strength he can gain.

Defensively, Ingram has the potential to be special. His length will be a huge asset; he showed he can recover from defensive lapses with the wraparound steal or chase down block in college. His closeout footwork and overall technique will have to improve, but you can say that about any rookie. He has the raw tools to develop into a solid wing defender, which is exactly what the Lakers need.

On the other hand, Philadelphia has spacing and positional issues with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, and Dario Saric. They could decide that what they need is some shooting on the wing, and a player with defensive potential to augment their continuous improvement on that side of the ball. That would make Ingram the better fit for the Sixers, leaving Simmons to don the purple and gold.

What a sight. Simmons, childhood friends with D’Angelo Russell, would immediately give last year’s number two pick an ally in the locker room, needed after last year’s fiasco with Nick Young. His playmaking ability would seamlessly mesh with Walton’s desire to play more up-tempo, and in today’s NBA, there’s no such thing as too many playmakers.

Simmons has been touted as a potential superstar, and with him and Russell pushing each other to the limit, the Lakers’ young core would look promising. Both of them are willing passers who thrive when setting up baskets for their teammates. Those are the type of players free agents want to win with; that attitude would be a stark contrast from the Kobe days.

Simmons, however, would present the Lakers with a roster problem. Both he and Randle would most likely need to play the four, leaving one as the odd man out. While Randle could come off the bench, his value as a trade piece would likely be too high for the Lakers’ not to cash in. I’ve been enamored with Randle since his Kentucky days, but if the Lakers manage to draft Simmons, it would be foolish for the front office not to field offers for Randle and at least gauge interest.

When a team is picking this close to the top, it’s always better to draft the best player available, rather than thinking about team fit. Thankfully, the Lakers don’t really have to consider either. No matter who the Sixers select, the Lakers will have a good young player to add to the core.

Still, who the team ends up with in the June 23rd draft will have a large effect on who they chase in free agency come July. Simmons’ addition makes it less likely the Lakers pursue Demar DeRozan, since they’ll need more outside shooting to make up for Simmons’ deficiencies. Meanwhile, Ingram’s presence will open up the team’s possibilities more, allowing the front office more flexibility due to the forward’s ability to stretch the floor. Who knows? Maybe Mitch and the front office see more in Dragan Bender than either of the two. But for a team whose only option for the past few year was “wait until Kobe retires,” this wealth of choice is a welcome change.
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