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The Los Angeles Lakers’ Draft Conundrum

APR 06 Div I Men's National Championship - Wisconsin v Duke

It’s that time of the year again, where every fan base feels like they’re just a few moves away from ascending to the level of becoming a contender. The NBA Draft is set to take place on Thursday night and Brooklyn, and there’s an ample amount of excitement emanating from this event for obvious reasons.

Laker Nation has been vociferous in voicing their frustrations with the organization for their inability to get the team back to elite status. With Kobe Bryant much closer to the end than the beginning, the passionate fans are singing in unison that they’d love to have their beloved star get one last crack at eclipsing six titles for his career to tie his idol Michael Jordan.

The anxiety leading up to Lottery Day had dissipated once we found out that they would be able to retain their top-5 protected pick. With the threat of losing the pick being incredibly possible, there wasn’t too much to hope for going forward. But with good news came even greater news – not only would they keep it, but they landed the No. 2 overall pick. Now the question becomes: Who’s the best fit for Los Angeles?

Karl-Anthony Towns is highly touted as being the individual who will be taken first overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. In comparison to someone like Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, his style of play seems to be most conducive to how the game is played these days. Towns is an athletic big who can run the floor and have impacts on both ends. He’s drawn a comparison to Tyson Chandler, a well-respected center who had a profound impact on the 2011 champion Mavs.

For the Kentucky Wildcats, Towns averaged 10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and a staggering 2.3 blocks per game. He might not be viewed upon as the focal point of an offense, but his playing style has prompted scouts to consider it a foregone conclusion that he’ll be the first guy off the board on draft night.

The Lakers could surely use a rim protector, a luxury they’ve been devoid of since Dwight Howard bolted for Houston. Ed Davis played that role to some degree last season, but judging upon the projected ceilings for both of these players, it would lead us to believe that Towns would be a bigger splash. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they’ll get the chance to grab him, barring some kind of bizarre news surfacing on the night of the draft.

Jahlil Okafor has intrigued the Lakers because of his eerily similar talent and style to many of the great players who’ve worn Lakers jerseys. He’s more of a back to the basket center, who can become an integral part of a team’s offense.

In his championship season with the Blue Devils, he averaged 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. Although he is assumed that he’ll be a defensive liability, Okafor is still young enough to improve his game on that end. He’s someone that you can give the basketball to when you’re in need of a basket, as he fully displayed this season with Duke.

Like any big man, the knock on him is his inability to stay out of foul trouble and his inept free throw shooting. I’m sure the Lakers wouldn’t view these as incorrigible deficiencies, so we’ll see if they will pull the trigger and take a chance on him.

It seems like the only other viable option this high in the draft for the Lakers would be D’Angelo Russell from Ohio State. He was on the radio with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd on Monday morning and he said that he considers himself to be more of a finesse player as opposed to an aggressor like a Russell Westbrook.

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 19 Div I Men's Championship - Second Round - VCU v Ohio State

Will the Lakers consider D’Angelo Russell over Jahlil Okafor?

For the Buckeyes, he averaged 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. With the Lakers in desperate need of a point guard, he will be there for the taking, although Jordan Clarkson might not view them as a team with said desperation. But in the case of taking Russell, he has shown signs of being able to play alongside Clarkson.

The Lakers are in obvious rebuild mode and the first step was experiencing some good fortunes with the Lottery. Thursday night will be considered a critical night for the franchise going forward because they can’t afford to miss the playoffs for the third straight season.

The front office is cognizant of the fact that this is becoming a guard-driven league and the Western Conference is loaded with unbelievable talent at that position. But they also realize that they need a franchise player who’ll likely take the reigns when Bryant retires and all signs point to that being Jahlil Okafor. Towns is an individual who will thrive in the NBA today because how the league is played and with the ridiculous offensive numbers coming from the center position being less prevalent.

The “who will the Lakers take” conundrum will continue over the next few days. But this is a good problem to have, isn’t it? Regardless of who they choose, this franchise will have their work cut out for them this offseason. But similar to trailing astronomical amounts in games, you can’t get it all back in one possession. Patience is the key. But sound decision making is another.

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