For the past few months, the consensus has been that LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram should be the top two picks in the draft. Most consider Simmons to be the top prospect, with the wiry, lanky Ingram not far behind. The Lakers, who own the second pick, would then have an extremely easy choice on draft night as all they have to do is select whichever of the big two the Philadelphia 76ers pass on with the first overall pick.
However, as we get closer to draft day (June 23rd), long-held opinions start to change. Players meet with teams for workouts and interviews, and if someone is particularly impressive they can improve their draft stock. One such player is Washington’s Marquese Chriss, who is flying up draft boards.
In fact, one anonymous NBA General Manager told ESPN’s Chad Ford that the Lakers should select Chriss with the number two pick. Ford wondered if Chriss could have a higher ceiling than Ingram:
But does he have a higher ceiling than Ingram? Perhaps. He’s a better athlete, and given his body type, he might be a better defender (if he can learn how to stay out of foul trouble).
While Chriss is an intriguing athlete and has the range to shoot outside, Ford notes that it still appears that the Lakers are locked in on Ingram (assuming Philadelphia takes Simmons):
That said, he’s not the shooter Ingram is and his floor is also much lower. Ingram is more of a sure thing. Chriss is much more raw, and while he is clearly competitive, his decision-making on the court is a lot further behind compared to Ingram.
Talking to Lakers sources, I think Ingram is the pick for L.A. at No. 2. He has similar upside to Chriss without the risks.
As Ford correctly notes, Chriss does have potential, but Ingram is the safer pick. After spending a year in the spotlight at Duke and learning under coach Mike Krzyzewski, Ingram seems ideally suited to fit into coach Luke Walton’s offense as well as handle the pressures of Los Angeles.
It also has to be mentioned that the anonymous GM could very well have an ulterior motive to suggesting Chriss should be number two. Bumping up Chriss’ draft stock could potentially cause another player the GM is interested in to slide. The pre-draft period is full of misinformation, so it’s best to take news like this with a grain of salt.
Still, it will be interesting to see where the fast-rising Chriss ends up going in the draft. Boston could take him with the third pick although they have to be excited about Jamal Murray hitting 79 out of 100 threes in a workout for them. Phoenix seems like an obvious fit with the fourth pick, but they could have a tough time turning down a prospect like Dragan Bender there.
For now, we can assume that Chriss isn’t going to be the number two pick, but anything can happen in the next two weeks.