As the Los Angeles Lakers fall farther away from playoff contention, many eyes have turned towards the 2017 NBA Draft and the team’s top-3 protected draft pick. This year’s draft is believed to be the deepest in years and the Lakers could definitely benefit from keeping their pick and drafting one of the top prospects.
This year’s draft class is extremely guard heavy at the top as Draft Express lists six of the top 10 players as potential point guards and most experts believe the top two are Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball.
This brings up an interesting potential question for the Lakers as D’Angelo Russell was recently drafted to be the team’s point guard of the future and has really turned it on recently. But ESPN’s Chad Ford believes that Russell’s ceiling is lesser than that of Fultz and Ball:
“While D’Angelo Russell is having a fine sophomore season for the Lakers, his ceiling is considerably lower than that of either [Markelle] Fultz or [Lonzo] Ball in my opinion […] As to whom I’d choose? It’s tough. I love both Fultz and Ball. However, my personal favorite player in this draft is Ball, and I think the L.A. native would be a star for the Lakers. Russell could conceivably move to 2-guard and give the Lakers two 6-foot-5 ball handlers.”
Ford eve brought up the Portland Trail Blazers passing on Chris Paul because they had Sebastian Telfair on the roster as a cautionary tale. Fellow ESPN draft expert Kevin Pelton added in the fact that Russell’s skills should allow him to make a great shooting guard as well:
“So far, spot-up shooting has probably been Russell’s best offensive skill (he’s made 43.2 percent of catch-and-shoot 3s this season, per SportVU tracking data on NBA.com/Stats), so moving him off the ball wouldn’t be the worst idea. And the size of Ball and Fultz makes it reasonable to play them alongside Russell defensively.”
First and foremost, the Lakers must actually keep their draft pick. They currently have the third worst record in the NBA, but have also played more games than anyone else. Where they currently stand, the Lakers would have only a 46.9 percent chance of keeping the pick and a 15.6 percent chance of landing the top overall pick.
That being said, it’s hard to argue with the idea of the Lakers picking the best player available regardless of position. As Magic Johnson has said, the franchise need a superstar and the draft is the best way for the Lakers to get one.