The Los Angeles Lakers find themselves in a difficult position once again with the NBA Draft only a couple of months away on June 22. The storied franchise is in danger of losing their first-round draft pick to the Philadelphia 76ers with the pick being top-three protected as a result of the Steve Nash trade of 2012.
As if losing a lottery pick in any draft wasn’t bad enough, this draft class is loaded with talent. The Lakers desperately need to get back on track, and adding another young player like a Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, or Josh Jackson could help them even if it were to package the pick in a trade for a proven star like Paul George or Jimmy Butler.
At this point, the Lakers have close to the odds of a coin flip to keep their pick at 46.9 percent. Of course, that’s no ideal, but it is what it is and the pick may still very well be retained when the results of the NBA Draft Lottery are in on May 16.
In this week’s Lakers Nation roundtable, we’re going with the assumption the team does keep their pick and which draft prospect is the best option for the Lakers. We posed the following question to our expert panel:
If the Lakers keep their pick, who would be the ideal player for the team to select in the 2017 NBA Draft?
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH)
The ideal player for the Lakers to draft, especially when considering the style of play Luke Walton is implementing with this team, is Lonzo Ball.
Ball’s ability to play both on and off the ball, create for himself and others with outstanding court vision, ball handling, and shooting and overall high basketball IQ would be perfect for Walton’s system. He plays the right way, and his passing becomes contagious to his teammates. He was the main reason UCLA went from below .500 to a top-10 team.
Selfishly, Josh Jackson of Kansas is my favorite player, and I do think he would be a great fit in Los Angeles as well. He plays hard every night, can play some point forward and is an excellent defender, which the Lakers sorely need. If I knew for a fact that he could shoot 35 percent from deep, I’d take him in an instant.
I’d be ecstatic with the Lakers getting either of those players, but when it comes to fitting what the Lakers, Ball is the choice.
Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand)
If the Lakers are able to keep their pick, I really don’t think they can go wrong with the guys that are projected to be the top picks. But if I had my choice of any of them it has to be the hometown guy, Lonzo Ball.
Ball is a pass-first point guard who is perfect for Luke Walton’s system and the tempo the Lakers want to play with. I think Ball and D’Angelo Russell, two gifted passers, will fit in perfectly together as Ball is not a ball dominant guard like Markelle Fultz.
Ball has his weaknesses, like any other player that is 19-years-old, but he has an ability to elevate the play of all his teammates which very few people can do at his age. He is not as good of a one-on-one defender as Josh Jackson or De’Aaron Fox, but he makes up for it with a very high basketball IQ.
He is a lot more talented, but Ball’s IQ and ability to find guys that nobody else in the gym knew was open is similar to the way Walton was as a player. So I think it’s a match made in heaven.
Nick Torres (@Nickotee)
Without a doubt, Lonzo Ball is the ideal player for the Lakers to draft if they keep their pick. While his shot and defense need improvement, he possesses elite passing skills that make it extremely difficult to overlook.
The good thing is with the Lakers is that he would not need to be a player who averages 20 points per game to start his career. His main job would be to orchestrate an efficient offense that helps get his teammates easy shot opportunities. A lineup of Ball, D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, and Ivica Zubac has the potential to do some great things down the road.
Ball would give the Lakers their first elite point guard prospect since Magic Johnson roamed around the Great Western Forum. In order for all this to come to fruition, the Lakers need to keep their top-three protected pick, and as of the moment, they have the third-worst record in the NBA. It would be in the team’s best interest if they manage to lose their remaining games so that they have a better chance at retaining their pick.
Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane)
For me, this is a difficult question that comes down to whether the Lakers should draft the best player or the best fit because I don’t think they are one in the same.
The best fit is UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, who’s size and shooting ability make him an ideal backcourt partner for D’Angelo Russell, or at least on paper anyway. Russell has spent the last few weeks proving that he may be more effective playing shooting guard, where he can take control of the offense when need be but doesn’t have to bear the full burden of running the show.
Ball, who is perhaps generous to a fault, makes sure that his pin-point accurate passes always find the open man, even if it means turning down a shot for himself. That kind of mentality would fit well in Luke Walton’s offense.
That said, I believe that Markelle Fultz is the most talented player in the draft and has the best chance of becoming a superstar. In some ways, he is similar to Russell in that he can float between guard positions and his wingspan allows him to defend larger players. I like Fultz’s defensive potential, and his ability to get into the paint on a whim, something the Lakers have lacked in a point guard for some time.
However, adding another player who is at his best attacking with the ball in his hands wouldn’t be a great fit for a team that already features that skill set in Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle.
Overall, I lean towards Fultz because I believe teams should draft the best talent and worry about fit later, but I certainly wouldn’t be disappointed with Ball, either.
In fact, at this point, just keeping the pick would have me jumping for joy.
Eric Avakian (@EAvakian5)
The obvious choice, in my opinion, has to be Lonzo Ball. Although the questions regarding his father and his interactions are serious concerns, Ball seems like the ideal fit for Luke Walton’s system.
Ball is one of the few guards in this draft that doesn’t need the ball in his hands to make an impact, with great court awareness and a knack for spacing the floor. Ball does have to make some shot adjustments entering the NBA, as players understand that Ball has difficult shooting when dribbling to his right.
However, Ball is the ideal fit that can ease the transition for D’Angelo Russell to the shooting guard position. The UCLA product also can handle the ball and play to the up-tempo style that Walton’s system demands. Many already understand that Ball ideally would like to play for Los Angeles, taking over as the point guard of the future.
Ball has a court awareness that most coaches want from their point guards, while also choosing his spots to be aggressive. In a spaced out offense, his ability to drive in would help set up his teammates for many outside opportunities.