The Los Angeles Lakers were fortunate to move up to second overall in the 2015 NBA Draft, but with that move came a very difficult decision that the team has to make.
The top prospects in this draft class are either bigs or point guards and that presents an interesting dilemma. Many consider Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor the top two prospects. Considering the Lakers’ history of dominant big men, it seems obvious that the team would take whichever one is left after the Minnesota Timberwolves make that selection.
In recent years, however, the NBA has turned into a much more perimeter-oriented league. Of the six players to receive over 100 points in the MVP voting this past year, five were guards or wing players with Anthony Davis being the lone exception.
The days of teams being built around dominant bigs seems to be behind us as the league has morphed into one based on pace and shooting. NBA teams on average made 643 three-pointers this season, while attempting 1848. 20 years ago those numbers were 450 and 1255 respectively. Needless to say, it’s a much different game.
Many experts believe the Lakers taking a big is nearly a done deal, but with the league focused so much on perimeter play, the Lakers may be better suited grabbing the next great guard to match up with the best the NBA has to offer. So we asked our experts if the Lakers would be better off taking a guard in the NBA Draft considering the NBA being a more perimeter-oriented league. This is what they had to say:
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): I’ve been pretty adamant about wanting the Lakers to take whichever big man is there at number two and that remains the same regardless of the NBA’s perimeter style.
It looks as if Minnesota is finally turning their attention towards Karl-Anthony Towns which would leave the Lakers with Jahlil Okafor. Though he doesn’t have the athleticism or defensive ability of Towns, Okafor should still be the guy for the Lakers.
Even though they aren’t always the stars, big men remain vital to the success of every top team in the NBA. Golden State, Cleveland, Houston, the Clippers, Atlanta, Washington, Chicago, and Memphis were the last eight teams remaining and every one of them was reliant on play from someone on the block.
In Jahlil Okafor, the Lakers would be getting someone who could be the top low-post scorer in the NBA within a couple of years. Sure he isn’t the most athletic center, but most discussions about the best center in the NBA start with DeMarcus Cousins and Marc Gasol, neither of whom are athletic marvels.
At the end of the day, dominant big men are always a need in the NBA and they don’t come around often. If Towns or Okafor realize their potential they will be exactly that, which is why the Lakers should take either of them without question.
Russell Valenzuela (@RussVal4): Just because the league has evolved into a guard-dominated one, that doesn’t mean big men aren’t still important to a team’s success. It is also easier to find talent at the guard position since there are so many talented ones out there. With that premise, the Lakers should take one of the bigs with their No. 2 pick.
Although guards have had an easier time having their games translate in recent years, both Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor possess skill sets that should allow them to have an impact in the NBA with their continued growth.
With Towns, the Lakers can continue to develop their defensive identity with an excellent rim-protector. Towns will give the Lakers some flexibility within their roster with his ability to play both power forward and center. As an added bonus, Towns can also hit shots away from the rim and cause matchup problems.
As for Okafor, he will come into the league with an established post-game that’s far ahead of many starting centers. He should give opposing defenses fits and help open things up for guards and wings on the perimeter with his ability to pass from the post and out of double-teams.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): It would be easy for the Los Angeles Lakers to simply take D’Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay with the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft and call it a day because they drafted to be like everyone else in the league. Russell may be a superstar in the making, Mudiay could be a solid young player as well, but bringing in a center with potential to be the next great Lakers big man doesn’t come around every year.
Unless the Minnesota Timberwolves shock everyone by passing on Karl-Anthony Towns, the Lakers will likely end up with Jahlil Okafor. Although there’s concerns with parts of Okafor’s game and conditioning, the Duke product has impressed the Lakers brass and that’s good enough for me.
The Lakers have a long history of dominant centers from George Mikan to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Shaquille O’Neal. Even Pau Gasol can be put in the category. There’s been on constant among all the players I listed. Championships. Every single one of them has at least two titles to their credit while wearing purple and gold.
Simply put, the Lakers organization knows how to develop centers and put them to use with the right talent around them. Draft Okafor or Towns and don’t look back.[divide]