When the Los Angeles Lakers landed the second pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the team was initially linked to traditional center Jahlil Okafor. They eventually decided on point guard D’Angelo Russell and selected him, but fourth overall pick, Kristaps Porzingis, looks like the next big superstar.
The Lakers were reportedly intrigued by the 7’3″ Latvian big man and they did have a private workout with Porzingis before the draft. Former Lakers coach Byron Scott even said the Lakers had a serious discussion about taking him second overall, but the team believed he would take too long to develop.
The Lakers were obviously wrong about Porzingis’ NBA readiness, but according to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report, the Lakers were worried too much about testing Porzingis’ physicality in his private workout:
“The Lakers, though, wanted to test Porzingis’ physicality, and especially his “bigness,” in that workout. They overvalued Porzingis’ need to prove he could play in the low post and wrongly equated his shaky stamina with his overall NBA readiness.”
The Lakers had assistant coach Mark Madsen guard Porzingis and the resulting workout was not what was expected from Porzingis’ agent, but the results are reportedly what led to the Lakers to lock in on Russell:
“The physicality of the Lakers’ workout was not what Porzingis’ agent, Andy Miller, had expected or approved. But the results led the Lakers to lock in on D’Angelo Russell despite how intrigued they’d been with Porzingis, one of the few quibbles anyone could have with how well they’ve scouted lately.”
Not even one-third of the way through their second season, it is still too early to decide who will be the best players in the draft class. Porzingis and Karl-Anthony Towns look like future superstars, but players like Russell, Devin Booker, Myles Turner, and Justise Winslow have all shown flashes as well.
The Lakers may have potentially done some things wrong in the lead-up to the draft, but judging if they made the right pick this soon is just impossible. Even if Russell never turns out to be as good as Porzingis, he could still be a very good NBA player for a long time.
Russell had shown improvement at the outset of this season before a knee injury sat him down for a couple of weeks. He is averaging 15.1 points and 4.9 assists this season.