Most projections for how the NBA Draft will begin involve Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor going one and two (in some order) to the Timberwolves and the Lakers, with the Sixers scooping up D’Angelo Russell at three.
But as we get closer, both L.A. and Minnesota seem to be more carefully considering Russell.
The Timberwolves are thinking about him at one, which would be a bold but not completely crazy choice. And front office types believe the Lakers could grab him at two — partially because some feel Russell is worthy, but also because of who L.A. already has on its roster.
Away from the consensus, distanced from the assumptions, there is a logical case to be made for the Lakers to take Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell with the second pick in the June 25 Draft and not simply inherit the big man the Timberwolves do not take at No. 1.
There is such a logical case, in fact, that front offices outside Los Angeles buy the premise without hesitation. Russell is considered that good — “I would take him No. 1,” said an executive with a team that isn’t picking high enough to be impacted by the top five being shuffled — and the Lakers have that unique of circumstances.
The thinking is that Okafor, while skilled offensively with an advanced low post game for someone of his age, is a duplication of Julius Randle, the Lakers rookie who missed all but opening night of last season with a fractured leg injury. It would make more sense, then, to add a stellar and dynamic scoring threat on the perimeter to complement Randle, and balance out the roster.
There are far too many what-ifs at this point to truly know which way a team is leaning. There will be individual workouts and interviews, like the one the Lakers held with Emmanuel Mudiay on Saturday, that will factor into all of these decisions. But what is becoming clear is that Russell is firmly in the mix to be considered at the top of this draft class.