For the first time in a long time, the Lakers have the opportunity to select the next face of their franchise in the draft. They hold the No. 2 overall pick and will have plenty of talented prospects to choose from. They will have their rationale for picking whoever they pick. But one factor that GM Mitch Kupchak says will not come into play when making their decision is how a player fits with Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers have debated how they will use their No. 2 pick. Some options include Duke center Jahlil Okafor, Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell or point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who played professionally last season in China. The Lakers also have the 27th and 34th picks. Kupchak argued such a youth infusion “can make it fun for (Bryant) again,” though Kupchak hopes to add more veteran players during free agency.
Which qualities would any of those No. 2 prospects need to flourish under Bryant’s imposing presence?
“We’re not going to pick a player because he can play with Kobe, likes Kobe or dislikes Kobe,” Kupchak told Los Angeles News Group. “We’re going to pick the player that can have the longest and best career.”
Bryant is going into the final year of his contract, and his 20th season with the Lakers. Kupchak has said several times over the past few months that he expects the future Hall of Famer to retire. Bryant, however, has insisted that he hasn’t made a final decision on his future. But he’s had season-ending injuries the last three years, and all signs are pointing to this year being the end of the road. Because of that, it’s the right decision on the part of the Lakers to make a pick with their eye toward the future.