With Karl-Anthony Towns a virtual lock to go first to the Timberwolves in tonight’s draft, the real drama starts with the question of what the Lakers will do with the No. 2 pick. The conventional wisdom has been that Duke big man Jahlil Okafor is the choice. But Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, who’s as plugged into the Lakers as anyone, is now reporting that Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell is looking like the choice:
If the Los Angeles Lakers draft Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell on Thursday night, as is the increasing likelihood, it will be for one simple reason.
They believe he is a star.
Although the Lakers respect Jahlil Okafor’s size and skill (his defensive potential, not so much), momentum and consensus have been growing in the front office that Russell, not Okafor, is the special one.
This could mean any number of different things. Maybe the Lakers are confident in passing on Okafor because they believe they’ll have a deal for another big man (cough, Boogie). Maybe this is a smokescreen to get Sam Hinkie to trade up to No. 2 to avoid losing Russell, who has been widely reported as his preferred target in the draft.
But ulterior motives aside, Russell makes a lot of sense for the Lakers. The NBA is such a perimeter-oriented league now that a player with Russell’s size who can play both guard positions and shoot is a huge asset, and a potential long-term successor to Kobe Bryant. There’s no going wrong whatever the Lakers do with this pick, but there’s a compelling case to make that Russell is the choice.