Under The Bleachers: Could The Los Angeles Lakers Really Screw This Up?

Under The Bleachers: Could The Los Angeles Lakers Really Screw This Up?

Tuesday evening in New York, the Los Angeles Lakers scored their biggest victory of the year, winning the silver medal in the 2016 Draft Lottery and the opportunity to take whichever of Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram doesn’t go first overall to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Lakers, coming off the worst season in franchise history, needed to stay in the Top 3 in order to keep their pick. If they fell off the podium, the pick would have gone to the Sixers, but instead, Los Angeles will send their pick in next year’s draft to the City of Brotherly Love and make a selection of their own in five weeks.


According to Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, the Lakers will actively shop the second pick. With Philadelphia likely to take Simmons, that means Los Angeles will essentially be offering teams the chance to grab Ingram in exchange for an established star, because they’re the Lakers and a multi-year rebuild featuring talented young players isn’t something this formidable franchise wants to endure.

But there are two problems with this potential approach.

First, the number of teams with legitimate stars they’ll be willing to part with in exchange for a package build around the second pick are limited. Indiana isn’t coughing up Paul George and Chicago isn’t handing over Jimmy Butler to add Ingram and spare parts from a poor Lakers team. Sacramento made another “In DeMarcus We Trust” decision in ditching George Karl, so the former Kentucky big man is likely off the block as well.

Secondly, given the current makeup of the Lakers roster and the fact that next year’s pick is heading out the door, doesn’t it make more sense to add another young piece this season and then kick the tires of premier free agents in the summer of 2017, when there will be some big names available?

With Kobe Bryant hanging up his high tops, the current foundation of this squad is the young backcourt of Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell, with Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. hanging out on the periphery. Pretty much everyone else is expendable and while having as much success as possible so that they’re not giving up a great draft pick is understandable, the Lakers need to worry about their own roster and current situation, not what is going to come to pass because of previous mistakes.

And if the Lakers truly believe that they’re still a marquee destination for free agents, you would think they could have the best of both worlds – keeping the draft pick and still bringing in quality free agents to reshape the roster at the same time.

Rather than moving the pick in hopes of landing a superstar, keep it, draft Ingram (provided Philly goes with Simmons) and see if DeMar DeRozan wants to go home to L.A. or if Hassan Whiteside wants to be the next great Lakers center or both? If Los Angeles still has the pull they think, that’s not out of the question and then you’ve instantly gone from a 17-win season to a starting lineup of Whiteside, Randle, Ingram, DeRozn and Russell, with Clarkson moved to his best role, sixth man.

That’s a good starting point, providing some trade options and putting a quality NBA scorer and consummate pro (DeRozan) in place to show the kids the ropes.

Even if it’s not DeRozan and Whiteside, there are players the Lakers can look at this offseason that will help them continue down the road to respectability and eventually contention without abandoning the rebuild that started a couple years ago and should continue.

That’s the smart, patient approach and the one the Lakers should employ, but this is Los Angeles we’re talking about, so anything is possible.

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