Seemingly everyone thought the Los Angeles Lakers would take Jahlil Okafor with the second overall pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday.
Well, seemingly everyone was wrong.
As it turned out, the Lakers took the top guard on the board, Ohio State product D’Angelo Russell, who last season averaged 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists – as a freshman.
Who knows? The Lakers just may have their backcourt set for the next decade.
“I think what the club is thinking is he’s a perfect complement to Jordan Clarkson, the surprise rookie they got in the second round last year,” Los Angeles Daily News columnist Vincent Bonsignore said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Another piece will be Julius Randle, who missed all of last year. He was a lottery pick and broke his leg in the first game of the season. So I think (Russell) fits in with a young core that they believe they can continue to add to this summer. They have $20 million or so to spend in free agency. I don’t think that they’re not going to spend that. I believe that they will spend that – or as much of it as they possibly can – to bring in a star player. So you could theoretically be looking at Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, whoever they get in free agency, Kobe Bryant, and all of a sudden things are starting to look much much brighter out here than they have the last couple of years.”
But who will that free-agent piece be? Who is at the top of the Lakers’ wish list?
“Well, already we’re starting to hear some rumors about LaMarcus Aldridge being interested in the Lakers,” Bonsignore said. “And now when you start thinking of a backcourt of Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell, all of a sudden that looks pretty enticing for a young big who needs room to operate. You have two perimeter players who can space the floor.”
Aldridge, 29, averaged a career-high 23.4 points last season to go with 10.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game.
The Lakers are also interested in Kevin Love.
“He’s always been attached to the Lakers in some form or fashion,” Bonsignore said. “But they’ll make a run at all the top guys. I would think that out of that group, I do believe they’ll land at least one of them or for sure one of them. Not sure who exactly it would be, but if you’re believing the rumors, then LaMarcus Aldridge is a real possibility and all of a sudden that changes the Lakers around real quick.”
Los Angeles has missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons, going 48-116 (.293) in the process, and hasn’t advanced past the Western Conference semifinals since 2010.
“Let’s face it: Their roster besides these young assets that they have is wide open,” Bonsignore said. “Now there’s probably two open spots or at least one open spot that they need, and it’s all about star power out here, so they’re going to swing for the fences. They always do. Whether Kevin Love wants to leave Cleveland or come to Los Angeles . . . they’re going to make a run at all these guys – at all the top-tier guys – and hope they land one.”