It’s been nothing short of a disastrous period for the Lakers and their fans these past few years.
Having endured the departures of talented players Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, it’d be considered an understatement to say the purple and gold hasn’t had much go their way as of late.
But today is a new day.
Better yet, today potentially breeds a new dawn that the Lakers and their fanbase have so desperately craved for some time. Having suffered a franchise-worst 21-61 record for the 2014-15 season, the Lakers found themselves in a tough spot with little wiggle room for improvement.
Some pundits will pin this on Kobe Bryant’s enormous contract (two years, $48.5 million) that tied up a portion of the team’s salary, something that many believe prevented the organization from bringing in any real help.
Others, meanwhile, argue that the organization’s apparent lack of luster in the free agent market has been due to the team missing a real foundation to build on, as they’ve filled the roster with players mostly on one-year deals over the past two seasons.
Simply put, the purple and gold needed some semblance of hope this offseason that they might be able to capitalize on – and they got it.
Headed into the lottery this year with the projected 4th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Lakers understandably felt mixed emotions of anxiety and nervousness in the run up to their date with destiny.
With a projected 83% chance of keeping the pick, 37% chance at moving up into the top 3, and 17% chance at losing the pick entirely, it was no secret that the result of this lottery would hold implications – good or bad – when it comes to the future of this franchise.
But alas, the Lakers need not worry about anything as fate has assuredly been on their side this time around.
As you all know by now, the Lakers were granted the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft, and the crop of players up for grabs this year certainly have a lot of potential.
Now, I believe that the next moves the Lakers make will be of the upmost importance for the team. Not only must they execute the pick accordingly with the right choice, but they must also have clarity in deciding what they should do with it.
A number 2 pick in the draft is a substantially valuable asset – possibly big enough to alter the state of an entire franchise for the better.
The way I see it, the Lakers have two options in progressing throughout the offseason with this valuable pick.
One, they can go the safe – and more comforting – route and draft Karl Anthony-Towns or Jahlil Okafor, or they can go the more belligerent route and shop the pick for an established star.
Obviously, the better option would be to keep the pick and build a young, solid core that could develop into something special, but knowing the Lakers and the way they have been known to take high stake risks, it should not be ruled out that they possibly make the calculated risk of trading for a star.
What star, might you say? Well, that’ll be an interesting question to answer.
I think all things considered, the Lakers couldn’t possibly make such a high-risk gamble with a star who was one year displaced from free agency. They learned this the hard way back in 2013 when they traded for Howard in what at first seemed like an interesting situation (be it that they brought in Steve Nash prior to getting Dwight), but would soon collapse right before their very eyes with the ensuing injury-riddled season that would come thereafter.
Should the Lakers look to trade the pick for a star, then I think trading it for a player like DeMarcus Cousins would be a reasonable idea.
Cousins recently signed a 4-year maximum contract extension with the Sacramento Kings worth approximately $62 million dollars. He will remain under contract until the end of the 2017-18 season which is still three years away.
Trading for Cousins would give the Lakers a three-year window to build a roster around him that could suffice for a deep playoff run, something that I wouldn’t consider that difficult once you had a player like him on board.
How about Russell Westbrook?
Westbrook, who was the runner-up for this years MVP award, failed to lead his team into the playoffs following a season that saw Kevin Durant play a mere 27 games due to a foot injury.
Unfortunately – unlike Cousins – Westbrook’s contract expires at the end of the 2016-17 season, thus only permitting the Lakers a slim two-year window to try and satisfy Westbrook enough for him to remain in Los Angeles long-term.
Would the Lakers dare take such a risk? I’d like to think they wouldn’t, especially when you have a player like Jordan Clarkson with such high upside on your team.
Heck, maybe this is just all for naught. The Lakers have such an asset with the number 2 pick that I wouldn’t argue against them keeping it and possibly utilizing it as a strong side-pitch to acquire a player like Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge or anyone of that sort who might be available come this offseason. The names on that list fall nothing short of exceptionally talented players.
Ultimately, I believe it’s safe to say that the Lakers WILL have a much better product on the floor come next season now that they have managed to acquire the number 2 pick in the draft.
However, will they be good enough to contend for a playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference?
That’s the real question.
But with a rising young player like Clarkson, a rejuvenated Julius Randle AND a motivated Kobe Bryant, all backed by the number 2 pick which will likely be either Towns or Okafor? I wouldn’t rule out their chances.