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Lakers Draft: Lonzo, George or a Surprise?

June 19th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, Kobe, Lakers, NBA

How hard must it be to be the top brass of the Los Angeles Lakers, at this moment?

They have the No. 2 pick in the draft, but no first-round pick next year, and they have some hard decisions to make — with the very real possibility if they get things wrong, come Thursday, their hopes of becoming relevant in the near term, in Los Angeles and the NBA, will vanish.

Typically, when you spend a lot of time thinking about a particular sports team, you eventually find your way to a plan you are confident is the best.

Not this time. Not for me.

It looks something like this:

Way back when — like, a month ago –the notion was that the Lakers would draft UCLA and Chino Hills point guard Lonzo Ball with the pick, and would let him run the team.

He would play the point, D’Angelo Russell would move over to shooting guard, and the climb to respectability would commence.

But then came two bits of information, leaking out of NBA sources.

–That the Lakers were not all that impressed with Lonzo Ball. And not because of his bombastic father, LaVar. It may have come down to the Lakers meeting him and, more importantly, to UCLA’s tournament game with Kentucky in which Ball was thoroughly outplayed by De’Aaron Fox, the Wildcats point guard. Among other things, it made the Lakers wonder about Ball’s competitive drive, not to mention other concepts like his apparent inability to make two-point shots, which still have some value in the NBA.

Which sent the Lakers off on a search, some report, to find a better way to use their high pick.

–One way? Trade it to the Indiana Pacers for Paul George, the high-scoring forward. Or, even better, see if they can keep the pick and put together some sort of package, with Russell the key asset, and still get George.

George is an NBA star here and now. Anyone who saw how well he competed in the Pacers’ first-round matchup with the Cavaliers knows that George more than held his own, despite the Cavs sweeping.

This is not a situation where the Lakers will not know for a year or three whether George is an elite performer. He is.

George is from Southern California and has indicated he would like to play for the Lakers.

Right now.

The sense seems to be that if the Lakers do not move for him now, George, who is coming up on the last year of his contract in Indiana, will wind up with LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Leaving the Lakers with the potentially hopeless situation of trying to pry George loose from the Cavaliers at the end of next season. Presumably after George has played in the NBA Finals with LeBron and the Cavaliers. The thinking is he would not be keen to swap potential championships with LeBron to join the baby Lakers. It may be now or never, for George and the Lakers.

So, would they keep the pick and go in another direction? Perhaps with shooting forward Josh Jackson, the three-point specialist?

Or is No. 2 too high a pick to spend on Jackson? Should the Lakers trade down and see if they can get two picks later picks for their No. 2?

The options are numerous and the consequences ultra-significant.

This could be the last best chance for the Lakers to get a difference-making player who can help prove a lightning rod for bringing in free agents — which the club has lacked since Kobe Bryant was in the final years of his prime — which touched off their years of being an NBA doormat and second banana in their own arena to the Los Angeles Clippers.

I do not envy Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, the club’s top basketball operations executives.

So many ways this can go wrong. And Magic and Pelinka will have no place to hide, if it does.

It will be very interesting to see how this shakes out. It is nervous time, for Lakers fans. Again.



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