[UPDATE 11:23 p.m. The Lakers picked forward Larry Nance Jr. of Wyoming with the No 27 pick and shooting guard Anthony Brown of Stanford with the No. 34 pick. Both players were projected as late second round picks.]
BROOKLYN - Perhaps defying conventional wisdom, the Los Angeles Lakers used the No. 2 selection of the 2015 NBA Draft on Ohio State point guard D'Angelo Russell. There had been wide speculation that general manager Mitch Kupchak would use the pick on Jahlil Okafor, a center from Duke who was projected as a potential top selection.
The Lakers need help in multiple areas, but point guard was a position that seemed somewhat covered with the emergence of standout rookie Jordan Clarkson. Yet, there has been some thought that Lakers may have a better chance of competing in the Western Conference with a young, fast backcourt. Some experts believed that Russell was a sure bet, and was capable of helping the Lakers compete immediately.
Earlier this week, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino praised Russell as one of the best passers he has seen since Magic Johnson.
Laker Nation: Congrats to Mitch Kupchak, Jim and Jeannie Buss on drafting, who I think is a future superstar in D'Angelo Russell!
â€” Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) June 25, 2015
"Man, I try to stand out wherever I go and be that star," Russell said. "I'm just a kid from Louisville with a big heart, big dream, and to be in this position in that franchise, on the West Coast in one of the most beautiful cities in the world is a great opportunity to really take my game to the next level."
He will be taking his game to the next level with one of the greatest players of all-time on the court. Russell may be in the position to learn the NBA ropes under Kobe Bryant, who will be playing in his 20th year next season.
"Man, Kobe is a great dude. Not knowing how much he has left in the tank is the scary thing, knowing how much he brings to the game, and if he leaves, what we'll lose. But I am really looking forward to him taking me under his wing, if possible, and really just feeding me the knowledge, the most knowledge he can and just letting me use that as fire against my opponents."
While Russell has the potential to be an electric player in a league that features many star guards, the Lakers may need some help in their frontcourt. There have been reports that Portland Trail Blazers' superstar forward LaMarcus Aldridge was leaning towards leaving the club as a free agent this summer and the Lakers are a strong contender for his services. He might be the Lakers only high-profile free-agent option and perhaps takes on significant importance with a DeMarcus Cousins trade failing to happen on draft day.
Meanwhile, the Lakers are not done with the draft. Kupchak will also have the opportunity to make selections with the No. 27 and No. 34 picks. While the chance of landing an impact player is much slimmer past the lottery picks, there is an opportunity to find some promising talent. Players like Tony Parker, DeAndre Jordan, Rajon Rondo and David Lee were all selected in the 20s and 30s.
The Lakers have had strong success with finding talent in the second round. Aside from Clarkson, the Lakers also landed Marc Gasol, Nick Van Exel, Ronnie Turiaf and Luke Walton in the second round. In the late first round, the Lakers picked Vlade Divac, Elden Campbell, Derek Fisher, Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar.
This year, the Lakers may be interested in adding athleticism in the frontcourt. Power forward Jarrell Martin of LSU might be a strong pick consider his 6'9 frame and excellent leaping ability. Adding Martin might mean head coach Byron Scott can use him off the bench to spell Julius Randle.
Another player Kupchak might think about is UCLA forward Kevon Looney, though he may not be available at No. 27. Should Looney slip to the Lakers, he could be a major steal. Looney showed improvement in Westwood as the season progressed, and entered his freshman season as a highly touted star.
Other players that could be on Kupchak's radar include Spanish center Guillermo Hernangomez, Bowling Green power forward Richaun Holmes and Syracuse forward Rakeem Christmas. A possible guard might be R.J. Hunter of Georgia State.