The Los Angeles Lakers don’t know where they’ll be picking in the 2016 NBA Draft, but it isn’t hard to narrow down their potential selections to a few players. Head coach Bryon Scott may have a top-three prospect on his roster or no first-round pick at all.
The Philadelphia 76ers could very well end up with the Lakers’ No.1 pick in June’s draft. The selection is top-three protected, meaning Los Angeles will keep the pick if it falls within the first three selections. The Lakers pick was originally sent to the Phoenix Sun in the trade for Steve Nash, but the 76ers acquired it in a deal involving Brandon Knight and Michael Carter-Williams. The NBA Draft Lottery will determine the order of this year’s draft on May 19.
Finishing the regular-season with the NBA’s second-worst record at 17-65, the 76ers have a 44.2 percent chance of landing the Lakers' pick at No.4 or No.5. The Lakers are right behind the 76ers, with the best odds to get the No.1 overall selection at 19.9 percent. The Lakers have an 18.8 percent chance to land the No.2 pick, and there’s a 17.1 percent chance they’ll pick third.
If the Lakers land the top pick, they will likely select Ben Simmons of LSU. The star forward began the 2015-2016 college basketball season as the No.1 prospect, and was named to the AP All-American Second Team with 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game as a freshman. But he is no longer considered a lock, as he lacks a reliable outside shot and failed to carry the Tigers to much team success.
Another option is Brandon Ingram of Duke. The freshman small forward averaged 17.3 points and 6.8 rebounds in his first season, helping the Blue Devils reach the Sweet 16. He made over 41 percent of his threes, and at 6’9, he’s received some comparisons to Kevin Durant.
No matter what the Lakers decide to do, it appears that if they do have a first-rounder, they’ll use it on a forward that’s under 20 years old. The top three players in this year’s draft are young, frontcourt players, which works out well for Los Angeles, who has a young backcourt with D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson.
Dragan Bender is widely regarded as the third-best player in the draft, and he’ll likely be the Lakers' choice if they have the No.3 pick. The 18-year-old from Croatia stands at 7’0 with a tremendous upside. Following a season in which two of the top three rookies were international big men (Kristaps Porzingis and Nikola Jokic) it would make sense for the Lakers to take Bender if Simmons and Ingram aren’t available.
Now that Kobe Bryant has retired, it’s possible that L.A. might look for his replacement and draft a shooting guard. Providence’s Kris Dunn was a combo guard with the Friars, but he might be the most talented scorer in the draft, and the Lakers could consider him at No.3. Los Angeles could give some thought to Kentucky’s Jamal Murray at No.3, as well, along with Buddy Hield of Oklahoma.
The Lakers drafted Russell at No.2 overall last year, and Julius Randle at No. 7 in 2014. The Lakers have only had two other lottery picks (Eddie Jones at No. 10 in 1994 and Andrew Bynum No. 10 in 2005), and L.A. hasn't drafted first overall since they took James Worthy in 1982.