Those weren't the famous Santa Ana winds that were howling through the Southern California area Tuesday evening. It was instead the near-simultaneous massive collective sigh of relief from Lakers fans after the 2016 NBA Draft Lottery was completed. By obtaining the rights to select second in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Lakers were narrowly able to keep their precarious "Top-3-protected" draft pick and avoid an enormous hurdle in their seemingly never-ending rebuilding project.
But the Philadelphia 76ers, the team that would have received the pick if LA had dropped out of the top 3, couldn't feel too disappointed about having to wait another year for the Lakers 1st rounder. After all, they received the precious #1 pick themselves.
The general consensus is that the Lakers were fortunate not only to avoid losing the pick, but for getting to pick in the top 2. (The Lakers hated rivals, the Boston Celtics, rounded out the top 3 selecting teams.) That's because nearly everyone feels that LSU forward Ben Simmons and Duke forward Brandon Ingram are clearly the two best players in this year's draft class. As a result, most are confident that the Lakers will make the "obvious choice" and pick one of those two potential stars - the one the Sixers or the team the Sixers might trade the pick to - choose to pass on.
Undoubtedly the possibility of adding either Simmons or Ingram to next year's squad is exciting to any Lakers fan.
Simmons, who grew up in Australia, has been hugely hyped since his prep school days. In his single season at LSU, he averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists, while shooting 56.0% from the field. At 6' 10" and 240 pounds he certainly has the height and build to succeed right away in the NBA. Most impressive is his all-around game, which many believe will make him a consistent triple double threat in the league. Simmons ball handling and court vision suggest he could play "point forward" at the next level, reminding people of Lebron James or Lamar Odom, depending on how sold one is.
The major knock on Simmons is his almost non-existent perimeter game at this stage in his career. Not only did he only shoot three 3-pointers last season (making one), but he doesn't even seem comfortable shooting from beyond 15-feet. Though few doubt that part of his arsenal will improve significantly, some question whether his lack of long range shooting fits the "modern NBA" in the age of the Golden State Warriors revolution. It is hard not to note that the Lakers did just hire former Warriors assistant, Luke Walton.
Furthermore, some question Simmons' defensive intensity while other note that despite his unselfish nature and willingness to pass, Simmons seems to be relatively ineffective "off-the-ball" - essentially suggesting he needs the ball in his hands a lot of the time in order to make things happen. This begs the question as to whether he is the right "fit" with other members of the Lakers roster (D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle for example) who similarly seem to need to dominate the ball.
But considering Simmons' immense upside talent, it is hardly believable that any rational concerns about whether he "fits in" with the current Lakers squad would somehow disqualify him. The solution to those concerns would be simple - get rid of whomever doesn't fit well with Simmons rather than the other way around.
Ingram played one year of ball at Duke, averaging 17.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. He shot 44.2% from the field and 41.0% from 3. He has a lanky 6' 9" frame, with a reported 7' 3" wingspan, though he currently weighs only 195 pounds. A solid defender, Ingram will undoubtedly have to bulk up a bit over time to be a star in the NBA. Nonetheless, his offensive skills, including his rangy quick-release perimeter shot and solid handles, have drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant.
Furthermore, Ingram slides in seamlessly at the small forward position for almost any team, and unlike Simmons, seems to quickly find creases in the defense that allow him to get off his deadly jumper. Though certainly having the ability to break his man down one-on-one, Ingram could be tremendously valuable to a franchise with his catch-and-shoot ability alone.
But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. The Lakers were in a similar "no-brainer" situation last season and made things complicated. Remember?
Last year it was almost universally assumed that Karl Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor were the best prospects available in the 2015 NBA Draft. The Lakers, picking second, had the "easy choice" of selecting whichever player the Minnesota Timberwolves hadn't selected. But instead of picking Okafor (who was recently voted 5th in the ROY balloting), the Lakers selected guard D'Angelo Russell (who finished 9th).
Though few are suggesting Russell was a "bust" (as if such a thing could even be determined this early on), it would be fair to say that his rookie season was underwhelming in comparison to the hype supplied by the organization and the expectations of many.
In any case, Lakers fans undoubtedly are praying that the organization doesn't overthink this year's selection...or even package it in some deal for a quasi-star who still wouldn't be able to carry the franchise. Imagine letting one of these two guys go and watching them become a star somewhere else?! Good God the shuddering thought is too depressing to seriously consider...
No, just do the smart and obvious thing and take one of these two guys at #2. Easy, right?
If only. Sadly, nothing can be taken for granted in the Jim Buss era. Keep your fingers crossed.
The following are the results from NBA Draft Lottery 2016 presented by State Farm, which was conducted tonight at the New York Hilton Midtown. The Philadelphia 76ers will have the first overall pick in NBA Draft 2016 presented by State Farm, which will be held in Brooklyn at Barclays Center on Thursday, June 23. The draft will air live on ESPN and ESPN Radio at 7 p.m. ET.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Boston (From Brooklyn)
6. New Orleans
7. Denver (From New York)
9. Toronto (From Denver via New York)
13. Phoenix (From Washington)
The following is the order for the remainder of NBA Draft 2016 presented by State Farm:
15. Denver (From Houston)
16. Boston (From Dallas)
19. Denver (From Portland)
24. Philadelphia (From Miami via Cleveland)
25. Los Angeles Clippers
26. Philadelphia (From Oklahoma City via Denver and Cleveland)
28. Phoenix (From Cleveland via Boston)
29. San Antonio
30. Golden State
2016 SECOND ROUND DRAFT CHOICE ORDER
31. Boston (From Philadelphia via Miami)
32. Los Angeles Lakers
33. Los Angeles Clippers (From Brooklyn)
35. Boston (From Minnesota via Phoenix)
36. Milwaukee (From New Orleans via Sacramento)
37. Houston (From New York via Sacramento and Portland)
39. New Orleans (From Denver via Philadelphia)
40. New Orleans (From Sacramento)
44. Atlanta (From Washington)
45. Boston (From Memphis via Dallas)
47. Orlando (From Chicago)
48. Chicago (From Portland via Cleveland)
51. Boston (From Miami)
52. Utah (From Boston via Memphis)
53. Denver (From Charlotte via Oklahoma City)
55. Brooklyn (From Los Angeles Clippers)
56. Denver (From Oklahoma City)
57. Memphis (From Toronto)
58. Boston (From Cleveland)
59. Sacramento (From San Antonio)
60. Utah (From Golden State)
By Manish Pandya and staff news services
Writer and Co-Editor for TheDailySportsHerald.com