Lakers Draft 2015: Should the Lakers take Kristaps Porzingis second overall?

Editor’s Note: Lakers Outsiders would like to welcome our newest contributor, Eric Yee, to the team. Here is his debut piece:

While Karl Anthony-Towns is, and should be, the overwhelming favorite for the first overall pick, rumors about what the Lakers will do with their second overall pick have been abundant. From the Lakers being “locked in” on selecting Jahlil Okafor, to the conspiracy that D’Angelo Russell canceled his workout with the 76ers because the Lakers promised him he wouldn’t fall past second, one of the most intriguing rumors currently surrounding the Lakers is that Kristaps Porzingis has crept into the conversation for the second overall pick.

Numbers Don’t Lie

Unlike the other two bigs atop draft boards in Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor, Porzingis is a true 7 footer, standing 7’1 without shoes, boasting a draft high 7’6 wingspan per Chad Ford, but weighs a measly 230 pounds. To put this in perspective, at 6’6 Kobe Bryant weighs only 15 pounds less. That said, weight can be added or shed with relative ease, the same can’t be said about length.

While his college counterparts put up more impressive numbers last season — i.e. Okafor vs. Porzingis, 17.3p/8.5reb/1.4blk vs. 11.0p/4.6reb/1.0blk — this can most heavily be attributed to the difference of playing time per game, roles on their respective teams, and most importantly the competition they faced. Often considered the second best league in the world, Porzingis played in Liga ACB which features professional teams and players that would have dominated even the best college teams.

Offensive/Defensive Prowess

When it comes to offense, Porzingis isn’t your dad’s European prospect. Not only is he a silky smooth, finesse player who glides along the court firing threes and mid range jumpshots with ease but Porzingis possesses surprising athleticism for his size, often attempting to throw down powerful dunks despite his lanky frame. The striking difference between Porzingis and his European predecessors is that he seems determined to shake his “soft, passive European” tag by any means necessary.

Porzingis’ main disadvantage will be adjusting to the size and speed of the NBA. That said, knowing his inability to bang with the bigs, his development of a midrange stepback and faceup game demonstrates maturity beyond his years. Even Kevin Garnett has taken notice.

In an recent interview with Adrian Wojnarowski, Garnett said:

I love his face-up game. He’s got that mid-range shot. I’ve seen a lot of tape where he plays against guys like Shaq [O’Neal], a guy he can’t bang inside with. So faces up, does his little step-back move … Amazing.

The article also features LaMarcus Aldridge and Anthony Davis speaking highly of him; translation, he’s obviously doing something right. In comparison to Jahlil Okafor and D’Angelo Russell, who are considered his prime competition at the two spot, scouts don’t seem too worried about Porzingis’ ability to defend. This is probably due to the fact that on top of his massive wingspan, his lightweight frame allows him to better defend the pick and roll not only when hedging but also when required to switch.

In contrast, his problems will come from defending the post against the Zach Randolphs of the league, creating a classic paradox where his greatest strength is also his greatest weakness. To be successful, Porzingis would obviously be required to fix this by bulking up each offseason, something that he’s proven he’s capable of doing while overseas.

Delving Into the Unknown

When drafting any player, what makes the process so exciting, and daunting, is the unknown.

Scouts around the league have put it best saying if you take Okafor or Russell and they’re a bust, you’re fine, but if you take Porzingis over them and he’s a bust, you’re fired. In a league filled with so many precautionary tales of taking European stars, Porzingis might just be the outlier we’ve been waiting for.

Porzingis represents the future, the stretch five. Porzingis is the home run swing, or subsequent strike out. Porzingis is the huge bonus, or sad firing. Is this the turning of the tide, the year the Purple and Gold finally embrace the future?

Personally, I doubt the risk averse Mitch Kupchak pulls the trigger, but I’m just as excited as you are to find out.

Fear not Lakers fans, summer is here.

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