There is still plenty of due diligence to be completed between now and June 23, the night of the 2016 NBA Draft. The Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers hold the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the draft, respectively, but there has been very little mystery in terms of which players will be selected in those slots.
All signs have indicated thus far that the Sixers will select Ben Simmons out of LSU. It was reported that they are leaning heavily towards drafting the remarkably skilled 19-year-old, and nothing has changed on that front, that we know of.
If that scenario plays itself out on draft night, it would leave Duke small forward Brandon Ingram available for the Lakers, providing a long overdue solution on the wing. While many have figured Simmons and Ingram, in either order, to be a foregone conclusion as the top two picks in this year’s draft, general manager Mitch Kupchak has publicly stated that he feels there isn’t much of a drop-off from No. 2 and the rest of the field, despite the consensus believing otherwise.
According to ESPN’s Chad Ford, the drop-off is steep enough that the Lakers would not consider passing on Ingram at No. 2 (h/t Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen and Roll).
While this could be simply speculation on Ford’s part, it has been widely believed for months now who the top-two picks would be.
For the Lakers, the only other player that has even been mentioned as a potential candidate to be taken second overall is Croatian big man, Dragan Bender. Kupchak made a trip overseas during the season to go scout Bender, who tallied one of his best performances with the Laker GM in attendance.
Los Angeles was reportedly heavily considering Kristaps Porzingis last year with the No. 2 pick, but ended up selecting D’Angelo Russell. Would they consider flipping the script from a year ago by taking this year’s best international prospect? Ford was asked about the possibility of Bender cracking the top-two, and shut it down quickly.
The Lakers will certainly take a look at some of the other top prospects in this year’s draft class, but their job appears to be simple. Draft whoever is left of Simmons or Ingram at No. 2, then gear up for the No. 32 overall pick.
There will always be rumors that surface leading up to the draft, but this one seems to be a slam dunk for Kupchak and the rest of the Lakers front office.