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While the Lakers may not yet know their fortunes with the 2017 NBA Draft lottery a week away, the team is reportedly already locking in on a handful of players with a potential top three pick.
Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding reported today that the Lakers are locking in on four players with their pick in Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson and De’Aaron Fox.
Either the Lakers will start locking in on UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, Washington point guard Markelle Fultz, Kansas forward Josh Jackson and under-the-radar Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox—the four players they are most considering in the top three, according to league sources…or they won’t.
Three of those names are to-be-expected with the top three pick in Ball, Fultz and Jackson. Fox, however, is a bit of a surprise.
Ding goes on to give a brief talk about each player, but the part on Fox is noteworthy.
Fox ranks behind no one, however, when it comes to speed and athleticism. And his explosiveness into the lane would be a fascinating complement to Russell’s craftiness and Ingram’s length.
At 6’4″ with defensive tenacity, Fox projects as a valuable weapon at both ends, with the ability to go from one baseline to the other in a John Wall-like blink. Fox has to improve his perimeter shot, but the mechanics are pretty solid—and the shooting was good enough to outscore Ball, 39-10, with Johnson and Pelinka in attendance, in Kentucky’s Sweet 16 elimination of UCLA.
It’s worth noting, and Ding does to a degree, that these ranking are based nearly entirely on scouting for now. Two years ago at this point, Jahlil Okafor was likely ahead of D’Angelo Russell on the Lakers’ big board, but individual workouts and meetings swayed the Lakers in Russell’s favor.
Ding notes that general manager Rob Pelinka, president Magic Johnson and head coach Luke Walton will all be attending the NBA Draft Combine where Fox and Jackson will both be present.
From a defensive standpoint, both would provide instant impact and instant improvements to the Lakers’ generally putrid offense. On that end of the court, they would complement the young core of Russell and Brandon Ingram nicely.
On the other end, Fox would be a pure point guard, meaning Russell would play off-ball, something the Lakers experimented with late last season. His athleticism and ability to drive would give the Lakers another creator on the offense, something that team badly lacked outside of Russell.
Jackson, meanwhile, would also provide a huge boost to the Lakers defensively as he could defend any perimeter position. Offensively, while his shooting has question marks, his ability to create and pass would help alleviate the burden placed on Russell in that regard.
Now, all of this could be a moot point if the Lakers lose their pick in next week’s lottery. But if they retain the pick, there’s a lot of interesting options available for the Lakers to draft.