With the draft less than a week away, the Lakers are getting all their workouts in from potential draftees. Two candidates have stood out through the evaluation process: Kansas’ Josh Jackson and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball.
If there is one thing we can takeaway from the Warriors and the Cavaliers (and many of the other top teams) is that there are always multiple playmakers on the floor.
Golden State, in particular, always had players on the floor who could break down the defense and make a play. They have led the league in assists per game the last three seasons and it is clearly evident when watching them this season.
Of course it helps when you are passing to some of the greatest shooters in NBA history, but every single starter except Zaza Pachulia knows how to run a pick and roll, read the defense, and make a play. The Warriors even have bench players who know how to run the offense including Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala.
One of the reasons for Cleveland’s struggles in this series is their dependence on LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to create everything. It was fascinating to watch Kobe breakdown the your turn-my turn Cavaliers offense vs the multi-faceted and dynamic Warriors offense.
The Lakers already have a couple of playmakers in D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram in their starting lineup and it would never hurt to add more creators to the offense.
Ball and Jackson appear to be the two prospects the Lakers are intrigued by most and both are difference-makers on and off the ball.
Jackson would be a great fit playing alongside Ingram at small forward or power forward and has a great ‘fro similar to another young Laker wing drafted 21 years ago.
He’d also be great running on the wing in an uptempo offense that Walton likes to run. Jackson is not afraid to crash the glass and did so pretty often at Kansas, averaging 7.4 rebounds. The ability to grab rebound and push the pace and then make the right pass/play is so valuable in the league today. It keeps the defense on its heels and creates tons of mismatches in the open court.
In addition, Ingram and Jackson could potentially combine for a great defensive duo. The Kansas forward also has great vision and at his size could be a huge advantage similar to Iguodala on the Warriors.
However Jackson’s biggest concern is his jumper. Although he shot 37.8 percent from behind the arc in college, his shot is still questionable due to his form. Depending on his shot, he has one of the widest range of outcomes where he could be Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Tracy McGrady.
Ball is one of the best passers coming out in recent memory and plays with the high IQ necessary to make things run more smoothly for the Lakers. He also has great awareness on where to spot up and when to cut.
You’ll see him catch alley-oops in almost every highlight reel of his at UCLA. This is a big reason why I believe there wouldn’t be any issue with him starting next to Russell.
The Warriors’ shooting is no doubt the reason their offense is so successful and both Ball and Russell are capable of shooting the three at a high percentage, especially on spot ups if the other is handling the ball similar to Curry and Thompson.
The Lakers have two amazing options in this draft with the second overall pick but I would give the slight advantage to Ball. He already possesses the outside shooting ability and has the physical tools to become a solid team defender with his length and athleticism.
Plus, you can’t not draft a guy with the word “ball” literally as part of his name. The last person to have a basketball term in his name literally retired as the greatest power forward of all time.