The Los Angeles Lakers surprised everyone during the 2015 NBA Draft by going in an unexpected direction with the second overall pick. The Lakers brass decided to pass on safe selection in Duke’s Jahlil Okafor to draft a promising one-and-done guard out of Ohio State in D’Angelo Russell.
Despite struggling to make an impression throughout the first half of the season, Russell has come on strong as of late. Russell has started to show his star potential and has led many to believe he may be the torch bearer in the post-Kobe Bryant era in Los Angeles.
In an interview with Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, Russell expressed his desire to be the Lakers next franchise player. Russell hopes the storied Los Angeles franchise will build around him moving forward:
“I’d rather be a player that a franchise is being built around, and it’s a successful build,” he said. “Winning playoff games, knowing that we’re one of the teams that’s going to win, knowing that when you play against the Lakers you’ve got to worry about losing. Not like right now.”
Fortunately for Russell, the pieces may be starting to come together with some promising young talent playing alongside him in Los Angeles. Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle has also shown flashes of their potential this season along with rookies Larry Nance Jr. and Anthony Brown.
The real question moving forward for the Lakers franchise is whether they’ll be able to hold onto their lottery pick for the 2016 NBA Draft. The team’s pick is top-three protected and although it has been another disappointing season for the Lakers, there’s no guarantee Los Angeles will have the ping pong balls bounce the right way this summer.
If the Lakers can hold onto their pick, there’s a good chance the team will be able to reunite Russell with his former high school teammate, Ben Simmons. The LSU product was unable to lead his team into NCAA Tournament this year, but the consensus is he’ll be the first player taken in the draft regardless.
Adding Simmons to an already talented young roster could make the Lakers a team to watch out for in the near future. Landing Simmons may also draw the attention of free agents in the offseason making things interesting heading into NBA free agency in July.