2015 NBA Draft
D’Angelo Russell (No. 2) – While most assumed that the Lakers would select a center (either Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor), they instead decided to throw a curve ball and take Ohio State guard, D’Angelo Russell. The league has been trending towards guards and Russell offers a combination of a tremendous skill set and the self-confidence necessary to become a star.
He also possesses an innate ability to pass the ball, which, combined with the court vision that being 6’5” creates, allows him to deliver some jaw-dropping assists. In the right offense, he is sure to produce oohs and ahs on a nightly basis. He also figures to pair well with Jordan Clarkson in creating a versatile, dynamic backcourt that could be igniting the Staples Center for the next decade.
While Russell’s lack of elite athleticism and turnover woes make him a risky selection, the Lakers have historically taken risks on superstars. While it’s far too early to consider D’Angelo a future star, he has the potential to one day be the best player in his draft class. A shaky Summer League showed that he still has a lot of work to do, but if he ends up becoming the Curry/Harden hybrid that some think he can, then the Lakers will have found a truly special player.
Larry Nance Jr. (No. 27) – Nance was a surprising pick, but he reportedly sold the Lakers during the workout process. He’s a high-energy player who brings solid defense and excels at hitting the offensive boards, but his jumper needs work before he will be a useful NBA contributor. His Summer League performance suggests that he has the potential to become a Rony Turiaf-esque fan favorite (he had Lakers fans chanting “Larry, Larry”), but with Julius Randle, Brandon Bass, and Ryan Kelly all needing minutes, it’s unlikely that Nance will make an impact right out of the gate.
While long-term, his high-flying dunks, grit and grind mentality could make him a useful asset, the conventional wisdom is that the Lakers could have traded down with from No. 27 and grabbed Nance in the second round, which would have eliminated the guaranteed salary that the first round offers. There were also better immediate fits and players with more accomplished pedigrees, such as R.J. Hunter or Montrezl Harrell.
Anthony Brown (No. 34) – Most assumed that it would be Brown whose name would be called with the 27th pick in the draft, but the Lakers took a gamble on him still being there in the second round and it paid off. Brown’s length, mobility, and shooting ability make him the prototypical “3 and D” specialist, which is precisely what the Lakers need at this juncture. At 22, his long-term upside is a bit limited, but the perimeter defense that he flashed during Summer League will be a welcome addition to a team sorely lacking in plus-defenders. He seems aware of the fact that his ticket to making it as a pro revolves around him fitting into the role of floor-spacer and defender, so we know what he’s going to be working on over the summer. While his selection isn’t a home run, at this stage of the draft, he offered the best combination of fit and talent left on the board. Brown also grew up as a huge Lakers fan, so he gets some bonus points there.
CONTINUE SLIDESHOW: Grading Lakers’ 2015 team options