The Lakers are eagerly awaiting tonight’s draft lottery, where they will learn whether or not they have a top-three pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. While they hope to walk away with the number one pick (Ben Simmons hopes they do too), Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has to be prepared for all outcomes.
Should the team lose their pick they will have to pursue other avenues to improve this summer. With over $60 million in cap space available, the Lakers will look to sign impact free agents. Without the draft pick, they would have to sell prospective future Lakers on the franchises ability to build winning teams. While D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle are a young core full of potential, free agents tend to flock to teams that are ready to win right now.
With that being the case, it’s possible that Kupchak will look to make a trade, which is an option even if they retain their draft pick. The Lakers are eager to improve and will consider trading anyone on the roster in the right deal. Kupchak recently reiterated this notion to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:
“Nobody is off limits.You have to take phone calls. If that does happen, that’s a good thing. That means you have players that other teams want.”
While there are definite benefits to building around young players, the Lakers also know that they need to give fans something to be excited about now that they are venturing into the post-Kobe era. If an opportunity arises for them to add a proven player, or even better, a star, Kupchak will have to seriously consider it.
In particular, a top two pick in the 2016 draft would give the Lakers a chance to draft consensus top picks Simmons or Brandon Ingram, but other teams may be willing to pay handsomely for that privilege as well. With Russell, Randle, and Clarkson also having varying levels of value around the league, the Lakers phone lines should be more active this year than they have over the past few difficult seasons.
No one knows for sure which direction the Lakers will go in, but it will be up to Kupchak and Jim Buss to weigh the options carefully and then set the franchise on its course.