Whatever the Lakers end up doing, they will always face criticism from it. Just ask D’Angelo Russell.
The Lakers lucked out in the 2015 draft lottery and landed the 2nd overall pick, leading many to believe that it would be the pick to turn their once glorious franchise around. Many experts believed that they were going to take Jahlil Okafor out of Duke with their no. 2 overall draft pick. The Lakers, however, made headlines by going against the expected pick and drafted D’Angelo Russell.
With many seeing Jahlil Okafor as the surest thing in that draft class, they said that the Lakers should’ve drafted the Duke big man instead.
It looks like D’Angelo has had a better start to his career than Jahlil. So it seems that the Lakers have made the right choice between the two.
However, they are still being called out because of not drafting Knicks big man, Kristaps Porzingis. As you know, Kristaps went no. 4 to the Knicks, a pick which was deemed outrageous at that time. Since then, however, Kristaps has shown he is worthy of being a high draft selection. He’s been playing so that some people have said that the Lakers should have taken him instead of D’Angelo.
Looking back at the draft, if the Lakers had the chance to redo their pick, Kristaps would definitely be in the conversation for the no. 2 selection. However, saying that the Lakers should have drafted him at that time over someone like D’Angelo is not logical.
Let’s understand why the Lakers picking D’Angelo over Porzingis at that time was justified.
The debate at that time was D’Angelo Russell or Jahlil Okafor.
With Karl-Anthony Towns projected by many at that time to go no. 1 overall to the Timberwolves, many people debated who the Lakers should take at no. 2. It came down to 2 players, D’Angelo and Jahlil. Many thought that drafting any player not named D’Angelo Russell or Jahlil Okafor would just be an outright travesty. The Lakers did as expected, taking one of those two players. Now it’s evident that they made the right choice between the two players. D’Angelo has shown the Lakers that he has All-Star potential and can run the team.
Kristaps Porzingis was viewed as a “project” during the draft.
Many fans saw Kristaps Porzingis as a project for any team that drafted him — a player that won’t contribute right away but once he gains the experience, will start playing at a high level. This analysis of Porzinigs at the time was no reach. At the time, no one really knew his game as well as they knew the games of Towns, Russell, Okafor etc. People saw Porzingis as a man of mystery since the team didn’t really know what kind of player they would get. Of course, some teams like the Lakers and the Knicks want to get better right away, so taking a “project” like Porzingis would just be counterproductive.
The Knicks got so much heat for taking Kristaps Porzingis with the no. 4 pick. What more would the Lakers have gotten if they took him at no. 2 at that time?
No one saw Kristaps being this good early in his career.
This just goes back to the previous point. Kristaps was seen as a “project.” Meaning that teams, even the Knicks, didn’t expect him to be this good so early in his career. Of course, Kristaps has proved everyone wrong and played amazing for someone that was viewed as a project. It is not the Lakers’ fault or anyone else’s that he just became this good so early.
As previously mentioned, if the Lakers had the chance to redo this selection, Kristaps would definitely have a lot of consideration from Jim Buss and company, but at that time, taking Kristaps was too bold of a move.
It also feels like both the Lakers and the Knicks got what they wanted. The Lakers got a point guard that can run their team efficiently while the Knicks got a frontcourt beast for their team. Maybe it’s best that this “draft mistake” happened for both teams. If the Lakers had Porzingis, they wouldn’t have a reliable playmaker. If Russell was a Knick then they wouldn’t have a reliable big man. Whatever it is, the draft decision is justified and should be seen as the correct move.
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