14 Jun Will Mitch Kupchak and The Lakers Take a Leap of Faith With Their #2 Pick?
The Los Angeles Lakers‘ #2 pick in the upcoming 2015 NBA Draft is the highest pick the franchise has had since 1982 when it picked #1 overall and selected James Worthy from the University of North Carolina. Of course we know that Worthy ended up becoming Big Game James, the lead finisher of Magic Johnson‘s high-octane Showtime Lakers of the 1980’s who won three NBA titles with the Lakers, was named as one of the 50 Greatest Player in NBA History in 1996 and inducted to the Naismith Basketball Hall-of-Fame in 2000. So you’ve got to believe there’s so much pressure on former Worthy teammate and Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak to deliver the goods in the upcoming June 25 NBA draft not only because these high picks come rare in Tinseltown, but because Lakers are coming off the worst season in franchise history at 21-61 and are also coming off the first back-to-back 50- loss seasons in team history.
So how does Kupchak save the Lakers from more ignominy?
— SI Now (@SInowLIVE) April 1, 2015
When NBA commissioner Adam Silver reads the first name at the Barclays on June 25, it’s almost certain that it’s going to be Kentuck’s Karl Anthony-Towns or Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. These pair of 19 year old near 7 footers have been the toast of the town since the NCAA Tournament Final Four.
Jahlil Okafor has been on nearly every team’s wish list since mid-school with a skilled post-game we haven’t seen in eons and a winning pedigree at all levels. On the other hand, Karl Anthony-Towns played for the Dominican Republic National team at age 16. He played for Rick Pitino‘s Wildcats “Platoon” squad last season and his game went off the charts that Analytics experts said he was one of the best college players in the past decade.
Towns-Okafor or Okafor-Towns? That debate on that has been in countless articles and mock drafts in the last four months or so that everyone’s saying that it’s conventional wisdom that these kids are a lock for the Top 2 picks and it’s just now a question of who gets who that will be answered on June 25. Or is it?
A Third Force?
Porzingis was VERY impressive in workout. A scout called him the best player in the draft "He's better than Karl Towns," said the scout.
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) June 12, 2015
NBA scouts aren’t such for nothing. These are snipers who have a keen sight for talent that most of us can’t see with our naked eye. So when they buzz about someone on the draft workouts, it must be for real. But who is this Porzingis that scouts are raving about?
6-11 Kristaps Porzingis is a 19 year old international prospect from Latvia and was considered as the top man of mystery of the 2015 NBA draft. He has the height of an NBA center and has a long slender body that resembles a younger Kevin Durant. He can shoot the NBA three, make plays off the dribble, finish above the rim and block shots on defense. Last Friday, Porzingis had his first US workout in Las Vegas. It might have changed the draft perspective:
Here's more video from the Porzingis workout. He's incredible. Many GMs walked away saying he's a Top 2 talent pic.twitter.com/4BMDhzO0IW
— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 13, 2015
Porzingis torching the nets pic.twitter.com/wh7jiZ4RZz
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) June 12, 2015
Impressed? Here’s a full video of his first open workout:
And his international highlights:
So what do you think about that kid?
Mitch Looking That Far?
Draft scuttle: Hearing Porzingis not only in play for Philly at No. 3 but now giving Lakers something to ponder at No. 2. Stock rising fast
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 13, 2015
Said ESPN‘s Chad Ford on 6.12.15:
“In Porzingis’ case, I think there’s enough evidence of his play in Sevilla to safely say that the things I love about him (his shooting ability and his athleticism) will come through in the NBA. If Porzingis were playing at Duke or Kansas, I think he would be the toughest competition for Towns for the No. 1 overall pick. I really believe [Philadelphia 76ers GM] Sam Hinkie may pull the trigger on Porzingis at No. 3.”
Sam Hinkie may no longer have any trigger to pull if Mitch Kuphcak beats him to the draw:
It's 90 degrees. Mitch Kupchak is suited (most professional looking person in the building) with what appears to be staff of 5.
— Nima Zarrabi (@NimaZarrabi_) June 12, 2015
Kupchak attended the Porzingis workout with Jim Buss. And Mitch was dressed to kill. It was normal to attend the workout because a lot of other team execs did. But to attend it with your owner and be dressed to impress, there has got to be something to it. Or maybe that’s just how Kupchak really likes to dress up, which ends this discussion.
Chad Ford adds that the Lakers are “investigating at taking him at #2” but at the same time doubts that they “have the guts to take him that high”. Both Ford and the Lakers too have a point there. Andre Bargnani was drafted #1 in 2006 with the same length, mobility, feathery touch and ability to block shots. Bargnani’s shot over 35% just four times in ten NBA seasons hampered by injuries. Not to mention that he’s been poor on defense. Jan Vesely was drafted by the Wizards #6 overall in 2011 and he’s not even in the league right now. And yeah, remember Darko Milicic? The guy picked after LeBron James and before Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and many more in 2003? Is he now into MMA?
But the world knows very well what happened to Mark Cuban‘s Dallas Mavericks after they drafted Dirk Nowitzki #9 overall in 1998.
Did every expert back then say that Dirk was too thin and too soft for NBA contact and that he had no defense whatsoever ? And did they all shut up when the Mavs win the NBA title in 2011 over LeBron James and the Big Three?
The NBA draft isn’t just all about good scouting and roster management. It is a big gamble and the 2015 NBA draft is so far the biggest gamble in Mitch Kupchak’s executive career. With Kobe Bryant in Purple and Gold, he’s never have to resort to the draft to build champion teams. But with Kobe now a Leaving Legend, Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers are about to make the most important pick in Lakers’ recent memory. They are guaranteed with either Towns or Okafor at number two but they can also look beyond. Will they pick with conventional wisdom or will they take a huge leap of faith?