The Los Angeles Lakers reportedly are eying point guards Emmanuel Mudiay and D'Angelo Russell, not centers Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns, in the 2015 NBA draft. If the Lakers do in fact prefer Mudiay or Russell with the No. 2 pick, it would mean the team is no longer interested in Rajon Rondo and is confident it can sign one of the upcoming free-agents bigs, such as Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge.
When the Lakers drew the No. 2 pick on Tuesday, almost every mock draft slated them to draft either Towns or Okafor. That may not be the case, though, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.
"There are multiple reports Lakers brass isn't locked in on either of the draft's top two projected picks, big men Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor," Berman wrote Friday. "The reports have suggested intrigue in mystery point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who played his season out of high school in China, and Ohio State point guard D'Angelo Russell."
Another report confirmed the Lakers were eying a point guard, with Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding saying Mudiay was "the guy."
If the above is true, then it's a huge hat-tip to what the Lakers plan to do in the offseason. The notion Los Angeles is eying a point guard over a center suggests the Lakers are no longer enamored with Rondo, as a previous report indicated. It also suggests the Lakers are confident in their ability to sign one of the marquee big-name frontcourt players expected to be available this summer, which makes sense given number of talented bigs eligible for free agency.
Love is the most obvious names that come to mind. Love has a player option for next season and has been linked to the Lakers on multiple occasions, with one report indicating he would visit with the team in free agency. Los Angeles has had two losing seasons, but it does have at least five things working in its favor with Love: 1) the ability to offer Love a max deal, 2) an offense that could be adapted to Love's skill set, 3) a big market and a storied franchise, 4) the allure of taking the torch once Kobe Bryant retires, and 5) promising young talent in Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and the future No. 2 draft pick.
Aldridge is another option the Lakers will at least try to court, although they reportedly aren't in his top three preferred destinations. DeAndre Jordan may could become an option if he does decide to seriously test free agency, something which reports suggest he might now do. Marc Gasol is another name the Lakers will likely try to pursue in free agency, but all signs point to him staying in Memphis.
Greg Monroe is also a possibility, as is Roy Hibbert if he makes the unlikely decision to opt out of his contract after the season. For smaller-sized forwards, the Los Angeles has been linked to DeMarre Carroll and Tobias Harris (restricted).
Other free-agent bigs, who haven't been linked to Los Angeles, include Omer Asik, Brook Lopez and Al Jefferson.
The Lakers are projected to have enough cap space this summer to offer one max-level contract.
BACK TO THE DRAFT:
The report about Los Angeles eying Mudiay and Russell goes against the majority of mock drafts. It would make sense, though, if the Lakers planned to acquire a big in free agency.
In terms of the two guards, Mudiay, who skipped college to play overseas in China, has been compared to Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and John Wall. Scouts characterize him as a dynamic point guard with speed and the ability to attack the basket, which would be an instant upgrade at the Lakers' 1-spot.
Scouts have called Russell one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft, and they've praised him for his high basketball IQ and his maturity. In terms of his game, Russell is viewed as a two-way player who can shoot, pass and play defense.
The NBA draft is on June 25.