Lak­ers test driv­ing the full- size and the com­pact

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Mike Bres­na­han

Big or small? It’s still be­ing de­bated within the Lak­ers or­ga­ni­za­tion be­fore Thurs­day’s NBA draft.

Con­ven­tional wis­dom says they will use the No. 2 over­all pick to take Jahlil Okafor, the Duke cen­ter who earned Tim Dun­can com­par­isons while lead­ing the Blue Devils to the NCAA cham­pi­onship.

But the NBA’s re­cent shift to a space­and- pace mind- set — thank you, Golden State — is partly why the Lak­ers are strongly con­sid­er­ing Ohio State point guard D’An­gelo Rus­sell af­ter he shot ex­tremely well dur­ing a work­out for the team last week­end.

The Lak­ers ini­tially had ques­tions about his out­side touch af­ter scout­ing Rus­sell dur­ing Ohio State’s sea­son but they later chalked it up to a co­in­ci­den­tal er­ratic per­for­mance while they were in at­tend-


Rus­sell shot 41.1% from three- point range at Ohio State while av­er­ag­ing 19.3 points, 5.7 re­bounds and five as­sists as a fresh­man. He is 6 feet 5 and some­times de­scribed as a taller ver­sion of Chris Paul.

If the Lak­ers take Rus­sell, they en­vi­sion mov­ing Jor­dan Clark­son to shoot­ing guard, per­haps his more nat­u­ral po­si­tion, though Clark­son showed some skill at the point, av­er­ag­ing 15.8 points, f ive as­sists and 4.2 re­bounds in 38 games as a starter.

One per­son fa­mil­iar with the Lak­ers’ think­ing said Rus­sell could be “some­thing spe­cial.”

But one per­son fa­mil­iar with Okafor said the Lak­ers shouldn’t pass him up, call­ing him “the best player in the draft.”

“I think he’s go­ing to be an All- Star. There’s re­ally no­body like him,” Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski told The Times. “That doesn’t mean he’s the great­est player of all time but . . . he’s go­ing to be a high dou­ble- dou­ble guy in the NBA.

“I’m not say­ing he’s Dun- can but he’s got great touch like Dun­can. He can use the glass. Very soft shot. He can pass so well from the low post. I would say he’s a guy that can get four to six as­sists dur­ing the ball­game.

“I know he would love to be a Laker. I hope it works out that way.”

Krzyzewski bris­tled when asked about the main knock on Okafor — his de­fense, par­tic­u­larly in pickand- roll sit­u­a­tions.

“I re­ally don’t be­lieve he’s shown weak­ness in de­fense,” Krzyzewski said. “What we couldn’t af­ford was to have him be away from the bas­ket, so we didn’t have him step in and trap be­cause that’s what our op­po­nent would want.

“He’s got good feet. It’s ridicu­lous to me for some­body to say he can’t de­fend a ball screen. It’s hard for me to imag­ine. I coach all the U. S. teams. He’s a good de­fender. He’s not an amaz­ing shot- blocker but he moves his feet re­ally well.”

Krzyzewski ex­pressed con­fi­dence that Okafor would im­prove his freethrow shoot­ing — 51% in his only sea­son at Duke. Okafor av­er­aged 17.3 points and 8.5 re­bounds at Duke.

Another pos­si­bil­ity the Lak­ers weighed was Lat­vian cen­ter Kristaps Porzingis, who had cre­ated dif­fer­ing opin­ions within the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

His 7- foot- 1 size and out­side touch in­trigued the team, but he did not pro­vide quite enough in work­outs to war­rant tak­ing sec­ond over­all, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion but not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly about it.

Point guard Em­manuel Mu­diay also was brief ly con­sid­ered at No. 2 but the team ques­tioned his out­side touch. His dy­namic play­mak­ing abil­ity could not out­weigh in­con­sis­tency from the perime­ter in work­outs.

The Lak­ers would snap up Ken­tucky cen­ter Kar­lAn­thony Towns if the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves do not take him with the top pick, but there’s only a small chance of that hap­pen­ing. Towns has de­clined to work out for the Lak­ers and his fu­ture in Min­nesota ap­pears to be a done deal.

Gerry Broome As­so­ci­ated Press

I T’S NO SLAM- DUNK that Lak­ers will use the No. 2 pick on cen­ter Jahlil Okafor, above. Point guard D’An­gelo Rus­sell, be­low, is on their radar too.

Nam Y. Huh As­so­ci­ated Press

Tom Donoghue NBAE/ Getty I mages

THE LAK­ERS are be­lieved to have weighed the pos­si­bil­ity of draft­ing 7- 1 Lat­vian cen­ter Kristaps Porzingis, but deemed him not quite wor­thy of No. 2 over­all pick.

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