In the eyes of several NBA executives, the odds of the Lakers keeping their first-round draft pick were at “100%.”
The executives, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they didn’t want to suggest there was something nefarious going on between the league and one of its more famous franchises, weren’t the least bit surprised when the Lakers secured the No. 2 overall pick during the draft lottery Tuesday night.
And the consensus is that the Lakers will select former UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball with that pick on June 22.
“C’mon, man. We all knew the Lakers were not going to lose their pick,” said one Eastern Conference executive whose team was not in the lottery. “It was 100% going to happen for them. Please!”
The Lakers had the third-best odds (46.9%) of getting a top-three pick. Their odds of securing the second pick were 15.7%. If the Lakers had dropped out of the top three, they would have lost the pick.
“The Lakers are in great shape,” said another NBA team executive whose team was in the lottery. “They get either Markelle Fultz or they get Ball. Or the Lakers could trade that pick, but they are not going to trade it. I see Fultz going No. 1 to Boston and Ball to the Lakers. That’s how the Ball family wants it.”
Philadelphia, which was on course to get the Lakers’ pick had it fallen out of the top three, will pick third and Phoenix, which went into the lottery with the second-best odds (55.8%) of getting a top-three pick, will go fourth.
“It’s a point-guard heavy draft,” another Western Conference executive said. “And you have all those small forwards. You could see maybe eight All-Stars eventually out of this group.”
Fultz and Ball, both point guards, are considered the top two picks.
But point guard De’Aaron Fox, small forwards Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum and shooting guard Malik Monk also are talented.
Here’s a look at The Times’ mock draft:
1. BOSTON: Markelle Fultz (Washington, PG, 6-4, 190) — Though the Celtics are loaded with guards, Fultz is too good to pass on. He is a natural scorer who can play off the ball alongside Celtics All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas. Fultz has a mid-range game, can shoot the three-pointer and pass the ball.
2. LAKERS: Lonzo Ball (UCLA, PG, 6-6, 190) — Yes, LaVar Ball is garrulous, but his son can play. Lonzo can make his new teammates better because he sees the court so well and is willing to distribute the basketball. He could step in and run the point guard position for the Lakers right away.
3. PHILADELPHIA: De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky, PG, 6-3, 170) — Fox has the speed and acceleration like Wizards guard John Wall, and that’s saying something. But Fox has an easy-going demeanor like Memphis’ Mike Conley. The 76ers are supposed to be leaning toward having forward Ben Simmons play point guard, but even so, Fox would be a good fit.
4. PHOENIX: Josh Jackson (Kansas, SF, 6-8, 205) — The Suns would like to get a point guard, but Jackson is the kind of wing player who can ease his way between Suns shooting guard Devin Booker and forward Marquese Chriss. Jackson needs to work on his shot, but he’s very athletic.
5. SACRAMENTO: Malik Monk (Kentucky, SG, 6-3, 200) — Yes, the Kings have a shooting guard in Buddy Hield, but this organization is so unpredictable. Still, a team like the Kings can never have enough shooting, and Monk can shoot.
6. ORLANDO: Jayson Tatum (Duke, SF, 6-8, 205) — The Magic need talent and this kid is skilled. Putting Tatum alongside forward Aaron Gordon would give the Magic a nice frontcourt for the future. Tatum can create his own shot and obviously comes from a top-notch program.
7. MINNESOTA: Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, SF/PF, 6-10, 210) — The Timberwolves are stocked with young talent in past rookies of the year Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. But Isaac is a very good defender and can play multiple positions.
8. NEW YORK: Frank Ntilikina (France, PG, 6-5, 190) — Knicks President Phil Jackson has always loved big guards, and Ntilikina fits that bill. Now the question becomes whether he can learn the triangle offense. With point guard Derrick Rose becoming a free agent, New York needs help in the backcourt.
9. DALLAS: Dennis Smith (North Carolina State, PG, 6-2, 195) — The Mavericks are in desperate need for a point guard. Smith is an explosive athlete who can feed the Mavericks shooters.
10. SACRAMENTO: Harry Giles (Duke, PF, 6-10, 230) — Giles had knee surgery while at Duke and didn’t have a very productive season. But he showed enough to be a lottery pick. Giles could play two positions for the Kings.
11. CHARLOTTE: Zach Collins (Gonzaga, PF/C, 6-11, 230) — Collins has shown that he can score in the post and shoot a jumper.
12. DETROIT: Lauri Markkanen (Arizona, PF/C, 7-0, 230) — Comparing him to Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki is a stretch, but Markkanen can score and shoot the ball. He averaged 15.6 points and shot 42.3% from three-point range last season.
14. MIAMI: Donovan Mitchell (Louisville, PG/SG, 6-2, 210) — Mitchell is an athletic player who plays offense and defense. He’s tough, making Mitchell the kind of player Heat President Pat Riley likes on his team.
15. PORTLAND: Justin Jackson (North Carolina, SF, 6-8, 200) — The Trail Blazers are loaded at wing with Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless and Allen Crabbe. But Jackson will give them more depth. Portland loves shooters, and Jackson can give the team another outside threat.
16. CHICAGO: Luke Kennard (Duke, SG, 6-6, 195) — The Bulls are in need of outside shooters. Kennard shot 43.8% from three-point range last season, averaging 19.5 points per game.
17. MILWAUKEE: Jarrett Allen (Texas, C, 6-10, 235) — The Bucks need another inside presence. Allen has a 7-foot-5 wing span, which allowed him to score in the post.
18. INDIANA: Johnathan Motley (Baylor, PF, 6-9, 240) — Motley is strong and athletic. The Pacers need more size. Motley doesn’t have much offense, but he works hard on the boards.
19. ATLANTA: Justin Patton (Creighton, C, 6-11, 230) — He needs a lot of work, but Patton is a project worth taking with this pick. He has shown the ability to shoot with some range and pass the ball.
20. PORTLAND: Ike Anigbogu (UCLA, C, 6-10, 250) — He’s a real project, but is considered to have a great upside because of his size, athleticism and defensive motor.
21. OKLAHOMA CITY: Terrance Ferguson (Australia, SG, 6-7, 185) — Born in Oklahoma, Ferguson played in Australia’s National Basketball League last season. He’s quick and athletic, but has to improve his skills.
22. BROOKLYN: Ivan Rabb (California, PF/C, 6-10, 220) — The Nets just need players. But Rabb has some tools to score down low and rebound.
23. TORONTO: John Collins (Wake Forest, PF/C, 6-9, 225) — His offense is decent, but he’s a strong rebounder.
24. UTAH: TJ Leaf (UCLA, PF, 6-10, 225) — Leaf has nice shooting range and can pass the ball. The Jazz love players like Leaf who are versatile.
25. ORLANDO: D.J. Wilson (Michigan, SF/PF, 6-10, 240) — Wilson can play multiple positions. He can find some time if he plays defense like he did in college.
26. PORTLAND: Bam Adebayo (Kentucky, C, 6-10, 245) — The Trail Blazers will look to go big here. Adebayo is a good defender who needs to work on his offense.
27. BROOKLYN: Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State, PG, 6-0, 185) — He’s more of a combo guard than a straight point guard.
28. LAKERS: Rodions Kurucs (Latvia, SF/SG, 6-8, 200) — The Lakers may let him stay in Europe and play. But if he comes over, Kurucs can shoot the ball.
29. SAN ANTONIO: Isaiah Hartenstein (Germany, PF/C, 7-1, 249) — His potential is his ability shoot the ball and pass it as well.
30. UTAH: Tyler Lydon (Syracuse, PF, 6-9, 223) — He’ll be a “stretch 4” in the NBA because of his ability to shoot.