THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
Details/TV: At Brooklyn, Thursday at 4 p.m., ESPN:
In theory, they’ve eliminated the coin flip when it comes to NBA draft. Back in the day, the No. 1 pick was determined by a heads-or-tails call between the two last-place teams in each conference. (See: Lakers, Magic Johnson, 1979).
Then, the lottery came, with all its angst. What the process has brought to the Lakers this year is: A leap to the No. 2 spot, and more supposed indecision over who to pick. So, would a coin flip work here? Is Duke’s Jahlil Okafor coming up heads, or Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell landing tails? This scenario presumes that Minnesota doesn’t mess up the No. 1 overall choice of Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns. Then, depending on what Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and his sounding board men believe, Okafor could be the next franchise big-man to make a name for himself – there aren’t many 6-foot-11, 275-pounders with his offensive skills out there. Or there’s Russell, the 6-foot-5, 175-pound guard, who could fit more into the thinking that to win in today’s game, following the Golden State Warriors’ latest championship blueprint. Think about what happened in 1984 — Houston had the No. 1 choice and landed future Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon. That left Portland, at No. 2, with a decision – take either big man Sam Bowie from Kentucky or that shooting guard from North Carolina named Michael Jordan. The Blazers went big, and, well …
Kupchak may be posturing at this point and a decision could already be made. But he’s not letting on. “We have a lot of photos in this building and a lot of those jerseys over there have the names of big men that we’ve retired and had success with,” Kupchak will say about drafting another Shaq/Wilt/Kareem type. But he’ll follow it up by saying: “You can argue that maybe the way to go is with a guard.” A few other outside-the-coaching box considerations: Take intriguing point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who played professionally last season in China, or Kristaps Porzingis, a 7-footer who’s just 220 pounds out of Latvia and can shoot the 3s and run the floor like Dirk Nowitzki.
Or, take Okafor, and trade him to Sacramento for DeMarcus Cousins? The Lakers also have the 27th overall pick (taking it from Houston) and then No. 34 overall (fourth in the second round). The Clippers have no scheduled draft picks, giving up their No. 28 to Boston and No. 57 to Denver but still hanging around with some really nice new logo shirts.
Also: For those paying attention, the NHL Draft takes place Friday-Saturday in Sunrise, Fla. NBCSN has the first round Friday (4 p.m.), with the NHL Network carrying rounds 2-7 on Saturday (7 a.m.). The Kings have the 13th overall pick, Anaheim has choice No. 27. Edmonton has the first pick and is expected to take 18-year-old center Connor McDavid out of the Ontario Hockey League.
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