Knicks president Phil Jackson wasn’t that much a basketball genius that if Duke center Jahlil Okafor and Kristaps Porzingis were both on the draft board last June, he would’ve gone Latvian. According to an NBA source, as much as Jackson’s top adviser, Clarence Gaines Jr., wanted Jackson to take Porzingis even if the Knicks had the No. 1 pick, that wasn’t the way the Zen Master would have gone if it was a choice between the two big men. Okafor was Jackson’s man. “He had to draft Okafor — too much a sure thing,’’ the source said.
The Lakers have not even completed a month of the 2015-16 season, but both an uncomfortable and familiar question has already emerged. With the Lakers fielding the NBA’s second-worst record, how much effort will the franchise put in retaining its top-3 protected draft pick? “I don’t think about that whatsoever,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “I probably won’t until April. That’s something I can’t control.”
The Lakers are in a precarious position. They appear likely bad enough to lose a lot of games. But will they lose enough to land in the top three? Otherwise, the Lakers owe Philadelphia their first-round pick as part of the Steve Nash trade. “It’s impossible to think about the team, try to get our young guys better, the team better and also thinking about a pick,” Scott said. “That’s six months away and you might not even get it.”
And none are stronger than how they feel about the No. 1 player on our Big Board, LSU freshman Ben Simmons. “Anyone that doesn’t have Simmons No. 1 [on their draft board] should be fired,” one longtime GM with a great draft track record told ESPN.com on Monday.