On Thursday, the 2016 NBA Draft played out as expected, with the Philadelphia 76ers taking LSU's Ben Simmons with the no. 1 pick and the Los Angeles Lakers promptly following up by selecting Brandon Ingram out of Duke University with the no. 2 pick.
Both teams followed the script, as the experts seemingly all got their predictions correct for a change.
Most analysts considered Ingram and Simmons to be well ahead of the pack, so the top two prospects going no. 1 and no. 2 hardly came as a shock on Thursday. With reports of Philadelphia informing Simmons that he would be the no. 1 pick and reports stating that the Lakers had every intention of taking Ingram with the no. 2 pick earlier in the week, the top of the 2016 draft did not exactly feature Hollywood drama.
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Entering Thursday, most fans and experts agreed that the Lakers picking Ingram would be the right move for the rebuilding franchise. LA drafted a 6-foot 9-inch small forward whose frame and skill set draw direct comparisons to Kevin Durant. Ingram's wingspan, standing reach and height are all strikingly similar to Durant's at the same age. However, Ingram's 195-pound frame is even lighter than Durant's stick-figure frame before the Oklahoma City Thunder forward entered the draft.
"Obviously, it's unfair," Kupchak said about the comparison to Durant on Thursday, after making the pick. "I can see why people would make the comparison. I think they're both gifted players. If you looked at Kevin in college as a freshman, the similarities are striking in terms of the size and body build and body type."
Kupchak added, "Beyond that, Brandon has a long, long way to go. He's got a lot of work in front of him."
One should keep in mind that Ingram is only 18 years old. He's yet to take his first steps in the NBA, so his potential is impossible to predict. He needs to bulking up and add weight, though Lakers coach Luke Walton did not seem concerned about the draftee's slight figure. Younger rookies take time to grow into their bodies, and reaching a level of consistency takes time, which should have been a lesson fans learned with 2015's no. 2 pick, D'Angelo Russell.
However, the Lakers expect to start the season with Ingram starting at small forward, as their 2015-16 starting small forward, Kobe Bryant, retired at the end of the previous season. In his lone season with Duke, Ingram averaged 17.3 points and shot 41 percent from beyond the college three-point line, along with 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
"We're not picking a player that hasn't played much and kind of came off the bench and you're trying to project what he may turn into," Kupchak said. "We're picking a player, some may say, played at a very established college basketball program. He played big minutes. He started in an excellent league with excellent competition."
Kupchak added, "Right now, there is no ceiling on him."
The Lakers also had the no. 32 pick and drafted 7-foot 1-inch center Ivica Zubac out of Serbia. On his conference call, Zubac shared that he was a massive Lakers and Kobe Bryant fan. In fact, the 19-year-old owned a no. 24 Bryant jersey, and Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum jerseys. Given Zubac's age, Kupchak did not say either way whether the Croatian would join the Lakers for the upcoming season or remain in Europe.
Zubac has earned comparisons to Marc Gasol, who the Lakers drafted in the second round of the 2007 NBA Draft. Gasol did not join the NBA until the 2008-09 season, after his rights had been traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in a trade that landed LA Pau Gasol.