As Draft Draws Near, Lakers Appear Destined to Find Jahlil Okafor an Ideal Pick

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — As the Los Angeles Lakers contemplate whom to select with their prized No. 2 overall draft pick, meeting top prospects for get-to-know-you dinners before putting them through on-court workouts to gauge their skills, allow us to recall what longtime Lakers owner Jerry Buss used to say.

When you're throwing around words such as "future cornerstone" and "franchise player," character counts.

The Lakers dined with Jahlil Okafor on Monday night, and he might well be their pick over guards D'Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay, who have already broken bread with Lakers officials and later went through drills and workouts, as Okafor will Tuesday morning.

If the Minnesota Timberwolves opt for the all-around, modern-game talents of center Karl-Anthony Towns with the top pick, it would be shocking for the Lakers to pass up the most complete offensive big man to enter the NBA in years. Okafor, 19, is that good.

Take what Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said about Okafor's character:

To ESPN's Dana O'Neil: "He's smart; he cares. Get the list of intangibles, and he's got it."

To the New York Times' Harvey Araton: "He's going to be a franchise player. And he's going to be a franchise person."

To complete the backdrop, here's what Jerry Buss said about building champions back in 2006 during an interview with the Casper Star Tribune and Casper Journal:

"Everybody can see the skillful players, but the question is, 'Are you willing to wait until you find a skillful player with high character?' Because eventually, the character is what wins out on the court."

The Lakers, looking back now on five titles fueled by the outgoing Kobe Bryant's personal drive, realize they must get more connected with whichever talented top-tier prospect comes next.

This draft pick could be the big move. Who knows what free agency will bring ...

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