Lakers Rumors: Magic Johnson Loves Markelle Fultz, May Trade Julius Randle

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2017, file photo, Washington's Markelle Fultz brings the ball upcourt against Arizona during an NCAA college basketball game in Seattle. Fultz was selected to the AP All-Pac-12 Conference first team, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Coming off four straight seasons with at least 55 losses, the Los Angeles Lakers have to start taking drastic action if they want to turn their fortunes around quickly. 

Fortunately, Magic Johnson, entering his first full season as president of basketball operations, seems willing and ready to do something prior to the 2017 NBA draft on Thursday. 

According to Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress, the object of Johnson’s desire is Washington point guard Markelle Fultz. Givony noted the Lakers executive is “in love” with Fultz  after he came in for a workout and could attempt to pair the No. 2 pick and Julius Randle in a package to secure the No. 1 pick. 

The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, who respectively own the No. 1 and 3 picks in the draft, could complicate matters for the Lakers. ESPN’s Marc Stein and Zach Lowe reported the Celtics and Sixers are having “serious” discussions about a deal that would send the top pick to Philadelphia.

Nothing is a foregone conclusion in sports, but the Lakers’ connection to UCLA star Lonzo Ball seemed like the safest marriage of player and organization in this year’s draft. He’s from Chino Hills, California, and had a second workout with the team on Friday. 

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne offered this brief synopsis on what Ball’s recent meeting with the Lakers entailed:

Lonzo’s father, LaVar Ball, has been openly campaigning for the Lakers to select his son. He addressed the topic again during an appearance on the CSN Celtics Talk Podcast with Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely.

“Team-wise, the Lakers are a better fit,” Ball said. “[The Lakers] really don’t have a leader. Boston already went to the playoffs. They have a leader.”

The Lakers’ love of Fultz could change the entire shape of the draft. Randle is a potential building block after a career year in 2016-17, with an average of 13.2 points and 8.6 rebounds in 74 games, but the ceiling hasn’t grown since he was the No. 7 pick in 2014. 

If there is a belief within the Lakers organization that Fultz is a franchise-changing talent, there should be no hesitation to make a move. They have nothing to lose thanks to their recent lack of success.

The addition of Fultz would create a logjam in the Lakers backcourt, with D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson also on the roster, but the franchise hasn’t been operating from a position of luxury for years. 

The NBA has become a guard-driven league. Lakers head coach Luke Walton would find a way to make it work for everyone.

Fultz has been going through this draft process seemingly in the shadow of Ball because he played for a team that went 9-22, but seeing the Lakers go all out to have a shot at drafting him would suggest what a unique and special talent the 19-year-old is.

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