Despite a multitude of reports to the contrary, the Los Angeles Lakers are still likely to take UCLA phenom Lonzo Ball. One game against De’Aaron Fox and a tepid workout in Los Angeles are unlikely to sway Lakers brass from this foregone conclusion.
Magic Johnson still plays the biggest role in this decision. Ball plays the kind of style that made Johnson famous in L.A. He’s an athletic, pass-first point guard. Fox is more explosive, but Ball will involve his teammates in a way that no other guard in this Draft will. That has to entice Johnson.
A recent report had the Lakers entertaining the idea of trading the No. 2 pick to Phoenix for the No. 4 and a first-round pick in the 2018 Draft.
Aside from the fact that the NBA Draft generates more smokescreens than perhaps any sporting event, the Lakers could not guarantee their desired target. A trade to No. 4 would still leave Fox exposed for the Philadelphia 76ers to take at No. 3.
Staying at No. 2 makes the most sense for the Lakers, and the team needs a traditional point guard. D’Angelo Russell has shown flashes, but he’s more of a scoring guard than a distributor who improves the play of his teammates. Therefore, the pick comes down to Ball or Fox.
Ball’s main critique is his unorthodox shooting release, but Fox is no Stephen Curry, either. Fox managed to shoot just 24.6 percent from three as a freshman at Kentucky–and this includes the closer arc. Each player comes with question marks, making Ball – who has done it under a bigger spotlight – the safer choice.
And at the end of the day, basketball is still big business. Ball will draw more eyeballs and generate more of a buzz. Even though that is not necessarily a successful way to run a franchise, the Lakers will get far more viewers and national attention with Ball running the team.
From that standpoint, LaVar Ball’s grandstanding has worked. While that verbal jockeying might not serve his son well in the pros, it will at least get him to their desired destination: Los Angeles.