Somehow, the Los Angeles Lakers just keep getting lucky. The 2017 NBA Draft lottery just gave Magic Johnson and company a gift, as LA wound up scoring the second pick in the draft. Despite having just a 46.9 percent chance at landing in the top three, the Lakers actually moved up a spot and now sit in a great position. So does that mean Lonzo Ball will get to stay home and play for the Purple and Gold?
Ball grew up in Southern California, played at UCLA and has made it known that he wants to play for the Lakers. The franchise, in turn, has let it be known how much they love Ball’s game. That doesn’t mean he’s the right pick for the team right now though.
Ball is likely the second-best talent in this year’s draft behind Washington’s Markelle Fultz. Assuming the Boston Celtics take Fultz at No. 1, Ball appears to be the obvious choice for the Lakers. That said, guys like Duke’s Jayson Tatum, Kansas’ Josh Jackson and Kentucky’s De'Aaron Fox all deserve consideration at No. 2. I fact, given the current makeup of the roster, Tatum and Jackson are probably the best fits for the Lakers right now.
The question to answer is whether Los Angeles will take the best player available or the best fit for the franchise. Ball is a game-changer with his ball-handling, court-vision and ability to make teammates better. Could he co-exist with D'Angelo Russell in the team’s backcourt? Probably, especially if Russell can continue to develop his outside shot. Russell and Ball are both tall, long guards, who would be forced into mismatches defensively due to their size. Meanwhile, Ball’s ability to find teammates might actually make the game easier for Russell, and would certainly help Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and others.
While Ball seems like the obvious pick here, a guy like Jackson could actually be a better fit. His two-way game, athleticism, length and shooting ability make him the prototypical wing player in the modern NBA. And the Lakers could definitely use boost on the wing. Meanwhile, Jayson Tatum’s size and polish on the wing could provide the same kind of benefit.
Right now the odds heavily favor the Lakers selecting Ball at No. 2 if Fultz is off the board. But the next month should be fascinating to see how evaluations change when the top prospects are on the court against each other in workouts.
LaVar Ball may wind up getting his wish though, as Lonzo to the Lakers looks all but certain right now.