The Lakers got lucky, and were gifted the #2 pick in the NBA Draft. The lottery was probably rigged, right? Look at it this way – of the six NBA teams playing in the largest TV markets (New York, LA, Chicago, Philadelphia), they won a combined 0 playoff series. The Lakers and Knicks started hot, but were toast by New Year’s Day. The Bulls and Clippers lost in the 1st round.
The NBA has a billion dollar TV deal. All the teams in the big markets stink. Hence, the rig job.
With that out of the way, Lonzo Ball will go to the Lakers 2nd. Danny Ainge could attempt some highway robbery to make the Lakers trade up to #1 to get the UCLA point guard, but the guess here is that Ainge is taking Markelle Fultz, who is a slightly better overall prospect.
Here’s where the Ball-to-the-Lakers stuff gets fun: When you make a Pro/Con list.
Flashy point guard goes to “Showtime?” It’s like a movie script. Here are the best point guards the Lakers have had since Magic Johnson retired in 1991: Nick Van Exel, Derek Fisher, and Steve Nash in that order. Nash was 38 and 39 in LA and only played 60 games. Lonzo Ball should eclipse what that trio did in LA (though probably not Fisher’s four rings).
Family. This lengthy ESPN story details how Ball’s mother was very sick earlier this year, and spent two months in a hospital. Lonzo is very close with his family, and staying in driving distance is a huge bonus.
Nowhere to go but up. The Lakers stink. They’ve won 27, 21, 17, and 26 games in the last four seasons. Lonzo Ball showed up at UCLA and they won 31 games. The Lakers can’t get any worse, they can only improve.
Marketing/Popularity/TV Games: No player comes into the league this year with a better brand (thanks to LaVar). The Lakers will get national TV games just because they drafted Lonzo Ball. The same would happen if he went to Phoenix. It feels like a lock that the first time jersey sales are released next season, Ball will be the #1 rookie. The Lakers, always a good road draw (5th last season), will be an even bigger one next year.
D'Angelo Russell is 21. He’s heading into year three after two slightly underwhelming seasons. Now, he’s got to share the ball with the hot shot local kid who all the fans love? The pressure’s not on Lonzo – it’s squarely on Russell.
LaVar Ball could be at every home game. If the Lakers are a 25-30 win team next year, how long before LaVar pops off to the media? He held his emotions in check while UCLA was on its way to 31 wins; he popped off when they lost to Kentucky.
Too Close? We all know the high school star who never went away to college and stayed local and puttered around, got in trouble, and never reached his full potential. Instead of being in another city and spending a ton of free time with your teammates, is Lonzo only going to stay at home with his brothers, and not bond with his teammates?
There’s plenty of potential downside to drafting Lonzo Ball. But the upside easily outweighs all of it.