It looks more and more like the Lakers have settled on Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 overall pick headed into the 2017 NBA draft, according to ESPN’s Chad Ford. Ball and Los Angeles have been linked for months, but we still hadn’t seen any firm decision reported. Now, it looks like the Lakers might be reaching the conclusion of their draft plans.
The No. 1 pick is locked down — it’ll be Markelle Fultz to the 76ers after Philadelphia agreed to a deal with the Boston Celtics. At No. 2, it was reported last week that Jackson was “promised” by either the Lakers or the 76ers, with the reporter in question speculating that it was Los Angeles. However, despite that and other rumors, it seems like Los Angeles might have only been doing due diligence.
Still, the Lakers have handled the Ball situation perfectly. Obviously, his father LaVar is a handful, and the entire Ball family has been hyped to oblivion. But despite Ball’s desire to play for the Lakers, and despite them perfectly nabbing the No. 2 pick, and despite Lonzo Ball playing locally at Chino Hills and then UCLA, Los Angeles still never gave any indication that they were drafting him. In fact, it sure seemed like they did the opposite, leaking reports that they were working out other players.
It was a perfect navigation of the Ball minefield, like our own Tom Ziller wrote on Thursday.
Because Ball also happens to be a Los Angeles metro native, because he chose UCLA, and because his vocal father has insisted all along that Lonzo would rather be a Laker, it seemed like kismet when L.A. won the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft lottery.
As LaVar Ball became a minor celebrity, the pressure grew on the Lakers to commit to Lonzo. The Lakers’ front office is new to all this with Magic Johnson having taken over in February and Rob Pelinka — a brilliant talent evaluator but rookie general manager — coming aboard later. Team Ball almost appeared to be cornering the Lakers into taking Lonzo No. 2.
The Lakers didn’t bite.
Six months ago, we were already projecting Ball to the Lakers. It looks like that’s exactly what we’ll get, but that the option was never presented as an inevitability is a credit to the way Los Angeles handled this situation.