There are plenty of on-court, tangible reasons the Los Angeles Lakers are widely-expected to select Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Ball’s preternatural passing, his sniper-level accuracy from long range and his uncanny sense for when and where to cut while playing away from the ball all make Ball a tantalizing prospect.
However, none of those skills are what his father cited when explaining why his son is “a better fit” for the Lakers than the Boston Celtics during an appearance on the CSN CelticsTalk Podcast with Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely. LaVar Ball instead talked up something a little more intangible.
“They [the Lakers] really don’t have a leader. Boston already went to the playoffs. They have a leader,” LaVar Ball said (as transcribed by Blakely). “Now going straight to the Lakers, they’re super-young... It’s Lonzo’s team; that’s my opinion of it. Everybody else might think about it differently or something. But I’m just being realistic and thinking about it. He would be a better fit with the Lakers instead of Boston because [the Celtics are] already established and on their way up.”
What’s worth noting here is that the “the Lakers don’t have a leader” narrative seems to be something the Ball camp is pushing strongly, whether as a conscious effort or out of a genuine belief that it’s the case. Lonzo Ball similarly told reporters that the Lakers “need a leader and a point guard” and that he “can fill that (role)” at his pre-draft workout with the team.
The Lakers certainly haven’t had any of their young players break through as the team’s de-facto leader in terms of on-court production just yet, but that’s also not something that can reasonably be expected out of such a young team.
It’s been reported that the Lakers want to emulate the Golden State Warriors, but even the Golden Democracy has a ruler in Stephen Curry. Is Lonzo Ball the player to step in and fill that void in Los Angeles? Or will another one of the young Lakers like D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram or Julius Randle step up and take the team’s reins next season?
That’s impossible to know right now, and it’s not even a certainty that Lonzo Ball will be selected by the Lakers, no matter how much his father tries to “speak it into existence.” LaVar Ball explained to Blakely and Draper that he understands that his son wearing colors other than purple and gold is a possibility, and that he’s okay with it.
“If it doesn’t happen, I won’t be like, ‘goddangit, ah man, life’s over,”’ LaVar said. “Zo’s main goal was to play for the NBA; to get to the NBA. Whatever team he plays for, is fine. Now we go on … let’s say you have a dessert. And your preference is chocolate cake. But if you bring me an apple pie, I ain’t gonna send it back. It’s the same thing. He’s still gonna play so we’re good. Dessert is dessert; NBA team is an NBA team. But if he has a choice and can pick one, I ain’t gonna be afraid to pick one.”
Right now though, the Ball’s don’t get to pick. Instead, it’s almost the Lakers’ turn to make a selection on June 22, and they’ll have to decide if Lonzo Ball is really the leader of their rebuild his camp so desperately wants him to be.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.