The Los Angeles Lakers have put themselves on a path directly tied to second overall pick Lonzo Ball out of UCLA, sending D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets to create a clear landing strip for Lonzo.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka sat down for his first post-draft press conference, speaking with media following a hectic draft day. He addressed the entire process, including the trade of Russell finally going official, and was clearly pleased with the way his first draft as general manager had gone.
The crown jewel of his day, though, was clearly drafting Ball as the Lakers new franchise point guard.
“Just a transcendent talent,” Pelinka said of Ball. ”There’s something very very special about his basketball abilities. I think if you use a sports analogy in another sport, you look at passers like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers that just have the ability to do something that’s just so special with where they put the ball and where they deliver it.
“I think the vision and abilities that Lonzo has puts him in a class of being a transcendent talent. We’re so excited about the opportunity to have someone like that on our team and be a part of our future,” Pelinka said.
Lonzo’s fit with the team isn’t much of a question. He’s the kind of young point guard you draft at No. 2 and put your hopes in. The kind of hope that was put into D’Angelo when he made his way from Ohio State.
Pelinka’s confident that Lonzo is that player for the Lakers, where we’ve clearly learned in the last 48 hours that Russell was not in his eyes.
“The way that coach Walton wants to coach is he wants that ball moving around. We didn’t look at ball-stoppers or guys that wanted to hold it for too long and make individual players. I think the great teams in today’s game, the ball’s moving around the perimeter and 3-point shots are being made.
“I think Lonzo’s going to be that player that can help define that for a team, because that’s the way he plays. It’s infectious. All of us know that he has the ability to make other players around him better. Without putting too much pressure on a young 19-year-old, we all know there’s players that have played in the league like the Steve Nash’s and the Jason Kidd’s that have had that ability to make others around them better.”
That’s quite a ringing endorsement from Pelinka, but it aligns with reports that Ball has been at the top of their draft board since Day 1. Lonzo helped transform UCLA when he rose as one of college basketball’s brightest stars, and it’s clear the Lakers are hoping he’ll do the same for their franchise.
Now, we wait to see if this tale of a No. 2 pick becoming the Lakers franchise point guard has a better ending than the one that just concluded.
*All quotes transcribed directly via Periscope