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Heading into the lottery on Tuesday night, there was a good chance—more than a 50 percent chance actually—that the Lakers were going to lose their first-round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Because of a trade they made several years ago involving Steve Nash, the Lakers would have had to send their 2017 first-round pick to the 76ers this year if it fell outside of the top three picks. But fortunately for them, they were awarded the second pick during the lottery, which gave their new president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and all of the Lakers fans out there the chance to breathe a sigh of relief.
As we told you on Tuesday, the Lakers would have been in big trouble if they would have lost their pick in this year’s draft since it would have essentially undone much of the progress they’ve made in recent years while stockpiling young talent on their team through the draft. But the question now is: what next?
Well, within just minutes of the lottery ending, the name "Lonzo" was trending on Twitter, and it’s no secret why. Lonzo Ball and, more specifically, Lonzo Ball’s dad LaVar have been talking about Lonzo landing with the Lakers for months now. Most recently, LaVar told ESPN The Mag in no uncertain terms that he wanted to see Lonzo get drafted by Los Angeles in June.
So at the conclusion of the lottery, there were thousands of people tweeting about how the Celtics are going to pick Markelle Fultz first overall in the draft, which would then allow the Lakers to take Lonzo with the No. 2 pick:
Magic downplayed the speculation during a brief interview with TMZ Sports on Tuesday night and said that he isn’t sure who the Lakers are going to select yet:
"I don’t know who we’re gonna take right now," he said. "We’re excited though. You know we’re excited."
But LaVar made it seem like Lonzo joining the Lakers next season is a lock. The entire Ball family watched the draft lottery together on Tuesday night, and right after it ended, LaVar—wearing a purple and gold Big Baller Brand hat, because of course—spoke with CBS Los Angeles about the results. He was obviously thrilled to see the Lakers walk away with the second overall pick, and he said he knew all along that Lonzo was going to be a Laker.
"I told him he was going to go to the Lakers," LaVar said. "I’m gonna speak it into existence. Boston’s going to take Markelle Fultz. He’s a good player. I think he fits best with Boston. You can’t bring him to L.A. He ain’t ready for this. Only one person ready for this. It’s that Ball boy… I know I must be a genius to plan it this well. His number has always been No. 2 and guess what he’s going? No. 2. Now, tell the Lakers, baby. Here we come."
And as of right now, all signs point to the Lakers listening to LaVar and taking Lonzo with the No. 2 pick in the draft. ESPN reporter Ramona Shelburne—who wrote the ESPN The Mag story on LaVar and Lonzo that ran on ESPN.com earlier this week—is reporting that there’s a chance Lonzo might refuse to work out for any teams other than the Lakers. A source (hmmm, any guesses who that "source" might be?) told her that the Balls have made it "clear from the start our desired destination is Los Angeles." There are also reports that Lonzo is the "heavy favorite" to be selected by the Lakers, regardless of which teams he does or doesn’t work out for:
But does Lonzo make the most sense for the Lakers?
As it stands, the Lakers have a handful of young point guards on their roster, including D’Angelo Russell who was selected No. 2 overall in the 2015 NBA Draft. They also have a lot of young players on their team—nine of their players were 25 years old or younger this season—which means they might want to consider trying to trade the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft to add a proven star to their roster. Paul George is one name that has been thrown around in recent weeks. And of course, there’s LaVar. As a franchise, are the Lakers ready to handle all of the baggage LaVar will bring when Lonzo steps into the Staples Center for the first time?
Despite these concerns, there are a few reasons why drafting Lonzo is still a good idea for the Lakers:
- The Lakers have reportedly had concerns about Russell’s play at times during his first two seasons, and there still seems to be a pretty strong trade market out there for him. So they could conceivably trade Russell this offseason and add another piece to their puzzle—possibly in the form of a much-needed veteran presence?—while also bringing Ball into the mix.
- The idea of the Lakers trading the No. 2 pick for a player like George is intriguing. But would they be able to re-sign him once he becomes a free agent in July 2018? During an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live this week, George hinted that he wouldn’t mind playing in LA at all. But the Lakers might not want to risk trading the No. 2 pick to the Pacers for George only to have him walk after one season. Plus, they might be able to land him next year without having to trade the No. 2 pick for him.
- The Lakers have a bunch of young players who might turn into stars one day, but they still don’t have an heir to the throne Kobe Bryant left behind when he retired. It’s obviously too early—way too early really—to put Lonzo and Kobe’s names in the same sentence. But Lonzo has more star potential than anyone on the Lakers right now.
- Magic Johnson is running the show for the Lakers now and seems more than capable of handling a big personality like LaVar. Plus, it’s not like the Lakers aren’t used to dealing with a media circus surrounding the team. Kobe Bryant may not have led the Lakers to much team success during his final season, but he did give the Lakers all the experience they will ever need when it comes to dealing with the constant media crush in LA.
- Maybe most importantly, Lonzo really, really, really wants to play for the Lakers. So if nothing else, the Lakers will be getting a guy who is motivated and, at least in theory, ready to prove himself on the court. He’s also familiar with the LA area, having played at UCLA for one season, so he won’t be as starstruck as some of the other potential lottery picks if and when he joins the Lakers.
So with all of that in mind, the Lakers should take Lonzo and their fans should be happy about it, right? Not so fast. There are certainly plenty of Lakers fans chomping at the bit for the chance to take Ball in the draft. Some have been excited about it for months now, as evidenced by this fan who had a custom Ball Lakers jersey made in April:
But not everyone is sold on the idea just yet. There are actually quite a few Lakers fans who don’t want to see Lonzo in purple and yellow and are hoping the Lakers go in a different direction when the NBA Draft takes place on June 22 (No. 2 Lonzo Ball going No. 2 to the Lakers on the 22nd of June? LaVar might be onto something here...). They are currently pleading with the team not to pick him:
There are also more than a few people—Lakers fans and otherwise—who want to see the Lakers pick someone other than Lonzo simply to see LaVar’s reaction:
Will the Lakers listen to them? No, they’re not going to listen to random NBA fans on Twitter (at least, we hope they're not going to do that). But they are going to spend the next 36 days carefully weighing their options and asking themselves all of the questions we’ve proposed here. The Lakers wanted to land one of the top picks in the draft, and they got their wish. But now, the real work begins.