To Ball or not to Ball? For the Lakers, that is the question.
Unfortunately for Lonzo and his father, LaVar, who announced the Lakers are their best fit, they're not running the draft. Magic Johnson is and he has questions about Lonzo, not to mention the three-ring circus around him with LaVar as ringmaster.
If this is Lonzo's pro debut, it's Magic's, too, as head of the Lakers basketball operation. For Lonzo, it's win-win since he'll go high to someone. For Magic, it's excruciating with the dire impact that being wrong would take on the once-proud/now-raggedy franchise.
On the plus side for the Lakers, before Johnson got lucky or Magical they had a 58 percent chance of not being in the lottery or in the first round of the 2019 draft. By that standard, this is gravy.
By any other standard, it's a tough call.
It's not Lonzo or bust in this extraordinarily deep draft. There's usually a dropoff after the top one or two players, but not this year. "In a normal year, four players in this draft could have gone No. 1," a GM told me last week, naming Washington's Markelle Fultz, Ball, Kansas' Josh Jackson and Duke's Jayson Tatum (in that order).
That's Josh Jackson, the Kansas small forward whom the Lakers were reportedly taking a closer look at. He's a can't-miss prospect in his own right, a more slender, more skilled version of Andrew Wiggins.
The GM hotline still has the Lakers taking Lonzo, who is harder to evaluate as prospects go, but is, all agree, a gifted playmaker, not to mention a point guard, which the Lakers need.
No, D'Angelo Russell isn't a point guard, even if he plays there, however imperfectly, after converting to the position in his one season at Ohio State.
It remains to be seen just what D'Angelo is. Insiders say immaturity remains an issue, as do party lights, even if he didn't out any more teammates for infidelity this season.
For all the Lakers' devotion to "our young players," Coach Luke Walton is said to have tired of post-adolescent hijinks. I didn't hear who, specifically, he was down on, but the one he likes best is Brandon Ingram, the youngest of them.
Other young Lakers might be expendable, the more so with Magic expected to make a run at Indiana's Paul George, a 2018 free agent whom the Pacers are open to moving for prospects such as, say, D'Angelo.
For better or worse, it would be hard to believe Magic doesn't see himself in Lonzo.
Unlike Magic, Lonzo is a long way from 6-foot-9. In 2014, he was officially measured at 6-3° at the USA Basketball camp.
If Lonzo is still plenty tall, it's a prescription for disaster to go around comparing draft prospects to all-time greats as Magic, himself, knows full well.
Reputations zoom up and down on the pre-draft circuit. Lonzo's has been one of the ones under pressure, as they say of stocks on Wall Street.
Not that it necessarily means something. Draft history is replete with stars who were scoffed at such as Russell Westbrook (not a point guard), Karl Malone (too short), Alex English (too skinny), Danny Granger (bad knees) and Dan Majerle (bad back.) Oh, and Kobe Bryant (high school kid).
Nevertheless, if you're at No. 2 with a choice of all but one player -- Fultz, bound for No. 1 Boston (or Philadelphia, if the teams pull off a trade that is reportedly in the works) -- it's easier if everyone loves the player you're about to take.
The Lakers noted Lonzo's lack of conditioning. NBA.com's David Aldridge quoted sources who said his other workouts hadn't been great. Yahoo's clued-in Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Lakers were "really looking hard" at Josh Jackson.
Of course, the Lakers had to honor Lonzo's request to play two-on-two with their assistant coaches. If such controlling demands are common for top prospects, super-athletes can blow NBA people away working out by themselves, "playing against the air."
In the case of Lonzo, a B-level athlete who makes people around him better, maybe he needed to play five-on-five with actual players rather than assistant coaches.
Leverage swings to teams after the draft when No. 1 picks sign their first contract, putting them under team control for five seasons.
Until then, unfortunately for the Lakers, they're at the mercy of LaVar's mouth.
How crazed has Lonzo's chock-full-of-himself father been?
Let me count the ways. I googled "LaVar Ball timeline" and came back with 375,000 results:
-- LaVar demands $1 billion sneaker contract, gets zip as Nike, Adidas and Under Armour flee. Nike's genial George Raveling calls LaVar "the worst thing to happen to basketball in 100 years."
-- LaVar blames UCLA's NCAA Tournament loss to Kentucky, in which another lottery prospect, De'Aaron Fox, outscores his son, 39-10, on race.
"Realistically you can't win no championship with three white guys because the foot speed is too slow," LaVar Ball told our Clay Fowler.
Fox thinks UCLA had one bombastic father too many, saying he was "in kill mode all the time," hoping to shut out Lonzo, "to shut LaVar Ball up."
-- Lonzo turns down an invitation to work out for Boston. LaVar says if the Celtics want Fultz, the consensus No. 1 pick, they can have him.
"Team-wise, the Lakers are a better fit (for Lonzo)," LaVar tells Comcast's CelticsTalk Podcast. "They (Lakers) really don't have a leader. Boston already went to the playoffs. They have a leader.
"Now going straight to the Lakers, they're super-young. It's Lonzo's team. That's my opinion of it.
"I kind of feel this lined up a long time ago. And not saying that Lonzo wouldn't play for the Celtics. I just had this vision of my boy playing for the Lakers and I'm just going to speak it into existence."
The nicest thing I've heard a GM say about Lonzo is that he's unassuming and low-key, nothing like his father.
Of course, it might have been nice if LaVar had hooked up his son with one of the many trainers or former NBA players holding daily workouts to get in peak condition for their auditions, rather than prattle on about their Big Baller sneakers, like the ZO2 retailing for $495 an inflated price that serves as a fair measure of how much LaVar has inflated himself.
If Magic is brave enough to select Lonzo anyway, maybe he can get LaVar to sign a contract too, right under, "From now on I promise to shut ... up."
Pray for Lonzo's Team, whoever it turns out to be.