L.A. Lakers Not Entirely Sold on Lonzo Ball, Holding out Hope for Markelle FultzJune 9, 2017
LOS ANGELES — Lonzo Ball was fine.
He was humble and respectful in conversation over meals.
He shot the ball well on the court.
He very well might be the Los Angeles Lakers’ draft pick in two weeks’ time.
Yet Ball also didn’t blow the Lakers away or seal any deal in the time he spent with their officials Tuesday and Wednesday, according to sources.
The Lakers remain intrigued by Markelle Fultz and Josh Jackson, and to a lesser extent De'Aaron Fox, along with Ball for their No. 2 overall pick.
They are hopeful they can get Fultz in for a workout despite speculation that he would work out only for the Boston Celtics, who hold the No. 1 overall pick. Lakers officials just went to meet and scout Jackson in Sacramento on Thursday, and Fox is coming in to see the Lakers on Tuesday.
Ball didn’t separate himself clearly from the pack. The thing is, he never was going to do that in a one-on-none workout format that gave him no one to find with a dynamic hit-ahead pass in transition or a perfectly timed bounce pass for a basket cutter.
Ball met with reporters after his Wednesday workout at the Lakers facility and cited all the shooting he did, and that was because there wasn’t much else for him to do in that format. Further evaluation of his pick-and-roll game or defensive capability wasn’t possible—same as it wasn’t possible to become even more smitten with his passing skills.
Jackson’s workout Thursday was also one-on-none and focused on addressing concerns about his shot. It remains to be seen whether Ball or any of the top prospects allow themselves to be tested in more stressful workouts in their second visits with the Lakers, assuming they have them.
Given that the Lakers have no consensus on their preference yet, daring to go into a three-on-three format to see Jackson’s fierce competitiveness head-to-head, for example, would be valuable intel and could affect the Lakers’ thinking.
For now, the Lakers at least have a better idea of who these four young men are.
They met with Fultz, the most advanced scorer available, and Fox, a rare speed demon, at the NBA Draft Combine last month. This week they’ve gotten to chat with Ball, whose best quality is setting up teammates, and Jackson, a four-position defensive monster.
A quiet and reserved Ball reinforced to the Lakers how different he is from his attention-seeking father, LaVar. Jackson is a go-getter with a clear killer instinct. Fultz aspires to be the best ever. Fox exudes an authentic confidence.
New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson has been involved at every step of the predraft process, including stepping in during workouts to ask prospects to do something on the spot that he believes is important to see. Johnson, general manager Rob Pelinka and coach Luke Walton had dinner with Ball on Tuesday night. Ball then had lunch with Lakers owners Jeanie, Joey and Jesse Buss on Wednesday.
Five of the aforementioned Lakers basketball decision-makers, not including Jeanie, went to see Jackson on Thursday.
Jackson is the only forward among the four, but the Lakers are not expected to decide based on position. The organizational goal is to get to a point where the team is playing largely positionless basketball the way Walton’s former team, the Golden State Warriors, do—with current youngsters Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson all already capable of bringing the ball up the floor.
Ball raised some eyebrows by saying the Lakers "need a leader, a point guard, and I feel that I can bring that to the team"—potentially a slight to Russell.
However, the Lakers view Russell as a combo guard, and Walton played him primarily at shooting guard late last season.
The NBA draft is June 22.
Kevin Ding is NBA senior writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @KevinDing.