With the first pick in the NBA draft, the Boston Celtics select – or does it even go like that at all. The options that Danny Ainge and the Celtic front office have with what they can do with that first are nothing short of remarkable. The team can trade the pick for a seasoned franchise player that play alongside Isaiah Thomas. They can also draft a Markelle Fultz, a player with transcendent type talent, who can develop and eventually lead Boston into the next paradigm of the NBA.
With the second pick in the NBA draft, the Los Angeles Lakers select – a player that comes with the spotlight and profile that compliments well with the lights of tinsel town. Said gravitas comes by the way of his father. The Balls are controversial, divisive, and inciting. Their brand brings eyes. Whether or not those eyes soon jump to the next headline is irrelevant. The Lakers know how to exist in the chaos of failure and in the chaos of prosperity.
Lakers and ‘big’ are as congruent as buns on a burger. There happens to be a negative derivative of the ‘Ball theater’. Lonzo Ball’s game is all but immaterial. His elite passing and accurate shooting are the most important factors of the entire ordeal but they have reduced to appetizers in the full course of his Draft Process.
There will be an undercurrent of interest in the varying situations surrounding the prospects. Will Lonzo’s father still be a constant figure representing the brand for a lengthy portion of his career? Some believe that Father Ball could be a distant memory rather quickly, a fact that could generate an audible sigh of relief from his detractors.
Upon learning that the Lakers own the second overall pick, Ball’s father proclaimed Fultz isn’t “ready” for Los Angeles while also praising him.
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) May 17, 2017
Los Angeles’ procurement of the number two pick in this draft is the culmination of a couple of years of decisions that were less than stellar. The Lakers are in a prime spot for success. Especially after an overhaul of front office and coaching staff. Not in terms of contention or any similarly lofty goals, but at last they can begin operating in the correct space that will eventually lead them out the Western Conference basement.
Fultz has gone through the summer with his talent and future NBA employer fueling his conversation. The Boston Celtics are the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. The team is on the type of trajectory that a number of front office executives would love to be a part of. Fultz, by all accounts, looks to have the poise to handle waiting his turn.
Playing for a winner as opposed to having to play as a winner in the early years of a career can be a difference maker. Fultz should have the opportunity to become his very best self while not having to endure the weight of being “the guy”.
The weight of being a top lottery pick comes in its own package. Shouldering the expectations that fans, scouts, executives, and experts can be a challenge in and of itself.
No draft pick wants to be labeled as a bust. This label associated with prospects can almost be deemed pejorative. Listening to everyone tell you are the guy to change the fate of franchise can take its toll.
However, the likelihood that both Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball become the players many have foreseen, is great.
The elite scoring of Fultz was present when he averaged 23 points per game as a freshman is accompanied by his undersold passing. He has great body control and the ability to translate his athleticism into points. The creativity of the Washington point guard allows him to find ways to get a jumper off or get to the rim for an easy bucket.
The Celtics picking Fultz looks more and more likely. His 6’4 frame adds length and size to the position, something that the incumbent superstar Thomas does not possess. His size also gives him the ability to play off-ball positions as well as point guard.
Lonzo averaged almost eight assists in his lone year at UCLA, and with his silky jumper is an upper echelon player. His unorthodox form on his jumper didn’t seem to be a hindrance for the 55% shooter. His 41% performance from behind the arc should translate to the NBA game. Ball is a 6’6 athlete with the size, skill, court vision and the ability to dominate his position and take over games. He’s a seemingly do-it-all big point guard and Ball can become a special talent if placed in the right environment.
Magic Johnson, President of Basketball Operations for the Lakers, would do well to take Ball in the draft. And he most likely will.
The path of these two prospects have been laid out flawlessly, or so it seems.
Yet what will become of these two Phenom guards?
Fultz could very well go on to lead the Celtics into a new era as the LeBron days become numbered. The Celtics are a win-now team with the top pick in the draft. The Celtics won’t ask Fultz to do any more than to become a student of the game while showing steady improvement on the court.
Lonzo Ball will undoubtedly be the seminal piece in the new regime of Los Angeles. Lonzo will have to work endlessly. Fostering a culture that is focused on winning isn’t a task for the faint of heart. He won’t have a veteran-laden team from which he can glean wisdom from. The direction of L.A. will be determined by the partnership of those making decisions and Ball’s progression of a player.
Predicting the future of these two, on the surface, is a bit misguided. The state of the league, the financial climate, transactions made all are pivotal in looking ahead in this League.
While seemingly futile, think about the league in five years.
Is Markelle Fultz ready to take on the league as the starting point guard? Does Thomas re-sign this summer and stay through the duration of a five-year deal, allowing for a smooth transition?
Is 24-year-old Ball happy with the state of the Lakers? Are the Lakers happy with the progress of Lonzo?
Two storied franchises are on the cusp of reobtaining the eyes of all fans everywhere. Following how it all unfolds will be nothing short of fascinating.
With that, we have the chance to watch these two stories play out parallel to each other.