How did the Lakers make that decision?
Stephen A. Smith of ESPN:
What I’m about to say, Magic Johnson would categorically probably deny. That’s my friend, my brother. I love him. If Magic Johnson was sitting next to me on national television and he said opposite or contrary to what I’m about to tell you, I’d tell him, “That’s a d— lie, and you know it.”
Magic Johnson would not have drafted Lonzo Ball if were not for Jeanie Buss.
Jeanie Buss needed a box-office draw. LaVar Ball, the marketing wizard that he is, put his son in our minds’ eye, had us thinking this brother out of Chino Hills starring for UCLA is going to be special in the pros.
Buss has repeatedly said how much she trusts Johnson, team president, to run the front office. But Buss also spoke of the importance of Los Angeles landing a star.
Ball, thanks to his father and strong play at UCLA, was the biggest name in the 2017 draft.
But this also seems like pro-Johnson spin.
If he were reluctant to draft Ball, Johnson went out of his way to disguise it. Johnson traded D'Angelo Russell to clear room for Ball at point guard then touted Ball’s leadership at the expense of Russell.
Besides, even if Johnson preferred to pass on Ball, would we hear about it now if Ball were playing better? These types of hindsight decisions tend to leak only when it paints someone in a more-favorable light. Otherwise, they get buried.
Still, the Lakers would be far better off with Tatum or De'Aaron Fox (who went No. 5 to the Kings). But we can’t be certain whom Johnson would have drafted if not Ball. At the time, the Lakers were reportedly also linked to Fox and Josh Jackson, who has played worse than Ball so far.