We are in the full swing of March Madness this weekend as college hopefuls make their way to the championship round. By now I’m sure you’ve filled out a bracket and are following along with all the fun. I was lucky enough to get an invite to attend a great party complete with several large flat screen TVs with multiple games playing, theater style seating, and Peanut M&M’s (my favorite). I’m not much for college basketball because there are way too many teams and players to keep track of, but around this time every year I start to tune in to see which players are coming up in the ranks for the NBA Draft.
One player who is turning heads is UCLA Bruins freshman Lonzo Ball. You may have also heard of his younger brother LaMelo Ball who is topping the highlight reels as a sophomore in high school, or his father LaVar Ball who is becoming a little less positively known—we’ll get into that later. I’m going to use first names for the remainder of the article so we can keep everything straight.
Lonzo is having great success in his first (and probably only) year playing basketball with UCLA who placed 3rd in the Pac 12. UCLA is slated to play their first game of the tournament tonight against the Kent State Golden Flashes who rank 4th in the MAC. Lonzo is averaging 14.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game so far this season shooting 54% from the field and 41% from distance. Impressive numbers for a young guard who promises to be one of the higher ranked NBA draft prospects this summer.
There will be many NBA teams looking to pick up a guard like Lonzo this summer. He has height, scoring ability and a keen ability to facilitate offense on his side. However, Lonzo’s father LaVar was quoted as saying that his son is better than two-time MVP Stephen Curry, and that he will only play for the LA Lakers which might limit his options moving forward. LaVar did back track on his words explaining that he just really wants his son to play for the Lakers, and that he’s going to “speak it into existence.” He went on to say that having Lonzo play for the Lakers would keep him close to home while giving him great experience under the mentor ship of Magic Johnson. Uh oh dad, be careful.
Lonzo’s talent would be a great fit for the 76ers who currently rank 13th in the Eastern Conference. The 76ers have a 1st round draft pick that they acquired from the Lakers in 2015, but it will be protected if the Lakers get a top 3 lottery pick. The 76ers could definitely use Lonzo’s presence on their rookie dream team since forward Ben Simmons should be healthy next season for his NBA debut along with center Joel Embiid who has proven to be worth the wait despite being injury prone.
However, the Lakers are in tank mode sitting at last place in the Western Conference, and second to last in the league with just 20 wins. It looks as though they are hoping to keep that protected lottery pick, but are they after Lonzo? They currently have a pretty full backcourt with D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, Jordan Clarkson and David Nwaba. But, they have recently starting bringing Russell off the bench so perhaps they’re looking to keep him healthy for a trade in the offseason. I tend to think they’re going to be looking for a powerful forward-center to bring off the bench for Mozgov since they don’t have much in the way of long term situations in either of those roles.
Lonzo could also be a great addition to the Denver Nuggets who are in need of some adjustments to their backcourt. Rookie Jamal Murray is proving to be a good find, but Emmanuel Mudiay has disappointed and veteran Jameer Nelson has taken a page from James Harden’s book and doesn’t play defense. Lonzo’s size and sharp shooting would complement the Nuggets’ developing team as their identity is starting to come into focus.
Bottom line is that Lonzo would make a great addition to any team, but what will that team do about his dad? LaVar’s comments started off innocently enough, and what parent doesn’t want their child to stay close to home? However, they have gotten increasingly strange and controversial as time moves on. Perhaps it’s a publicity stunt, but LaVar definitely has people talking—and not always in a good way.
He’s recently stated that he wants a combined $1 billion dollar shoe deal for his three sons saying that whatever company decides to take this offer wouldn’t need to give it to them all up front, but would rather agree to $100 million a year for 10 years. Well, ok when you put it that way it sounds better. What?! As if that’s not enough, papa Ball went on to say that he would “kill Michael Jordan one-on-one.” (Que dramatic eye roll.)
Some might see LaVar’s comments as harmless, but I actually think they might hurt his kids in the long run. If I were a GM interested in Lonzo, I would make sure to include some language in his contract that would put a harness on daddy-o so he doesn’t become a PR problem for the team. Lonzo promises to be a profitable choice for whatever team he ends up playing for, but we won’t get to see where he ends up until June. In the meantime, we can watch his performance in the NCAA tournament and hope for some more LaVar Ball hot takes.