The Lakers Don’t Have the Next Kobe, but the First Lonzo

By Alexander C. Lawrence

As painful as this might sound to Laker fans like myself, the Los Angeles Lakers do NOT have the next Kobe “Bean” Bryant on the roster. Kobe brought so much to the game of basketball that we may not see the next Kobe for years, if ever again. Kobe believed whole-heartedly that each practice should be as hard as a game, if not harder. If Kobe didn’t like something his teammates were doing he was never shy letting them know it. He was arguably the most important player in basketball from 1999 to 2009 and was the bridge that filled the void left by Michael Jordan.

With all these accolades that Kobe accomplished, its tough for anyone to come into the league and fill his shoes, much less a pass-first point guard with a braggadocios father. But that still doesn’t mean Lonzo Ball can’t be the rightful heir to Kobe Bryant. Fans were so excited to see what Ball could bring to the table since a lot of people viewed him as a can’t miss prospect with loads of potential. Kobe was special too when drafted, but he had a reliable and proven star center in Shaq who he shared the court with, something Ball must do without.

Emulating Kobe will be near impossible, but Lonzo doesn’t need to do that. I think right now the primary focus for him should be to work hard each day on getting better. Yeah it’s no surprise that the majority of Laker Nation and the organization are banking on him being the next great Laker, this has been a star-starved team in a star hungry market. I’m confident he can be that and of course being drafted so high to a franchise that has been known to be a competitive basketball team throughout its franchises storied history comes with high expectations. He is not alone with the likes of Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, Kyle Kuzma, Julius Randle, Josh Hart etc. who are all young players looking to thrive and help bring an NBA championship back to LA.

There is a clear target on Ball’s back, but his father LaVar Ball has always put his sons in the spotlight claiming they have the ability to be great, so this nothing new to him. The truth is it’s never going to stop until he reaches greatness. He has to hone his game and take it one game (or practice at a time). He isn’t the get in your face type of guy as Kobe was, that’s just not him. That’s okay though because he has passing and rebounding abilities that are out of this world and easily surpass Kobe’s at his peak. He has smooth passing skills and he’s always looking ahead to see how he can set his teammates up to score, before himself. Those players don’t come around often but his potential based on what we saw from him at UCLA is too intriguing not to assume he can adjust and be the guy the Lakers have so desperately needed since Kobe’s departure.

For all NBA prospects that are drafted, no matter how much of a “can’t-miss” prospect they are, there is always a wait and see approach because you don’t really know what a player has until a few years of developing them. L.A. has never had a prospect like Lonzo and the excitement that people have for him is unparalleled. Kobe walked into Shaq’s spotlight and didn’t need to be the savior from the get-go. If Lonzo plays his game, goes about his business and performs on the court, he will win over the media and fans of the NBA.

REPORT: Lakers Would Pass on Lonzo Ball

By John Camera

According to Bleacher Report writer Jordan Schultz, if the NBA Draft was held today, the Los Angeles Lakers would pass on the player many expect them to select, UCLA Point Guard Lonzo Ball. Schultz notes that the Lakers are very concerned with Lonzo’s father, LaVar, and the impact he would have. LaVar has manifested fame through the success of his son and with Lonzo landing in a prime time destination like LA, just down the street from where he played college, LaVar could have an even bigger voice. Along with this, the Lakers’ front office is concerned with Ball’s on-court game, skeptical of whether he can transition to being a true star at the next level.

While his father LaVar is an unknown, who knows how he’ll act when his son is in the place he’s wanted him to be since the beginning of this process, the Lakers concerns with Lonzo’s game are serious and well-warranted.

Ball does has a safety net to fall back on. At the very worst he projects to be a Ricky Rubio type of player who can act as a distributor and play-maker but does little to create for himself. Rubio as a worst case scenario isn’t very bad and the best case prospects for Ball should excite anyone. He could be the second coming of Jason Kidd or Penny Hardaway if he adjusts well to the NBA game. However, there are still deterrents that could prevent him from getting there.

The two biggest negatives to Lonzo’s game are his lack of elite athleticism and his funky, unorthodox shooting motion. Lonzo does not have blazing speed or quickness like some of his contemporaries in this draft class and it could be a factor that may limit him throughout his career; this isn’t a very fixable issue. What is fixable is his lack of great dribble moves that can separate him from defenders, something he will have to work on if he is to create consistent separation at the NBA level.

The other problem Ball will need to clean up to achieve NBA stardom is his shooting motion, which includes a low release point and may limit his dribble jumper at the next level. Ball will need to adjust the shot to get it to work against bigger, stronger, longer defenders or rebuild his mechanics from the ground up. While he should receive credit for being a solid three point and off-ball scorer at UCLA, he will need to do more, such as building a mid-range game, to become an NBA star.

While these are real issues that may hold Lonzo Ball back, it should be noted that he is still the best option for the Lakers if Markelle Fultz is off the board. However, a player to watch for Los Angeles is Kentucky’s lightening-fast De’Aaron Fox. Fox could transform into a John Wall-type player as he fills out and learns to shoot better and turn the ball over less. As is, Fox is a speed demon with good mechanics, basketball IQ, and defending ability. If the Lakers are going to pick between Fox and Ball they have two choices; go with the potential homerun in Fox or take the safe pick and select Ball.