Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton was all smiles after selecting UCLA’s Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA draft, gushing about his innate ability and unique quality to make everyone on the floor better.
“I think as a leader, guys are going to naturally gravitate towards somebody who wants to make them better, to me, he’s the type of player that when he’s on the floor, all four guys that are on the floor with him become better instantly, and that’s a quality and a trait that not many people have,” Walton said. “The great ones all have it and we hope that by the way he plays, everyone else on our team becomes better.”
Although Walton said Ball was ‘the one we wanted,’ Walton also maintained that they were considering drafting other players, especially Kansas’ Josh Jackson (who the Phoenix Suns drafted at No. 4).
“Yeah, absolutely,” Walton responded when asked if there was any question the Lakers were going to draft Ball. “There were a lot of debates going back and forth, and that’s kind of the way it should be, you don’t want everyone agreeing on the same thing, otherwise what’s the point of meetings and brainstorming. And, the talk was, that we needed help defensively and obviously we love Josh Jackson and he’s a monster on the defensive end, and so there was those debates.”
But ultimately, Ball’s offensive talent was too good to pass up.
“We also want the ball moving, we want to play an uptempo game, and that’s what Ball’s a genius at.”
As far as his father, Lavar, Walton says he’s not ‘overly concerned,’ explaining that he, too, had an outspoken father.
“I think it will make it more challenging a little bit, but I think every top draft pick that comes in, has a target on his back,” Walton said of LaVar’s influence on how his son is perceived around the league. “The best players in this league want to set a tone with these young players early, to let them know what it’s like here. I know when I was a young player, I had a target on my back from teammates because of things my dad said, but it ended up working out, and I think what’s incredible is that according to Zo, his dad has been great, always been there for him, always supported him. He obviously loves him and that’s what you want out of a father.”
Although LaVar guaranteed the Lakers would make the playoffs this upcoming season, now that they’ve drafted his son, Walton was quick to slow his roll.
“Right now, I’m hoping he (Lonzo) leads us to a few Summer League victories and we’ll go from there,” Walton smiled.
With the Lakers ushering in a new era, it’s all about creating and buying into a culture, and that’s where Ball comes in.
“I’m sure he will fit into our culture, he will help improve our culture, with the way he passes, his selfless nature and that’s why we took him,” Walton said.
Walton was hesitant to comment on how Ball impacted their decision to trade for D’Angelo Russell.
“All I’ll say is that, we love the way Zo plays the game of basketball.”