May 15, 2017
Despite the general consensus that Washington’s Markelle Fultz is considered the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball and his attention-seeking father LaVar are probably going to be the biggest story.
There is a sentiment held by some in the media that Lonzo’s talent may not be worth the headache that his father could potentially pose to the NBA team that drafts him. I can see the headline now from after draft day: “My son is 50 times better than Ben Simmons.”
The top decision makers of lottery teams have been asked about this very topic. Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect the Lakers’ draft strategy. Ryan McDonough also said that LaVar won’t affect the Suns’ opinion of Lonzo. And while I don’t believe Bryan Colangelo is on the record about Big Baller Brand, Brett Brown offered similar sentiments to what Johnson and McDonough had to say.
Appearing on Carlin and Reese this afternoon, the Sixers head coach said that LaVar Ball won’t affect the Sixers’ opinion of Lonzo. And part of the calculus had to do with some homework the Sixers did at the draft combine:
“I don’t think so, and it’s a fair question,” Brown said. “We interviewed one of the UCLA players in Chicago and we asked a lot of what could have been tough questions. And he was a great sounding board. You know, the players felt like it wasn’t any distraction. They talked lots about Lonzo just being a hell of teammate, very sort of quiet.
“When you start studying Lonzo’s game and hearing reactions from a teammate, it certainly waters down some of the anxiety that we read about as it relates to the draft.”
Judging from the combine invite list, that would mean the Sixers interviewed TJ Leaf or Ike Anigbogu.
Brown also made a point about the Sixers being willing to deal with Lonzo considering their past experiences with young players, whether it was Joel Embiid’s up-and-downs and Jahlil Okafor’s early maturity issues:
“From a Philadelphia 76ers perspective, we dealt with a lot,” he said. “We understand it’s a modern-day game. Each young player comes with a different set of challenges. We’ve navigated so many situations in our four years with all of these one-and-done and 20-year-olds that in a twisted way, this is another challenge.”
While Lonzo Ball’s game (specifically, his lack of individual creation off the dribble) brings some interesting challenges, LaVar wouldn’t scare me away from drafting him either.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann
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