Lonzo’s Dad Might Ruin the Draft for the Suns

Mar 4, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Lavar Ball embraces his son UCLA Bruins guard Lonzo Ball (2) after the game against the Washington State Cougars at Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 4, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Lavar Ball embraces his son UCLA Bruins guard Lonzo Ball (2) after the game against the Washington State Cougars at Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports /

If the Suns have a chance to draft Lonzo Ball, but pass over him because his Dad played mind games with the league, something needs to change in the NBA Draft Process.

Lavar Ball talks a lot. The vast majority of it is speaking highly of himself and his sons, especially Lonzo Ball who is the possible number one overall pick in this summer’s upcoming draft. Lavar has said that Lonzo is going to be better than Steph Curry; that his kids are going to be so phenomenal and popular that he wants a $1 billion shoe deal (even though that would make the two younger boys ineligible for amateur status in college, not to mention that some already believe that the younger two may never sniff the NBA); that his sons are a 20-year investment; and that he (Lavar) would have “killed” Michael Jordan one-on-one.

Uuuhhh… Yeah.

Lavar has also made it abundantly clear that he would like Lonzo to be drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers so he could both stay home while also receive the esteemed opportunity to learn from Magic Johnson. For Lakers fans this is probably music to their ears. Even though the Lakers drafted D’Angelo Russell number two overall in 2015, Lonzo has received comparisons to Magic and Jason Kidd by scouts, and obviously Steph Curry by his father. D’Angelo has also proven to be far from a world-beater yet, so the Lakers are probably more than willing to seek an upgrade should one be available.

However this is not  music to the ears of several other teams and their fans who might have a better opportunity to draft Lonzo than the Lakers come draft day. The Suns and Celtics (via Brooklyn) may very well end up with a higher draft position than the Lakers (as well as any other team in the lottery who might happen to jump into the top-3) and it is their right to select whoever they want. If they want Lonzo and if they have the chance to select him, to pass up on a player who they may believe is a generational talent could be professional suicide, especially if whoever they select does not turn into a star himself.

Last year Kris Dunn tried, and apperently succeeded, in forcing the Lakers, Suns, and Celtics to avoid drafting him because each of those teams already had entrenched points guards and he did not want to come into the league as a reserve. He forced his way to Minnesota (who has Ricky Rubio) with the hope that he would be able to take over fairly quickly.

Obviously he has not and many have coined him a bust already. But there is a huge difference between Dunn and Ball: nobody  compared Dunn to Magic Johnson or Jason Kidd. He is a nice point guard with a decent future, but General Managers that passed up on him weren’t risking their professional lives.

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It would be adventitious for Ball to play ball with whichever club drafted him as well. NBA draft rules are not like the NFL used to be where players like Eli Manning can simply refuse to sign a contract with the Chargers until he is traded to the Giants. If Ball refuses to sign and play for the Suns, because he is an Early Entry player (in his case only a Freshman) he would have to wait until the year after he would have been a rookie in the NBA had he stayed in college for four seasons. Meaning, if the Suns drafted him, the family wanted him in L.A., and the Suns did not oblige, he would not be eligible to re-enter the draft until 2021 if he decided to sit out.

That is a loooooong wait for a first contract, and by that point guarantees nothing to whom may actually select the then 23-year old.

But even with all of Lavar’s bluster, there is no guarantee that the Lakers are even in a position to draft Lonzo (although if you believe in conspiracy theories, what do you want to bet that the Lakers win the lottery in April). What if the Lakers finish with the third pick and the Celtics and Suns are one and two. They each want to select the best player available and if each believes that Lonzo is in the top-2, would they just skip over him? Because Lonzo’s Dad said he wants his son to play in L.A., (presuming that Markelle Fultz still goes number one) whoever drafts second overall will have to avoid Lonzo and pick the player they feel is third best on the board?

An even crazier situation is if the Lakers fall out of the Top-3 and lose their lottery pick to Philadelphia altogether. Will Lavar demand that a top-3 team that selects Lonzo trade him to the Lakers anyway? The team that drafted him would be able to demand a kings ransom in that case, but would the Lakers even want to give up that large of a package to get him, especially since they already have D’Angelo Russell on the roster?

Let’s also be honest with the Ball’s: the Suns history is chalk full of elite-level point guards (including the aforementioned Jason Kidd) so the franchise is somewhat of a point guard factory. Thus it is not hard to imagine that Ball would succeed here just the same as in L.A. Sure, as a Laker he’d have Magic Johnson to lean on, but I don’t see why the Suns wouldn’t be able to find another very successful point guard to bring in to be his mentor. (This is just spit-balling and totally off-topic, but if the Suns drafted Ball, could they maybe entice Steve Nash at all with a better coaching opportunity in Phoenix to come in and assist in his development? That might be difficult because of Nash’s affinity for San Francisco and his wish to be somewhat near L.A. for his documentary, but you never know. (There are others as well).

In the end there are three ideal situations that would allow the Suns to go about their business on draft day and not have to really worry about the distraction of Lavar Ball affecting their draft options:

First, Ball is off the board before the Suns even have the chance to draft meaning they can still select the best available player, regardless of position.

Second, they do have the opportunity to draft him but the Lakers lost their pick by falling out of the top-3. Certainly of the top few teams the Suns are the next best option so it wouldn’t be hard to believe that they would accept Phoenix if the Suns were the next, most logical destination. However, if Lavar does demand a trade to the Lakers, the Suns hold all the upper hand and can demand a large return, possibly including multiple additional picks and maybe even a player or two in return. As discussed above, Ball can’t really “hold out” since the salary of rookies is slotted so if the Suns drafted him, he’s pretty much stuck here – which also isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If Lonzo himself does not mind as much where he begins his NBA career and the Suns start winning as they would be expected to do, there is no reason to doubt that he would happily be a Phoenix Sun for years to come. Lest we forget, Lavar will have to start watching his other two sons as they grow in their high school, college, and possible pro careers as well, so he will also be somewhat distracted.

Finally, the probable most ideal situation is if the Lakers win the draft, the Suns come in second, and the Lakers draft Fultz. Imagine the burn Lavar would feel if the very franchise he believes is the best situation for his son, decided that Markelle was the better option. Having a spurned Ball family on the Suns side, especially as they share the division with the Lakers, would be an extremely exciting proposition.

Next: Draft Watch: Should the Suns Draft Lonzo Ball

Anyway Lavar, wouldn’t you want to save money on your taxes for your billion dollar shoe deal by living in Arizona instead of California anyway?