EL SEGUNDO – The choice that seemed inevitable is the one the Lakers made.
A point guard from the franchise’s glorious past on Thursday drafted a homegrown teenager he hopes is the point guard who can lead them out of their current struggles and into a bright future.
Magic Johnson, who took over as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations in February, selected UCLA’s Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft. Ball, who earned national attention at Chino Hills High and his one season in Westwood, grew up hoping he would get an opportunity to play for his hometown team and mimic the passing skills of his longtime idol.
After suffering through four of the worst seasons in franchise history, several head coaching changes and a front office shakeup, the Lakers hope they took another step toward accelerating their rebuilding process by drafting the player most expected they would.
The Lakers had also worked out Kansas guard/forward Josh Jackson, Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox and Washington guard Markelle Fultz, whom the Philadelphia 76ers selected with the No. 1 pick. While the Lakers maintained they kept an open mind about each prospect, most in NBA circles viewed Ball as the expected and correct choice.
The Lakers, and other NBA talent evaluators, have praised Ball’s court vision, but they also see leadership qualities in his temperament, pass-first mentality and scoring that make them believe he can run the team’s offense and help guide a young roster.
Those evaluations partly explain why the Lakers also felt comfortable trading third-year guard D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday. The deal was primarily made to shed Timofey Mozgov’s three-year, $48 million contract, acquire a serviceable center (Brook Lopez) and collect another asset (the No. 27 draft pick), but many believe frustration with the pace of Russell’s development and concerns about whether he could adjust to Ball’s arrival made him more…