There's always something special about a hometown hero. LeBron James has epitomized the fairytale about coming home to deliver one's childhood team a championship, and stories such as the Cavs 2016 Finals triumph always seem to carry extra weight. Teams often try to artificially create these storylines; for example, the Rams trading up to take California's golden boy gunslinger Jared Goff last year at number one overall in the NFL Draft. There is, therefore, a special allure to a player spending his entire pro career in one area. Take Jered Weaver, for example, who played his high school baseball in Simi Valley before starring for Long Beach State and ultimately, spending the vast majority of his career with the Los Angeles Angels, who drafted him at number 12 overall in 2004. Lonzo Ball's hometown story, however, has the potential to outshine all the others with the exception of James', as the former Chino Hills High School standout has steamrolled college basketball this season as a freshman at UCLA, and he appears to be locked in as a top-three overall pick. Coincidentally, despite the Lakers' massive improvement this campaign, they are still looking at potentially hanging on to their top-three-protected pick, which they forfeit to the Philadelphia 76ers if they finish in a higher position. Los Angeles also appears to want a guard, setting up for a perfect hometown storyline: Lonzo Ball in purple and gold.
Ball is an incredibly gifted player that would fit in nicely with the Lakers' exciting young core of D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, and Ivica Zubac. It is most likely that he would platoon ball-handling and playmaking duties with Russell at the point guard spot, as both players are gifted passers that see the floor exceptionally well, while Clarkson could come off the bench as an electric, more scoring-minded option. Ball's shooting ability has drawn lofty comparisons to two-time reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry, while his passing is reminiscent of Jason Kidd, second on the NBA all-time assists list. With a height of 6'6", Lonzo fits the new mold of Los Angeles' tall guards (both Russell and Clarkson stand 6'5"), and in my opinion, with his athletic blend of length, perimeter scoring ability, and floor vision, is similar to former Lakers great Magic Johnson. Ball could be one of the final pieces in an elongated rebuilding process for Los Angeles, as the Lakers have struggled to compete for the first time in decades, as they are entirely devoid of a superstar to carry the team to greatness. While Lonzo may not be that player himself (no one can say yet), the beauty of the situation is that he doesn't have to be. Former Duke standout Ingram continues to improve, and I project that he will be an All-Star level player in three years, while Russell and Randle continue to make strides towards that same status. If Ball can perform to the capability that he has displayed to this point in his career and translate that to the pace and rigor of professional basketball, the sky is truly his limit, and he could be Los Angeles' hometown hero. So it begins.