Lakers’ future hangs on two kids!
Why Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram need to have breakout years for Magic Johnson’s grand plan for the Lakers to work
As absurd as it sounds, the future of the Los Angeles Lakers may hang on whether a pair of quiet, reserved 19-year old basketball phenoms turn out to be the real deal or are just another pair of promising young players.
Magic Johnson has made no secret the Lakers plan to have cap space to sign two max-contract players next summer when LeBron James, Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and DeMarcus Cousins may be available. But for Magic’s grand plan to work, the Lakers must become an attractive landing spot for free agents, which means Ball and Ingram need to breakout big this year. If they and the team struggle, Magic’s grand plan may become a pipe dream.
That’s a heavy load to put on two 19-year old kids, one who hasn’t played a single NBA game and one coming of a disappointing rookie season, but that hasn’t prevented the Lakers from boldly touting their high expectations. Magic already proclaimed Lonzo to be Hall of Fame bound and the next great Laker and declared Ingram the team’s closer and future All-Star. He is obviously going all-in on two 19-year old kids transforming the Lakers.
Hyperbole aside, the idea that the future of one of the world’s most storied franchise hangs on how two 19-year old kids play this season is crazy. But that’s the bet Magic Johnson has made as he mimic’s LaVar Ball’s strategy and tries to ‘speak’ the Lakers “attracting two superstars” into existence. While LaVar needed luck and ping pong balls to win his bet, Magic needs Lonzo and Brandon to prove this year that they’re future superstars.
We thought LaVar was crazy. Could the same be true of Magic Johnson? ESPN has projected the Lakers to finish 13th in the West with just 33 wins, not an unrealistic outcome for a team counting on two 19-year olds as starters but not the kind of season that’s going to convince two superstars they will be joining a team that could compete for an NBA championship. Or could it be Magic knows something the ESPN prognosticators don’t?
I think the answer is Magic knows already what he has in Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram. He’s seen them destroy expectations in summer league and he’s seen them practicing and working out every day this summer. He knows what he has and isn’t worried about speaking out. He’s confident Lonzo will win Rookie of the Year and transform the Lakers offense and Brandon will take his game to the next level and become a superstar.
There’s a quiet unflappable confidence in the way both Ball and Ingram comport themselves on the floor. Not the usual cocky confidence and trash talking brashness we see from today’s young 1-and-done phenoms but a level of maturity and sureness beyond their 19 years and lack of experience. While Lonzo and Brandon will have to walk the talk on the court, it’s easy to see why Magic and the Lakers are so sold on these two 19-year olds.
Watching Lonzo Ball rack up assists and triple-doubles and Brandon Ingram dominate at both ends in summer league was a giant step forward for a Lakers franchise that’s suffered its worst four years in history. The Lakers have been on an incredible roll ever since Jeanie Buss hired Magic Johnson. Assuming nothing serious comes from the NBA tampering investigation, the Lakers truly believe they are primed to compete for the NBA playoffs.
Since taking over the team a short six months ago, Magic Johnson has done an incredible job transforming the Lakers from a laughing stock on and off the court into a franchise envied and respected around the league for the revamped roster and favorable cap space that has them perfectly positioned for summer 2018. All Magic needs to complete this amazing transformation is for Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram to have breakout superstar seasons.