In 15 years, this answer will be easy. The points will be tallied, the checkmarks crossed, and we should all easily say, 'That guy stood out from them all.' But right now, the hyped treasure chest of the once young Lakers consists of Julius Randle in New York, Brandon Ingram in New Orleans, and Lonzo Ball in Chicago. With a legitimate debate for all sides, let's hear the pitches.
Pitch 1: Lonzo Ball
Here we have a player that went from the next Magic Johnson to the next Anthony Bennett to now a great 3-and-D player who's also an elite point guard. At the rate where Lonzo will now break Jordan's records in Chicago then get traded for Markell Fultz. But if you told Lakers fans that Lonzo would be shooting the three-ball seven times a game at a 45% clip in his fifth season, even Lavar Ball would be surprised. Actually, maybe take that one back.
The argument that Lonzo was not as valuable to the Pelicans as Ingram and therefore should probably be cut from the debate is a fool's game. Since UCLA, Lonzo has been a fundamental point guard but has been forced to change his game to compliment Point-LeBron and Point-Zion. Although he did this seamlessly, Chicago Lonzo is finally highlighting exactly what Lonzo was meant to do.
For all his strengths, Lonzo is not going to be the guy putting up the most points every night, which in fact, is why he might have the greatest career. I would take an excellent complimentary piece for a championship team than the alpha bucket getter on the worst. Or, in other words, Kris Middleton over Bradley Beal. Chauncey Billups over Michael Redd. Joe Dumars over Jeff Malone. Dennis Johnson over Purvis Short. And Lionel Hollins over John Drew. Because an unselfish player who can rebound, defend and run transition makes Lonzo the perfect complimentary piece for any championship team. The value of that steeps the hundred bucket getters you can sign in the league.
Pitch 2: Brandon Ingram
At face value, Brandon Ingram is terrific. He's the real-life Slenderman, can score on just about anybody, and is one developed dribble pull-up three from being a top 15 player in the league. But then again, how many players can you say that for? Because with Ingram, he always seems to come with the good and the bad. He was the most hyped player out of the three and drew realistic comparisons to Kevin Durant but then had such bad shooting slumps his rookie year; you would question if he was even a first-round pick. However, I cut him slack since he was playing on Kobe Bryant's farewell season with many other hungry prospects.
He then gets labeled as a nuisance after the Chris Paul incident and becomes the gazillionth player traded by LeBron James, all because Ingram and James both need the ball in their hands. Again, I give him slack because they were not exactly a match made in heaven. In Pelicans, Ingram proved his worth by becoming the go-to guy on a team with Zion Williamson. He then completely staunches his development his second Pelican season, putting up nearly identical statistics. Then you find me defending Ingram claiming he had a turbulent relationship with Stan Van Gundy and that he was never used right. Now he sits in the eye of the dysfunctional tornado - called New Orleans basketball. Brandon Ingram has easily been in the worst situations to succeed out of the three, which should factor in.
But if you have to keep making excuses for somebody, maybe you're the one in delusion. Although at only 24, with Ingram's length, he might have the biggest window for what his career could shape out to be, but that's not the same as thinking he will hit it.
Pitch 3: Julius Randle
It matters less how you start to where you are now, and Randle's last full season was easily the most significant jump out of the candidates. He improved every single category in his game and led the Knicks from a sad joke to a solid playoff team with a record of 41-31. He was the focal point of the Knicks' underdog story all year, something the rest of the roster jumped on the back of for the better. When Randle fully bought in - which was demonstrated by his obvious improvement, reduction in clumsy turnovers, and less berating of referees - the whole team followed. That's why they went from 18th in defense to 1st all in one season, with no real noticeable acquisitions apart from a new head coach in Tom Thibodeau. But Julius Randle led that charge.
However, Randle became the first candidate to reach the playoffs but completely collapsed. First playoff jitters aside, he was bad. Shot 29% from the field, 33% from three, while being upstaged by Derrick Rose in fourth quarters. How a star plays in the playoffs is maybe the most important aspect of a player's pitch. Those last 5 minutes, all the tricks have been used, and the defensive schemes are locked in place - so what works and what doesn't? For the Knicks, Randle was a product with a short expiration date. Whether that has been fixed is yet to be known, but at least he has a playoff story. For this season, he has the worst plus-minus for the entire roster of players not named Kemba Walker - but it might be too early to judge.
There are the pitches. It's now on you to decide. All three, due to injuries or poor shooting, had whispers of busts during their rookie season. Now all three have undeniably turned those conceptions around. But it won't take 15 years to know; it will most likely only take 5, pushing the urgency to pick a camp now. Post it on Facebook so no one can call you a bandwagon when that time comes.