By: Cam Kelly
The following article is for Big Ballers Only:
If there is only one name you have heard about all basketball season long it is probably Lavar Ball, but if there is one hooper’s name you have heard about it is Lonzo Ball. Lonzo Ball might be the most talked about athlete before playing a single professional minute of my lifetime, him and LeBron James (future teammates). Although Lonzo is a talented player, the media pays attention to absolutely everything he does. His Instagram videos, his SoundCloud raps, his shoes. Markelle Fultz and De’Aaron Fox might be better than Lonzo Ball, but no one once said anything about what shoes they wore, LeBron James did not come to their games, and Steph Curry didn’t personally send them shoes to wear. Lonzo has the whole world watching him and there is no one else in the draft that has as much pressure as him, almost everyone wants to see him fall. I am here to tell you as much as you were probably excited to see his poor performance in his first ever summer league game, the summer league MVP might have you disappointed in the long run. Lonzo Ball is good, very good, and even in his poor performance in the first game you could just tell he changed their culture immediately. The rest of the tournament is what you should expect the Lakers to rebuild on and it looks good.
The first thing NBA scouts get excited about Lonzo is his passing ability. At UCLA he averaged 7.6 APG, leading the nation. He is completely unselfish and is always looking to get his teammates involved. His passes aren’t all that flashy, but more it is him showing off his basketball IQ and letting the game come to him naturally. He pushes the pace which is where he is at his best when the pace is fast. He has solid speed and quickness, not John Wall/De’Aaron Fox speed, but enough to make him dangerous with the ball in his hands. He also has elite athleticism that he showed off at the rim a lot at UCLA. Lonzo pushing the pace also will make the rest of the Lakers cut hard to the basket because they know Lonzo can find them for an easy bucket. Lonzo is extremely good at finding cutters, especially on his drives.
Another thing that scouts love is Lonzo’s shooting or at least his shooting percentages, his form probably makes them cringe. Lonzo shot a phenomenal 41.2% from 3 on 5.4 attempts per game and 73.2% from 2 at UCLA. Lonzo not only showed that he can shoot well, but that he can also shoot it from deep. Lonzo aligns his body 90 degrees at the rim consistently and he shoots mainly off the hop. It’s also pretty quick allowing him to be effective on catch and shoot threes. He really likes to take the step back three going to his left as it is very difficult as a matter of fact almost impossible for him to get a good shot dribbling to his right. However, he has figured out that when he does in fact have to dribble to his right he can either immediately crossover to his left or shoot a floater.
UCLA’s offense was a lot like Golden State’s, movement and cutting focus so Lonzo really didn’t get a ton of pick and rolls, however, when he did get a pick and roll, he was average at best. The majority of his turnovers were in the pick and roll. It is very hard for him to be effective dribbling to his right on the pick and roll when defenders know he is not going to shoot it. However, even though it was hard for him to score in the pick and roll, he did an effective job on finding the roll man or another open man.
Lonzo does have offensive areas he need to work on: like I mentioned he is a very effective scorer going left but not really going right, his scoring in the pick and roll game, his free throw shooting percentage is not very good due to his mechanics, and also he does not get to the free throw line as much as he should or can.
Overall, offensively Lonzo is the perfect point guard for the Lakers. His passing ability, pace, feel for the game, and shooting are all the right tools for the start of this rebuild for this young team.
None, just kidding.
One of the negatives we hear about Lonzo is his defense and to be honest it is not good. When you are already trying to hide someone on defense in summer league is not a good sign, however, I do think there are areas he can contribute on defense and he is better than what a lot of people make him out to be.
Lonzo has good quickness, however he gets beat way too much off the dribble which causes him to foul way too much. He does have enough quickness to get back in the play sometimes but in the NBA they will just take advantage of that. He is pretty good at staying in the play when he gets beat which is a good sign.
He isn’t very strong which allows bigger players to bully him, however with some body work and good coaching maybe he can be a fine defender, not good though.
The same vision that gets Lonzo a lot of assists also gets him a ton of steals, 1.8 SPG. He is very good at seeing the spacing of the other team and reading passes and just having a feel for what to expect. He has very active hands reminding me of Steph Curry.
Overall I never see Lonzo to be a good NBA defender, but not terrible like Isaiah Thomas but good enough to stay on the court much like what Steph Curry does, getting a lot of steals from his awareness and active hands.
How Lonzo Fits in with the Lakers:
Although Lonzo is a point guard he also got a lot of shots playing off the ball which is very advantageous due to the NBA becoming closer and closer to positionless basketball. UCLA set a number of pindown screens for shooters like Ball and Alford which if you watch the Lakers they set many down screens too for Russell and Young which should immediately translate. With Lonzo being able to play the 1 and 2 interchangeably is a big advantage for their guard play.
D’Angelo Russell is not as fast as Lonzo but he would often on a defensive rebound still push the pace enough and find ways to get into the lane and finish. With a more athletic and faster Lonzo expect the same thing except for a 2.0 version. Russell really wasn’t going to beat defender with quickness but more different types of moves while Lonzo can beat defenders off quickness alone. Russell also got the green light to shoot transition threes on pull ups which is very similar to what Lonzo did a lot at UCLA.
Like I said earlier, Lonzo is great at catch and shoot threes and at UCLA would often run to the three-point line when TJ Leaf would grab a defensive rebound and TJ Leaf could set him up. This should translate immediately as Luke Walton allows Julius Randle to push it when he grabs a defensive rebound. Randle was really good at finding Russell at the three-point line in transition and will be able to have no trouble finding Ball.
I mentioned earlier how pick and rolls would be tough for Lonzo since he didn’t get many at UCLA and the Lakers run many pick and rolls. However, the few pick and rolls he did get at UCLA were out of a horns set much like what the Lakers do giving Ball the option to go left or right and going to his left will be very effective. The Lakers like to run actions into their screens too, such as a dribble handoff, which did not happen at UCLA and will only be more advantageous for Ball.
Overall, Lonzo Ball is a huge piece into the future of this young Lakers team. He has the chance to really change the culture with his pace of play and his unselfish passing. He is an athletic and quick floor general with legit NBA range and although gets beat off the dribble too much is still very active on defense. Lonzo is a big step in the resurrection of the Lakers. That is until LeBron, PG, John Wall, and Boogie all join him in 2018, oh yeah Bill Simmons I am 100% behind you on that one!