Lakers News: UCLA Head Coach Steve Alford Champions Lonzo Ball’s Defensive Improvement

Lakers News: UCLA Head Coach Steve Alford Champions Lonzo Ball’s Defensive Improvement

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Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Lonzo Ball has been the subject of intense scrutiny prior to since the Los Angeles Lakers selected him No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Whether getting a haircut or missing jumpers, the rookie’s consistently made national headlines.

Lakers head coach Luke Walton, Ball’s teammates, and other NBA players have regularly come to his defense, preaching patience. Ball’s shot a team-worst 31.5 percent from the field and 25.7 percent on 3-pointers during the first 21 games of his career.

It’s one of the worst shooting starts to a season in NBA history. Despite that, Golden State Warriors two-time MVP Stephen Curry said Ball need not alter his shooting mechanics simply because others believe he should

Although Ball’s struggles with his jump shot are what’s remained in the spotlight, UCLA head coach Steve Alford noted his defensive improvement, via Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times:

“The thing … I am very impressed with him is that I think defensively, he’s really working at it,” Alford said. “And defensively he’s growing in that area. For a rookie, I think that’s the hardest thing coming into the NBA, is to learn what you have to do defensively. And I was very impressed with that.

“I just think he’s gotta get the ball. When he’s got the ball, he makes people around him better, and I think the more trust there can be in Lonzo being the guy that facilitates the offense, because right now what’s being critiqued is his jump shooting. That’s not who he is. He’s not a shooting guard.”

There is plenty more about Ball’s game to like aside from his shooting. Alford is correct that Ball has been far better than expected for a rookie defensively, ranking second on the Lakers in steals with 1.4 per game and third on the team in blocks with 0.9 per contest.

Additionally, the Lakers move the ball way better when their starting point guard plays. While Ball is on the floor, 57.4 percent of the Lakers’ baskets are assisted. That’s compared to 53.3 percent when he’s on the bench. Naturally, Ball’s 7.1 assists per game lead the team.

Ball has been good outside of his shooting, and if that comes around he has a chance to be one of the best players in the league. For now, the signs of that type of potential should be enough to satiate Lakers fans hoping the team has their next franchise centerpiece.

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