When the Los Angeles Lakers selected Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, they thought they were drafting an offensive savant who would instantly transform their offense. After all, Ball was known for his unselfishness, pushing the ball up the floor at every opportunity in an attempt to put his teammates in position to score.
As it turns out, while Ball is good on offense, it’s his defense that truly shines. At 6’6,” he uses his length and ability to read the floor to disrupt passing lanes and generate turnovers. He doesn’t have the quickness of some of the NBA’s elite guards but he recovers well, which allows him to contest shots that most would have no chance at.
Unfortunately, Ball underwent knee surgery after his rookie season, so it took him quite a bit of time to get back up to full speed. When he did finally get healthy and adjust to playing in NBA games again, he looked like he had taken a step forward. That is until another injury ended the 2018-19 NBA season in January.
For a spell just before he was sidelined with a sprained ankle, Ball looked a lot like the player the Lakers thought they were getting when they drafted him. He was a dynamic playmaker, finding open teammates and pushing the pace at all times. He attacked the rim with confidence, using his athleticism to punish defenses who didn’t close quickly enough.
In the month of January, Ball averaged 11.1 points (36% shooting from the three-point line), 6.1 rebounds, 7.0 assists, and 1.5 steals. For the first time in a long time, Ball looked the part as one of the league’s best up-and-coming young guards.
Alas, the injury bug was merciless and the Lakers never got to find out whether this uptick in play was Ball’s new normal or merely a hot streak.
Highlight Of The 2018-19 Lakers Seasonn
Still just 21 years old, Ball has plenty of upside if he can stay healthy. His rookie and sophomore seasons were both decimated with injuries and as a result, he has played in only 99 NBA games.
Ball’s shooting — both at the free throw line and from behind the arc — continues to be a concern. He shot 33% from three and a terrifying 42% from the free throw line last season, but he wasn’t healthy enough last offseason to get in the kind of work that he should be able to this year. With a full summer of work under his belt, the Lakers could see a much-improved Ball in his third season.
In theory, Ball is a perfect fit alongside James when his shot is falling. He is unselfish to a fault and isn’t upset when the basketball doesn’t find his hands. He’s also big enough to switch just about everything on defense and smart enough to get baskets as a cutter when teams pay too much attention to James.
His shooting and health will ultimately determine Ball’s success at the NBA level, but there is plenty to like about him moving forward if he can make a few fixes this summer.