The Los Angeles Lakers are starting to see what is coming their way with Lonzo Ball running the show now.
After a tumultuous start to his rookie season, Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball seems to be finally starting to show his true potential.
Throughout the beginning months of the season, Ball’s play had him firmly implanted as the laughing stock of the league. Most of the criticism he received was extremely dramatic, as some fans began to write him off as a bust a mere two months into his career, and some even going as far as to say he should be demoted to the G league — an absurd proposition.
Nevertheless, Lonzo Ball did deserve to be critiqued, as his play was simply not up to par with the expectations that come with being the 2nd overall pick in a massive market such as Los Angeles.
Having a father such as LaVar Ball, who’s antics accomplished nothing if not to further supplement the already lofty expectations put on the shoulders of the 20-year-old guard, certainly did not help.
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However, Ball’s critics have been silent for the last 10 days. There’s something about averaging 17.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals while shooting a field goal percentage of 45%, and a three-point percentage of 47% over the last 5 games that will shut up those who label you as a bust on the basis that you’ll never be able to shoot well in the NBA with your current shooting form.
I’m not here to declare Lonzo the next Magic Johnson just because he has performed well in his last five games. But I am here to make it clear that those who wrote him off after his initial struggles, need to take notice of his improvements.
The main reason for Ball’s early struggles were his timid play and lack of a reliable jump shot. These two problems have become less apparent in his recent play, but anyone who saw him in college knew this was going to happen.
In his time at UCLA, Ball shot 41% from three, so it was clear that the sub 30% he was shooting from deep during the first 25 games of this season was not the Lonzo Ball we would see long term. Most players don’t go from being a great shooter in college, to among the leagues worst in the NBA.
That leaves the question — why was he shooting so horrendously to start the season? The answer to that is simple, shooting in the NBA is far different than shooting in college. NBA defenders are much better and the window of opportunity to get up a shot can be much smaller.
I’m not breaking any new ground here; everyone knows these things. The difference is, most people seemed to think that because of these factors, shooting in the NBA was just too difficult for Ball to do with his current shooting motion.
The reality is that this is not the case at all, Ball simply needed to be allowed time to adjust to the speed of the NBA, as do most rookies. Now, after a 25-game adjustment period, Ball has gone on a five-game streak in which he has shot a fantastic percentage from three.
This is a small sample size, so I obviously don’t expect Ball to continue shooting 47% forever, but it shows he is capable of shooting consistently at a high level. Even if he regresses to about 38% shooting or so, this will still be good enough for him to succeed offensively.
All he needs is a consistent shot that defenses have to respect enough to not sag off and prevent him from getting into the paint, and he is beginning to show the signs that he is more than capable of possessing just that.
Now that the Lonzo is a terrible shooter myth has been dispelled, the other reason for worry at the start of the season was the aforementioned timid play on offense. Anytime you watched Ball early in the season, it was clear his confidence was shot.
This manifested itself in his game by making it apparent that he had no desire to be involved in the offense. Every time Lonzo would get the ball, it seemed like he immediately passed it out to the wing.
This timid Lonzo is no more. In his recent play, it is clear that he has gained much needed confidence that allows him to push the ball up the court and play with much needed aggression.
This is most apparent in the way he has been pushing on fast break plays to create for himself, and his team mates.
The perfect example of such a play can be seen in the Lakers game against the Cavaliers last week. Lonzo gets the ball off of a steal and sprints up the court full speed, creating an easy dunk for Brook Lopez.
These are the type of plays Ball excelled at in college, and will likely continue to excel at in the NBA as his career continues.
While he still has quite a ways to go before he becomes the player he has the potential to be, the way Lonzo Ball has played in the past five games can provide fans with many reasons to be optimistic about the young guard’s future in the NBA.
We don’t yet know for sure if Ball is a star, but it is safe to say he is far from a bust.