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Lonzo Ball Bust or Baller?

Lonzo Ball, after being drafted to the Lakers with the number two overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, has been grievously overlooked ever since he entered the league. Many consider him a bust, or an average player, when in reality he is one of the league’s most exciting young players.

At the outset, Ball has proven to be a tremendous fast-break playmaker. He is on the perfect team to showcase his talents, whether he’s tossing full-court lobs to Zion Williamson or creating opportunities for himself, he thrives with the Pelicans. At six-foot-six, his length and height as a guard, combined with his natural athleticism, give him an edge on the fastbreak that is extraordinary and highly desirable.

Lonzo Ball Offseason Improvements

Another important aspect of Lonzo’s NBA career thus far is that he has shown vast improvement each year since he entered the league, especially between his second and third years leaving no doubt that Lonzo does his share of work in the off-season. Lonzo made noticeable adjustments to his previously mocked, unorthodox shooting form; as a result, his 3-point shooting percentage is up almost 6% this season at 38.3%. His free throw percentage is still a serious weakness as he is shooting 57%, however, it is up 15%.

His scoring, rebounding, assists, and steals numbers may not seem astonishing, it’s important to note that Lonzo is one of just 6 players to average 12+ PPG, 6+ RPG, 7+ APG, and 1+ SPG in their first three seasons. In his last five games before the season was postponed, he averaged a whopping 20.8 PPG, 7.8 APG, 7.8 RPG, 2.2 SPG shooting 53% from the field and 51% from three. This feat is by no means mediocre. While Lonzo has a long way to go with all aspects of his game, he is only 22. On average NBA players hit their prime at about age 26. If Lonzo can focus on weaknesses such as free-throw shooting and scoring versatility, it is not unrealistic to believe he has the potential to be an All-NBA player.

Lonzo Ball’s Team Value

Lonzo is also far from a bust because of his contribution to team value. The Pelicans allow 114.2 points per 100 possessions without Lonzo, but they let up just 111.4 points per 100 possessions with Lonzo on the floor. It is clear that Lonzo greatly improves the team defense and is highly valuable for the Pelicans. In terms of Lonzo’s playmaking, the team assists percentages are 67.1% with him on the court and just 58% without him. His court vision helps the Pelicans have a more efficient offense, and creates higher percentage shots. 

The Pelicans are third in the league in fastbreak points, largely due to Ball’s talent and Alvin Gentry’s coaching system. While it is hard to summarize Ball’s fastbreak ability with a statistic, the Pelican’s coach Alvin Gentry analyzed Lonzo’s fastbreak abilities saying, “One of the things Lonzo is very, very good at, as good as anybody in the NBA, is that once he catches that ball in his hands, his first look is to look upcourt to see if we have any kind of an advantage so that we can throw the ball long and come up with an easy basket.” It’s clear the Lonzo’s abilities have essential to the Pelican’s fast-break success this season.

Conclusion

Lonzo Ball came into the league with a lot of hype, much of which came from his father Lavar and the rest of his family getting a ton of media attention. This gave people the impression that he was the next big thing in the NBA. When people realized Lonzo was not going to be the face of the NBA right away, they were quick to dismiss him as just another decent guard. The truth is, Lonzo is putting up numbers that few other players this young have been able to achieve. Although he may not be the next Kobe Bryant, he certainly has the potential to be an All-Star and a high-value player for the Pelicans in the coming seasons. He is a terrific transition player and relentless defender, always adding new attributes to his game.

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