Lonzo Ball’s Nightmare of a Rookie Season Won’t be His Downfall
Growing pains are something every rookie undergoes, but it is safe to say that no rookie has undergone more growing pains than one Lonzo Ball.
While on the surface, Ball’s numbers suggest he isn’t having it that bad, his shooting numbers tell a completely different story. The UCLA alum is averaging 8.8-points, 6.6-rebounds, and 6.8-assists per game, while shooting an atrocious 30.8% from the field, 22.7% from long range and 46.2% from the free throw line.
“It’s just in my head to be honest,” Ball said earlier in the month. “I know I can shoot the ball.”
His statistics in college would suggest that Ball is correct. In his lone year at UCLA, Ball shot 41.2% from beyond the arc and 55.1% overall, albeit still struggling at the charity stripe, hitting 67.3% of his free throws. His highly criticized shot has only continued to attract heat and as Ball has continued to look unengaged and unaggressive on the floor in the early goings of his rookie year, the media may be breaking the young man’s confidence.
Is he a bust? It is far to early to say, but as a rookie, he is the youngest player to ever record a triple double. Among the league’s point guards, he is third in rebounds per contest and eighth in assists on a team with a complete lack of range and for the most part an absence of fire power. Nevertheless, Ball has somehow found a way to dish out nearly seven dimes per game. He is also tenth amongst 58-qualified league point guards in steals per game.
My point is, it’s not all bad for the Lakers rookie and if his lack of a shot is the issue, that can be worked on. If his lack of aggression is scaring media members, simply look at Ball’s frame. He is currently skinny, long-limbed, and most importantly, a kid who just turned 20 years of age. He has not physically matured yet. He hasn’t mentally matured yet either, and there will be growing pains. He will be bullied a bit as he develops, but as he grows stronger, his level of aggression and physicality will change.
He is a 6’6” point guard and only 190-lbs. He was lauded for his hard work ethic coming out of UCLA so there is no reason to believe he will not get stronger.
Moreover, Lonzo’s gift is his court vision, his passing ability. His ability to push the ball up-tempo up the court and he has shown that gift on multiple occasions early on in the season. The Lakers are dead last in the league in three-point percentage. They have an inability to spread the floor and with that, Ball cannot operate at his absolute best. He simply does not have the pieces to be as effective as he can be.
While the personnel on the Lakers affects Lonzo’s ability to create plays, it also hurts his chances of getting his shot off cleanly. Dissecting the form, it takes Ball a long time to get the shot off, which may be a big reason as to why his shot will need some tinkering in the future. In the NBA, where defenders close off on shooters quicker than they do in college, Lonzo struggles with taking high-percentage shots and with his team’s inability to spread the floor, it only makes it tougher for Ball to find that clean, high-percentage look.
This is not to say that everything isn’t Ball’s fault and it is strictly on his teammates and the players around him, but for a rookie, it is unfair to expect a teenager to burst into the NBA balling out and doing everything perfectly. Yes, he isn’t shooting well just yet – Ben Simmons hasn’t even attempted a single three-pointer. First overall pick Markelle Fultz has been a complete train wreck to this point and no one even knows what is going on on that front all together, but because it is LaLa and because his father is LaVar Ball, every thing Lonzo Ball does gets scrutinized, overanalyzed, and overexaggerated.
That being said, on Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Phoenix Suns. The talking point after the game was not the Loss itself, but how the rookie point guard acted during an altercation that took place between his teammate Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Suns guard Tyler Ulis. As opposed to backing his teammate, Ball was the only player on the court to head to the bench during the scuffle.
“It’s the NBA,” Ball said after 122-113 Loss to the Suns. “People ain’t really gonna fight. I ain’t trying to get no technical.”
With how the guard has been shooting from the field, he has a point. The last thing he wants is to send a Suns player to the line for a free throw, but at moment such as this, it is important to be there for your teammates. This one situation essentially sums up how Ball’s rookie season has been going to this point.
“Someone on our team talked with him,” Head Coach Luke Walton said on Saturday, without disclosing who it was. “It’s all part of the learning process. I don’t really care about how that looks because our guys love Zo. He’s one of the few rookies I’ve ever seen that everybody is just kind of drawn toward him. Everyone really wants him to succeed. They all love playing with his group, whether it’s practice or the game.
“I think they all know what that looked like isn’t what Zo is about and isn’t symbolizing what his feelings are on that type of situation,” Walton continued. “I know the general public and the internet world likes to do what they do.”
The NBA really is a process and in the handful of professional games that Ball has under his belt, it is unfair to assume that he will just get everything right out of gate.
“I thought [Ball] was smart just staying away from it,” said teammate Brook Lopez. “He was staying out of trouble. I feel like I’m big enough where I can get in the middle of it. I’m not going to do anything crazy. I’m just trying to get everything under control.
“I just try to get in there and break it up,” Lopez added. “I’ll just try to get in the middle of it. If someone throws a punch, maybe it’ll hit me. I can take it. Unlike [twin brother] Robin, probably.”
With his teammates and coaching staff on his side and the entire Lakers organization behind their prized second overall pick, Ball has all the time and resources to succeed and improve. It is far too early to worry. It is far too early to panic or call him a bust.
Just let the kid ball!