Lonzo Ball is by far the most polarizing prospect in the NBA Draft. Some people have him on the tier of Markelle Fultz, and others have him outside of the top 5.
Some people think he is going to be the second coming of Jason Kidd and others think he is going to be an average point guard that doesn’t live up to the hype.
He is truly an enigma. With the Lakers lined up to have 46-55% chance to keep the pick, Lonzo is one of the players that the Lakers will scout heavily. He was born and raised in Southern California. Lonzo is one of the 3 Ball brothers that has dominated high school basketball here in California. This has helped to fuel the narrative of Lonzo Ball being the savior of the Lakers. Many Lakers fans are aware of who Lonzo Ball is and what he can do.
Lonzo Ball has been arguably the best point guard in the nation this year. He has completely changed the culture at UCLA with his unselfish persona that has infected the whole team. There is ball movement (pun intended) that was never there last year. Lonzo’s playmaking has allowed for Bryce Alford to handle the ball a lot less and become a spot up shooter.
UCLA is now a top ranked team that has a legitimate shot to win the NCAA Tournament. That has been because they have a great system surrounding their best player. Lonzo has elevated many of his teammates this year by getting the ball right where it needs to be. Although his teammates have been the ones in change of actually in charge of scoring the ball. Still, it is tough to argue against the numbers that Lonzo has been putting up. He is an amazing college player and a legitimate Wooden Award candidate.
No matter how great he has been in college, Lonzo has some issues that limit his ceiling in the NBA. He is nowhere near the level of Markelle Fultz and he is more on the level of Josh Jackson and Dennis Smith Jr. Both of those players are still better prospects. The reason that Ball may be drafted over those 2 is because of his narrative. Media people love Lonzo and how good he has been in college. It has blinded them from seeing the issues he will have translating his game into the NBA.
For the Lakers, Lonzo isn’t better fit or player when compared to Jonathan Issac, Josh Jackson, and Dennis Smith Jr. Taking Ball over those 3 causes some issues. Let’s talk about those issues:
Can the jumpshot translate?
This is going to be the biggest question for Lonzo to have success in the NBA. His jumpshot is unorthodox:
It is tough to see that shot translating as well as it has in college. The shot is easily bothered and it is a long wind-up process to get it off. In the NBA, defenders will adjust to the shot and they will really bother it or block it during isolations. The shot has insane amounts of range as it covers a wide range of the court. He is going to need some serious space to get it off effectively which already affects his scoring in the half court. He is pretty good off the catch, so that may help his paring with D’Angelo Russell.
His shot may need some adjustments to get it off quicker or high in the NBA. If his shot can translate to a 36-38% clip, he will be a very effective 2 guard. That shot is so odd that it is questionable whether it can be really effective.
Apart from his shot, his defense has to be one of his biggest weaknesses. It is very tough to judge Lonzo as a defender because UCLA hides him by playing a zone scheme. The zone that they run allows for Lonzo to receive good help defense from Ike Anibogu and gamble on some passing lanes to create steals. Lonzo does carry some great instincts and a high I.Q. which may bold well for his defense going forward.
Lonzo Ball may not be a physical on ball defender but instincts are elite. Has all the tricks you develop playing a lot of pickup as a kid.
The problem with Lonzo is that he really struggles to defend laterally and especially in the pick and roll. He can’t stay with quick guards because he just doesn’t have the speed to keep up with them. Lonzo gets way too much credit for his athleticism because he is far from an elite athlete. He is an above average athlete that can be quick in the fast break. On defense, he has struggled to guard players in man defense when UCLA decides to play that kind of defense every blue moon.
His size allows him to guard bigger guards more effectively than shorter, quicker guards. When he can stay with a player, he can be good. This isn’t usually the case when he is guarding man to man. De’Aaron Fox killed him and Fox type athlete are the elite ones in the NBA.
With the Lakers having a below-average/average guard defender in D’Angelo Russell, the Lakers can’t afford to have Ball be a bad or even decent defender. He will need to be good so that it outweighs the struggles in the half-court offense.
Ball would be an amazing fit in Luke’s system because he moves the ball and is a great playmaker. His shot can possibility provide some good spacing and a catch and shoot shooter. He struggles to create his shot most of the time in the half court, but being paired with D’Angelo, his scoring load wouldn’t need to be huge. Russell would move more off-ball and that could help bring out the best out of his scoring.
It is safe to say that Ball would bring the playmaking that the team needs. Ball and Russell could be a great offensive backcourt. The defense is a huge question mark. The most likely outcome being that the duo won’t be good defensively. Seeing the problems in Portland with that great offensive, but bad defensive backcourt, Lonzo and D’Angelo would really need to surpass their defensive expectations.
Missing out on better prospects
Taking Lonzo instead of Josh Jackson and Jonathan Issac would be less than ideal on many levels. Both of these wings fit more pressing needs for the Lakers: DEFENSE. Jackson is a high motor athletic freak that can be one for the best defenders in the league. He is an incredible playmaker for a wing. His jumpshot appears to be improving after being looking terrible early in the season. He may be the best fit for the Lakers after Fultz.
Jonathan Issac is a player that many people don’t know much about, but he is a 6″10′ forward that has an insane 7″1′ wingspan. He is a 3/4 type player that is a really good rim protector and an elite rebounder. He can switch onto some guards and stay with them laterally. He has a developing isolation game and a consistent jumpshot. He isn’t as good of a playmaker that Jackson is, but Issac has a really high ceiling that can produce a very special player.
Again, Lonzo is a good/great fit offensively, but his question marks on defense and his half court offense really make it a questionable fit. The last reason is not about basketball, but it is definitely going to be an issue.
Lonzo’s dad has a reputation of making outlandish claims:
“I’m going to tell you right now, he’s better than Stephen Curry to me. Put Steph Curry on UCLA’s team right now and put my boy on Golden State and watch what happens”
The Lakers don’t need a guy like this stirring up problems in the locker room with comments on why Lonzo is better than the whole team and why his teammates are trash. This is an unnecessary headache.