Another day in the NBA, another day and more reason to hate Lonzo Ball.
Following the announcement of this year’s All Star players, Ball must be ready for a lot of backlash since he polled more votes than former All Star Damian Lillard.
While Lillard is a former Rookie of the Year winner and foundation piece of Portland Trailblazers, getting ahead of him is a big shock. Fans hold 50% of All Star votes but the remaining sect belongs to players and select media personnel.
Getting in ahead of Lillard definitely goes beyond playing in a major market and having a lot of social media followers. Strip Los Angeles Lakers Point Guard Lonzo Ball off the extras and there lie a soft spoken young man who like most young adults, just wants to play his favorite sport.
Playing basketball is a joy for the Guard; if anyone doubts this, a quick look at the former University of California- Los Angeles star is bound to provide the answer. Through no fault of his, he was a star before he entered the league just like LeBron James over a decade ago.
While James’ freakish nature convinced many he will succeed in the professional ranks despite being a poor shooter, Ball didn’t have similar positive reviews go his way considering he had the same weakness.
Aside spotting an awkward shooting form which worked well in College but doomed in the NBA due to the presence of bigger, quicker guards, Lonzo spots a slight frame and is no quicksilver.
His flamboyant father has created an empire out of nothing thanks to his boisterous and outrageous comparisons of his sons to some of the game’s all time greats. Far removed from a bust which enveloped his game early on this season, Ball has made strides in his game but what makes Magic Johnson and the Lakers hierarchy happy is the upward trajectory of its foundation piece. Averaging 10.2 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 7.1 rebounds this season ranks low compared to other star name rookies.
However, his healthy production highlights everything the Lakers got sold on to move D’Angelo Russell and make way for Ball. His numbers are reflective of the triple double threat he possesses and a great building piece for the franchise. One thing Lakers fans should expect is their first year Guard will not win the Rookie of the Year title come season’s end. Notably, this is down to the high numbers Lonzo’s contemporaries like Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell and teammate Kyle Kuzma keep producing.
Kuzma’s surprisingly positive adaptation to the professional game has given him a feel good story. That story is an essential ingredient to coax votes during end of season awards. Lonzo’s inability to win the prestigious award is down to Lakers flawed roster which has generated 15 wins and 29 losses; good enough for 13th in the Western Conference standings. On the other hand, Simmons’ Philadelphia Sixers are eighth in the East and primed to feature in the playoffs.
Aside the numbers his fellow rooks are putting up, Lonzo’s teammates shortcomings have had a negative effect on his overall play as their inconsistencies putting the ball through the hoop has been problematic. The Lakers are ranked 19th in the league in attempted three point shots; the team’s rank drops to 24th terms of conversion. Without reliable shooters, opposing defenders are comfortable daring Ball to jack up attempts with his unorthodox shot while doubling down on Lakers leading scorers Brandon Ingram and Kuzma.
His assist rate will look better than it is should management’s grand plan to sign LeBron James and Paul George go through successfully. Lining up alongside All Stars James and George won’t hinder Ball’s progress as his unselfish style of play is good next to the ball dominant George. While James does dominate the ball a fair number of possessions, his ability to keep his vintage elite production going for long is highly doubtful creating the space for Ball to play in his comfortable role setting teammates up.
There are concerns about his defense and ability to use his 6 foot 5 inch frame to keep opponents in front of him. Players like Tyreke Evans represent how a promising rookie can turn bad later in his career as a cautionary tale but from what Lonzo Ball has played at the Staples Center.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter