Lonzo Ball and his unconventional and eccentric family have been the focal point of basketball media ever since he left UCLA for the NBA in 2017. From antics off the court to his performance on the court, Lonzo and his family have been in the headlines consistently throughout the NBA season thus far. Because of the intense spotlight on the 19 year old rookie, he has received intense scrutiny around the basketball community for his seemingly lackluster performance so far this season. Some have even went as far as already labeling Ball a bust. Is this hate deserved?
Perhaps the worst aspect of Lonzo’s game so far is scoring. Despite playing almost 34 minutes a game, Ball is only averaging 10 points a game. Even worse, however, are his shooting numbers:
Ball’s shooting numbers across the board are abysmal. Granted, he was never considered a shooter coming out of college, but these numbers clearly exemplify a steep learning curve for Ball in his transition to the NBA. His true shooting % (which takes into account 2 point, 3 point, and free throw percentages), is 43.6%, which is 430th among all 485 current active NBA players. If Lonzo wants to take his game to the next level, he has to prove that he can be a shooting threat in at least some capacity.
In stark contrast to his shooting woes, Lonzo has been able to seamlessly transition his outstanding distribution skills to the professional level. He is currently averaging 7.1 assists a game, which is good for 10th most in the league and 8th among PG. Even more impressive, however, is his insanely efficient 2.6 assist to turnover ratio. Lonzo has proven time and time again that he can find the open man and serves as the lifeblood of the Lakers fast paced offense.
Despite some growing pains on the offensive side of the ball, Lonzo has become a great defender, and could eventually blossom into one of the league’s best. He is currently averaging 7.1 rebounds a game, which is 3rd among PG. He also has impressive numbers in the steal and block categories, averaging 1.5 and .9 respectively. These numbers both rank in the top 10 among all NBA PG. Ball seems to have a knack for creating turnovers on the defensive end of the court. His defensive rating (which estimates points allowed per 100 possessions), is 101.2, which is 28th in the league among players with 20 or more MPG. Lonzo has shown that the defensive prowess he’s showed in this year at UCLA translates well to the NBA.
While his individual statistics are a good indicator of his performance this season, the most important measure when evaluating Ball is the value he adds to his team. The Lakers currently sit at 15-28, which is 12th in the Western Conference. In games without Lonzo, however, the team is 0-7, highlighting a clear reliance on the rookie to keep the team rolling. In the 7 games in which Lonzo didn’t play, the Lakers gave up an astonishing 124 points per game to opponents, up significantly from the 110 points per game that the team is averaging over the whole season so far. The point differential in these games is also up significantly, up from -3.8 on the season to an abysmal -15.5. While the sample size is relatively small, it’s clear to see that Ball already has a significant impact on his team at just 19. Given these statistics, it is clear to see that Lonzo is certainly not a bust. While his flaws are extremely apparent and glaring, they are very fixable and are outweighed by his enumerable strengths. Should Lonzo improve over the next few years the way a 19 year old should, the NBA better watch out.