On Lonzo Ball’s Scoring Ability and Forecasting his Offensive Ceiling

Darius Soriano —  September 9, 2017

Lonzo may be the most exciting rookie to come to the Lakers since Kobe. Recent top picks Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, and Brandon Ingram had similar pedigree to Ball, but none had as much hype and translatable skill coming into their rookie campaigns.

However, the part of Ball’s game that does translate — his passing and general feel for the game — isn’t what will set his ceiling. After all, we’ve seen plenty of top flight passers over the last 10-15 years (most notably Rajon Rondo and Ricky Rubio) who have had very good NBA careers (Rondo was an all-star and a key player on a title winning team), but not been transcendent players. The part of their game that never caught up to that next level passing and feel was their scoring.

Which brings me back to Ball. If he’s to be a franchise cornerstone or the type of player who can be one of the best on a title contender, his ability to score and be a bucket getter will need to expand and evolve. This much we know. However, the video below that Pete Zayas of Laker Film Room shows us is, specifically, where Ball is at now as a scorer and in what specific areas his game can most grow and where, even as a rookie, he can be a difference maker as a scoring threat.

One of the things that stands out to me is the baseline of skill Lonzo has — both in good and bad ways. All of the good ways are fairly clear, so I won’t focus on those things much. But, in some of the areas he can improve — tightening up his handle, adding some shake, and understanding how to change his pace up are pretty important for his long term success.

The good thing is, with pro coaching and player development at his disposal, Lonzo should be able to make strides in these areas. He’ll be able to add to his repertoire of dribble attack moves which, in theory, should add to his elusiveness and ability to create separation in the half court.

Finding a lower gear in order to “slow down” may be a bit of a more difficult proposition. In this way, he’s like the polar opposite of D’Angelo Russell. If you’ll recall, Russell could often play with too slow a tempo, favoring a more deliberate attack that allowed defenders to stay too close to him and, ultimately, bother his offense too much. Lonzo, though, can play too fast too often, putting himself in positions where his options diminish because he’s over-committed himself too early in a play.

Neither of these approaches are great, though I’d happily admit I’d rather have a smart player learn to play a bit slower than a smart player learn to have to play faster. I mean, look at Chris Paul — though he’s a master at change of pace in compact space, he’s never really played “fast” even if many think he’d benefit greatly by doing so.

In any event, enjoy Pete’s video above. Not only do I think it’s extremely smart and well done, I think it will be worth revisiting throughout the year and into Ball’s career to see how he evolves as a scoring threat as his career advances.

Darius Soriano

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to On Lonzo Ball’s Scoring Ability and Forecasting his Offensive Ceiling

  1. Just a word of caution. All this attention and hype about how Ball is the next coming ‘star’, is getting to be a little much. Can’t we tone it down a bit?

    It would be a lot more rewarding if the team could surprise a few teams coming out of the gate.

    Put the summerleague ‘title’ in the rear view mirror.
    Perhaps, just perhaps a bit more humility is in order!

    Lets scale back the hype and reduce expectations just a bit!


    • Which is fine; having agreed with Rick in Seattle nevertheless enjoyed the video and the analysis.
      Along the same lines, I find this attitude of “Clarkson and Randle better become superstars this season or ‘we’ will have no further use for them” reeks of hubris, to the point of being comical.
      Scaling back on the entitlement and Lakers exceptionalism would be just fine with me.
      Let’s be real. Please compare what the loathsome Celtics – already a far better team – did to improve themselves compared to the Lakers this off season.
      It’s lovely to root for the Lakers – I’m a huge fan – but can we keep it real?


    • You can tone it down if you want to, as others can tone it up.

      After all these years in the city dump, some of us could use the medicinal values of being optimistic.

      Not to mention that in this case it’s not unreasonable, as there are many valid reasons for being hopeful.

      And we Lakers fans are not the only ones.
      There are GM’s and experts across the league, who believe in Lonzo as much or more, than we do.


  2. thing that worries me about ball as a scorer is his very average athleticism and that fact that his wonky ass shot makes it essentially impossible to hit a mid range jumper in traffic. Combined with being really only a straight line driver to score i just dont ever see him averaging more than 16 a game at his best. Now maybe that is enough with his passing, but he is never a first coring option on a championship team


    • Never say never, especially about a rookie with as much talent as this kid is blessed with.


      • he is talented no doubt, but very little of that talent is as a scorer, Nothing wrong with that, he is just very limited as scorer unless he makes some truly massive changes to his game including his entire mechanics in his shooting.


  3. I am not sure I agree that ability to score is what will define Ball’s ability to become an elite player. In the first place, he is a very smart player who has figured out what he needs to do to be effective on the court. He uses his passing to set up his scoring and the key thing will be to have players who can score to pass to. That was a huge issue for Russell in his time with the Lakers. By playing faster and disrupting defenses, Lonzo figures to create more openings for ball movement and eventually scoring chances. It will be up to the other players to up their offense and put the ball in the basket. As far as his own shooting goes, Lonzo needs to work on raising his release point. He ends up with a decent looking shot, it is just that the ball comes out too low and his right elbow is sticking out instead of being more inline with his body. He can fix that.

    Rubio and Rondo are okay comparisons in regards to passing skills although I think that Lonzo is already better than either of them at their best. Ball is much better than either of them as a shooter and he figures to improve once he gets used to the speed of the NBA game. Defenders do not have to worry about Rondo and Rubio away from the basket and can slack off and play the passing lanes. Ball has the 3 point shot to punish defenders who give him space. As a result, the court is more open to Ball’s passes than it is to ones by Rondo and Rubio.


    • he has a three point shot he can hit if left open, the release is too slow and he currently doesn’t use screens well enough to punish when defenders slack off


  4. lol at making definitive statements about a 19 year old, even predicting his scoring output on a championship team. Let’s just watch him play, develop, grow, and enjoy.

    Talk about his midrange all day, that’s something that can be developed. So is pace, feel, and changing direction (lol?).

    You can talk about his speed and athleticism all day too, but he had no problem running by guys in SL (yea it’s just SL but that’s a good sign no?). He played better than Tatum, Fultz, and Dennis Smith. Do you guys talk about what they can’t do? Lonzo had some nice layups and dunks (remember that up and under????).

    He’s essentially better than Jason Kidd….and 19. He is already a better shooter than Rondo or Rubio or Kidd.

    Lonzo’s game will be better defined by the Offensive Efficiency of the team when he’s on the court, not some arbitrary scoring stat used to try and diminish his elite status.


  5. Nothing wrong with Lonzo needing time to reach his ceiling. I also had to shake my head, during the summer, that many fans were so adamant that Ball was already the equivalent of an All NBA player. Posts asking for a reality check or to tap the brakes were met with rude responses.

    I think Lonzo is special but he hasn’t had the benefit of great coaching. Lavar has been such a presence that any HS coach would not have dared to fix anything with the kid for fear of being fired. UCLA coach Steve Alford is not known as a teacher — although he did tap into Lonzo’s gifts of pushing the ball offensively.

    Also note, that Lavar was Lonzo’s AAU coach and that format does not stress fundamentals or working on specific parts of your game that need improvement.

    So, bottom line to me is that Lonzo is gifted but has some work to do. The Lakers are blessed with a talented and deep coaching staff. I firmly believe Lonzo will respond to this coaching and put in the work needed to fix these holes. If he does then, In three or four years, it would not shock me to see Lonzo as an All NBA performer


  6. I’ve heard mention of Ball having merely so-so athleticism and wonder what I’m missing. He seems fine in that regard to me. Is this based on measurables or is this eyeball stuff?
    … or is it just something to say ..?


    • To my eye he has good hops and speed. He isn’t Russell Westbrook or John Wall but he seems athletic enough to get past his guy and compromise a defense when he needs to.


      • Well put, he’s not LBJ, MJ, nor Kobe neither in terms of ability to explode.
        But yeah his foot speed and leaping ability, including apparent ability to jump more than once without gathering seem pretty impressive to me. His need to “slow down” seems telling also. I’ve little doubt fast twitch muscle activity can be objectively measured but no idea if it’s being done or where Ball would stack up. What’s his vertical and wing span compared to other PGs or other 6’6″ PGs?


    • is based on comparing to other nba athletes. He was a good athlete in college not a great or elite one. That translate to an average nba athlete. Good nba athletes are people like durant, green, anthony davis, paul george etc

      elite athletes are people like westbrook lebron, the greek freak, etc.

      The NBA is the literal top top percent of basketball players when you talk about so so athleticism in the nba its in comparison to true athletic freaks.


      • Oh sure no doubt the baseline of NBA athletic abilty is incredibly high. I’ve read convincing arguments that the bar for participation is higher than that of the NFL, for example, and that winning at the NBA level is more skill driven (less chance/random event driven) than practically any other human athletic activity.


      • I think that is fair. If he is what we consider an average athlete for the NBA I’m not sure it will hurt him much. He is a long way from below-average and his game isn’t predicated on athleticism.


    • I’m confused about the athleticism complaints, too. By comparison, Ball is quicker, faster, and has more ups than Russell. Like it’s not even close. And Russell is athletically gifted enough to be a starting-level NBA player. There are/were many point guards who do not have the explosiveness of a Westbrook or Wall, but who are still fantastic players.


  7. Darius and Pete: I see the subliminal message here in that Lonzo has to be a productive scorer in order for the lakers to succeed. Bearing in mind that Lonzo is Magic’s baby, it is Lonzo, not Magic that has to produce on the court. Statistically, a double – double rookie year should be the expectant result. Seven plus rebounds and 1.5 steals will be icing on the cake.

    now for some more background music….


    Go lakers


  8. I’m glad we chose Lonzo, and I’m optimistic about the choice, but this projection is premature–almost over the top. At this entry point in his career, it’s best to think of ways to support his inevitable learning experiences rather than imagine his scoring productivity as he approaches maturity.

    Rajon illustrates a defensive strength Lonzo may never have–as well as (hopefully) a coachability weakness. Ricky Rubio illustrates how injury can play a role in player growth–a problem we mostly haven’t begun to consider yet for Lonzo. The type of transcendence we hope to achieve from Lonzo, illustrated in NBA MVP Steve Nash or Steve Curry, didn’t exhibit itself right away as we are fantasizing for Lonzo.

    Ricky Rubio might actually be a really good teaching partner for Lonzo–obtained under the right circumstances. We need to give rookie Lonzo time to become NBA Lonzo before we project his imagined scoring 5 years from now.


    • Obtaining Rubio derails much of next summer’s free agent activities — I doubt the FO goes in that direction. Plus, Rubio is in his mid twenties and is a starter — are you suggesting Lonzo comes off the bench or demoting Rubio to backup?

      If Rubio were 32 and open to a mentoring bench role I might say yes but he’s not.


      • I don’t think it matters much who would start. Rubio is on a relatively cheap 2 year contract and could provide real continuity when Lonzo takes his breaks. It depends on many many things happening (or not) with both the Lakers and the Jazz for the right trade to develop.

        The Laker leadership already made an offer to Hill . . .


        • George Hill was a 31 year old free agent and the Lakers were offering a one year deal. Hill turned it down because he wanted a longer contract and he wanted to start. The Lakers would have played him off ball and as a backup PG. The Hill offer was more about upgrading the roster (the need to win more games this year since we don’t have a pick) than it was about Lonzo needing help adjusting to the league.

          Thankfully, Hill went to Sacramento. And just a few days later KCP was made available when the Pistons renounced his rights. Don’t get me wrong the KCP move is all about a one year roster upgrade as well — but he is a far better fit than Hill.


  9. An elite passer with an incredibly high basketball IQ, and a solid rebounder right out of the gate with the potential to eventually become the third, possibly even the second, scoring option on a championship team? He is no Dominique Wilkins when it comes to athleticism, but athletic enough to put entire defenses….scratch that….the entire league, on its heels.

    I am of course referring to Magic Johnson.


    • Yeah there are some parallels. I’m encouraged that Lonzo can rebound. Good rebounders in college tend to be good rebounders in the pros.
      It makes me hopeful Ball’s high efficiency in college will translate as well.


    • Magic was an athletic freak, he may not have been explosive but 6’9 people with that stout build do not move like that. That is why there has never been another 6’9 pg.

      Im not saying Ball is bad will be bad wont be a star etc. There are weaknesses in his game like any young player and he will need to overcome them. Ball is interesting as his weaknesses are pretty major and are often ones that dont really improve but his strengths are pretty major and arent ones that people can just develope.

      He can improve his wonky slow shot and get stronger, he isnt going to get quicker or have better explosion getting past people. On the other hand no one suddenly develops that type of feel for the game. Its why he is a very interesting prospect.

      Also you can take absolutely zero from summer league, marco belleneli averaged like 30 a game in summer league.


  10. The success of Lonzo depends on his teammates, not just Lonzo’s talents. He is just a major part of the whole. Having said that, he is still a rookie gate crashing the Pro league. Every game will be a challenge for him making rookie mistakes. I suggest, let’s give him a space with this learning curve.

    Well, in the last six years, Lakers has been a cellar dweller team and so many young fans here were happy with that performance. There is no optimism, no championship stand, contented in protecting the 2nd draft pick through tanking. The front office were engrossed in selling season tickets with these draft picks thru analytics, engaging in analysis paralysis of mediocrity and having a good time with swaggy players. Old timer fans are tired of being duped, lied by the dysfunctional children of Jerry Buss quarelling each other while their promoters are engaged in wheeling and dealing as if Laker fans have no minds of their own! No wonder why the same fans today are giddy and excited
    again with the coming of Magic and Lonzo? At least, this season we can dream again as avid Laker fans. Please allow that passion to sprout in trying to get out of the outrageous 6 years rut. We never know the outcome of this experiment, but faith on team spirit conquers all.


  11. Lonzo’s defense, so so athleticism, and ability to create his own offense were all red flags to me before the draft. His passing is otherworldly and should scale as the Lakers upgrade around him. One of the most notable things was how Russell knew how to put a guy on his hip once he was by his man to create space. It’s something I’d like to see Lonzo learn to do. I do agree with the conclusion though that if he can get those skills up to mostly average in those respects Ball could be the next Kidd.