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.