Is Lonzo Ball the future of the Los Angeles Lakers? I’m not sure where you stand on the subject, but I’m not sold on him as the No. 2 pick of the 2017 NBA Draft.
Right now, all of the talk surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers is about Lonzo Ball. After lucking their way into the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, it seems all but certain Magic Johnson and Co. will select the UCLA point guard, assuming he’s still available.
I’m here to tell you that you should pull back on the reins a bit. There’s a lot of hype driving the Ball-to-Lakers talk, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right move. This franchise must make a smart decision if they plan on returning to relevance anytime soon. Unfortunately, there are some concerns I have about Ball being the “smart decision” on draft day.
Now that’s not to say that I don’t believe he’s a capable NBA talent. The guy obviously got the job done at UCLA, and has been destined for the league from a very young age. However, there appear to be some hurdles he has yet to clear that could hinder his progress. Some of these issues involve his on-court performance, while others are more of the character variety.
Either way, it seems necessary to point these problems out before every Lakers fan jumps on the Ball bandwagon.
So here they are–a few reasons why the Lakers should be wary of drafting Ball. While the top prospect offers plenty of upside, let’s not pretend like he’s the perfect fit for Los Angeles at No. 2 overall.
Despite all of the recent scrutiny regarding fouls and the overall sense of softness around the NBA, the league is still characterized by tough, physical play. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be something Ball is very comfortable with.
Ball typically doesn’t have too much trouble finding his way into the paint, especially on the break. However, when he does go inside, he often opts to pass the ball away instead of going up for a tough shot when a bigger defender stands between him and the basket. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s also not ideal when your point guard shies away from contact.
It doesn’t help that the former Bruin sports a lanky frame, measuring in at 6’6″, 190 pounds. I’m sure he’ll put some weight and muscle on at the next level, but it isn’t going to help his cause early on when NBA veterans decide to test the top pick’s toughness.
Most of the league’s best point guards are fearless, especially when they take to the paint (see: Russell Westbrook, Kemba Walker, etc.). Their attacks at the basket can often be described as organized chaos. The Lakers will never get that from Ball, at least based on what we saw from him at UCLA.
Is that really the characteristic of a franchise player who’s going to turn this team around? I would say no, but I’m not the guy calling the shots in Los Angeles.
When people talk about Ball as a prospect, his length is often mentioned one of his big strengths. He’s got terrific height for a point guard, and offers a strong wingspan (6’7″) for the position. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help him on defense as much as you’d think.
Overall, the UCLA product isn’t a great defender. Sure, he does a good job of picking up steals and notching the occasional block against shorter guards. However, the lack of physicality and elite athleticism certainly hurt him when it comes to slowing down opposing point guards. It’s even worse when he’s matched up against quicker, more agile guards.
Just ask De’Aaron Fox, who put on a clinic against Ball during the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Using his quickness, ball handling and athleticism, he went off to the tune of 39 points. It was an offensive onslaught from the Kentucky point man who helped pinpoint a glaring weakness in Ball’s game. Trust me when I say that isn’t going to cut it at the next level.
In today’s NBA, the point guard reigns supreme. All of the top contenders have star point guards–just look at the four remaining playoff teams. Part of being a star point guard, though, is keeping the other star point guards at bay. Right now, I don’t think Ball is ready to handle that responsibility.
The Lakers boasted one of the worst defenses in the NBA in 2016-17. Inserting Ball into that equation wouldn’t make things much better. Unless he suddenly toughens up and starts showing more effort/instincts on the defensive end, Los Angeles shouldn’t be sold on him as the No. 2 pick.
Despite his deficiencies, Ball is still an outstanding NBA prospect who’s got a very high floor and ceiling. Although I’m not entirely sold on him being the superstar he’s been painted as, the outlook is certainly bright for a player with an abundance of exciting skills.
The real problem is his father, who may just be Ball’s biggest crutch.
Over the last couple of months, LaVar has done everything in his power to control nearly every aspect of his son’s life off the court. He’s released an overpriced shoe in his name, informed folks that his son will only work out for the Lakers, and made numerous other nonsensical claims. All the while, he’s making teams wonder if Ball is worth the headache.
Honestly, I’m not sure if he is. He’s not LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, at least not at this point in his young basketball career. As great as he appears to be, Ball isn’t the generational type of talent that makes other potential issues worth the hassle.
It is worth noting that Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka recently stated on ESPN 710 (via Def Pen Hoops’ Rob Lopez) that he isn’t concerned about Ball’s family. Then again, NBA teams say a lot of things during this part of the offseason.
A big part of the process for the Lakers will be interviews. If I were Magic, I’d want to know what type of person Ball really is. Has his father’s arrogance and asinine thought process rubbed off on the young point guard? Does he live in the same alternate reality that is going to lead to his eventual demise? Or maybe he’ll disrespect women and their opinions the way his dad did on Wednesday?
If so, the Lakers need to steer clear. That type of recklessness is going to lead Ball down a dangerous road, and one Los Angeles shouldn’t care to join him on. I get it that LaVar is entertaining and the media is feeding into it. With that being said, his misguided micromanagement of his children’s lives foretells a story of disappointment.