The Los Angeles Lakers hyped up Lonzo Ball quite a bit before this season. After being named Summer League MVP and leading his team to the Summer League Title, Lonzo Ball had expectations to win ROY and bring the Lakers back to playoff contention. However, 11 games into this season and Ball has yet to show any real value.
His poor shooting numbers and unorthodox shot mechanics are causing fans to scream out “bust” whenever they hear Lonzo’s name. However, many of them forget that Lonzo scored quite well and efficiently while at UCLA. Let’s not forget, Lonzo did improve UCLA to a top 3 offensive team during his lone year.
Here are 5 things Lonzo Ball needs to work on for the Lakers to start seeing results!
1. Ball Handling
Lonzo has a basic handle. His crossovers simple, he relies too much on a step back to create space, and he generally only beats defenses with a combination of hesitations. He’s not exactly shifty and doesn’t like to dribble against pressure. He must improve his ball handling. It is nearly impossible to be a good point guard in today’s league without the ability to break down defenses, and since defenses already know it is difficult for him to pull-up in the mid-range, shifty handles are a must. Let’s not forget, Jason Kidd has some of the nastiest handles back in the day.
A lot of people also criticize Lonzo for not being “athletic enough”. He is definitely explosive off-ball and when running at top speed down the court. His half-court explosiveness may be limited to just a lack of physical maturation, but I strongly believe that he simply cannot handle the ball well enough in traffic and off the pick and roll to turn corners and attack explosively.
2. Off-ball Movement
One of the reasons why Lonzo was so effective at UCLA was his ability to make sharp cuts finish over the smaller guards. If the defense overplayed these cuts, a simple pop out for the open 3 would suffice for Lonzo.
11 games into this season so far, and Lonzo has yet to even really move in the half court when the ball is not in his hands. He doesn’t try to beat his man of cuts or even curl around screens really.
Perhaps Lonzo doesn’t feel as comfortable beating NBA guards off-ball or finishing over NBA centers, but at 6’6 and with great vision, Lonzo should be fine running similar actions as he did at UCLA.
3. Defending Pick And Roll
Lonzo Ball is awful at guarding the pick and roll. He simply overplays the screen each time. In today’s game, pick and roll is the most used form of offense. Teams have been trying to get Lonzo in the pick and roll to exploit this weakness, and instead of having Luke Walton hide him like Steve Kerr hides Steph Curry, Lonzo needs to study more film and develop into a better defender.
Sometimes it feels that Lonzo Ball acts like NBA games are pick-up games at his local 24 Hour Fitness. Most rookies aren’t like this. Just look at fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma or power forward Larry Nance. They hustle down the floor and every play they get. Lonzo just has too much of a “casual approach” to the game. While this isn’t necessarily bad, it does develop into some bad habits. For instance, he didn’t box out Donovan Mitchell, who proceeded to deliver one of the best dunks of this NBA season.
Don’t think this is a problem? Lonzo even said himself that play was a turning point in the game.
5. Finishing At The Rim
Lonzo Ball isn’t a physical guard, we get it. But he sure does go up soft on his lay-ups. He could be mentally limiting himself, as he is missing a lot of easy lay-ups that we were accustomed to seeing him finish at UCLA, where he converted a staggering 78.9 percent of his attempts at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.com.
But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t work on his ability to finish at the rim. His lay-up package has always been a bit basic, and with his lack of strength and inability to pull-up from the mid-range, a 10-12 foot floater will be key for him until he starts to figure things out.