The TRUTH About Lonzo Ball & His NBA Potential (Ft. Pelicans, A New Shot, NBA Busts, & Injuries)
Lonzo Ball and his NBA potential has been confusing since his Lakers days. Now Lonzo is helping the Pelicans and playing better so what’s going on? #NBA #Lonzo #Pelicans
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Yes, Lonzo Ball has been playing better recently. In his last 5 games, he’s averaging 19.8 points, 7.8 assists, and 6.2 rebounds on 51% from the field and 40.5% from 3. And since Lonzo has returned to the starting lineup, the Pelicans are 7-2. But this is more than just Lonzo playing better. It’s as if he’s fighting the title of an NBA bust. Lonzo has been a polarizing subject since he came into the league. It’s been an unusual path to say the least.
After the Lakers game, Lonzo said this. “My body feels good, and my confidence is where it’s supposed to be,” Lonzo has never particularly been healthy in his first two seasons. He’s only played in 99 games in his first two seasons out of a possible 164 games. He was injured in his first real NBA offseason. He was even injured in 8 games this season out of a possible 36. Lonzo has missed stretches of games. He’s missed 73 games in 2 and a half seasons. In fact, here’s a list of all of his injuries. And this doesn’t include offseason knee problems. Rookies and sophomores in general are suffering more injuries so this is not surprising, but it still should be considered.
Before we begin to label Lonzo a bust aka Kendrick Perkins , it’s important to realize that this is his third year and he’s only 22. But the first two years of a player’s career doesn’t necessarily define who they are. An example of that is Pascal Siakam who won most improved in his third year or C.J McCollum who went from averaging 6.3 points in 14.5 minutes to 20.8 points in 34.8 minutes in his third season. Offensive progression is more noticeable, but Lonzo did make one huge improvement from 1st to second year, and that was his defense. When Lonzo came into the league, he was thought to be more of a defensive liability. But in the NBA, he was able to get better defensively as he played more.
In terms of opportunities, it looks like Lonzo got a lot of minutes in his first two seasons averaging 32.9 minutes per game, but the key word there is per game. We already talked about Lonzo’s injuries and because of that, there weren’t that many games he played. Although Lonzo was the number 2 pick, he was still looked at as a player that was quirky and had to be utilized in a certain way. Luke Walton never gave Lonzo that chance, and Lonzo didn’t get as much playing time or health to improve on his game to be more well-rounded. He lost out on experience. I think it’d be a good comparison to see the amount of minutes played by all other players in the first two seasons and see how that compares with Lonzo. Here’s the chart. LeBron led the top of the list, Giannis was 42nd, heck Bismack Biyombo is 239 with over 4700 minutes played. And here’s Lonzo, 321st. With 4080 minutes played.
So now with that understanding, let’s talk about Lonzo’s recent play.
Remember how we talked about minutes per game, in the last 5 game stretch, he’s averaging 36 minutes a game, many of which were spent on a consistent lineup.
Ingram is now 10th in the league in isos, his recent games being an indication that he isn’t just holding on to the ball as much. Jrue Holiday has dropped his touches from 86 to 75.3 in the last 5 games while Lonzo finally has the most touches on the team now at 92.6 in the last 5 games.
Lonzo has increased his drives from 6 a game to 7.6, but more importantly than just the increase of drives is the aggression and intent to score. Where as before, only 30% of his drives led to points, now it’s 47.6%. This is because Lonzo is simply exploding to the paint, taking layups with confidence, and going into defenders. Yes, Ingram and Jrue seem to be trusting Lonzo a lot more, but if Lonzo is truly healthy, that just fits into why he’s more aggressive.
Lonzo is also just making more threes right now. He’s had stretches of solid 3 point shooting before and that has come when Lonzo is given more minutes. On the Lakers last season, when Lonzo played 30-39 minutes which was over 20 games, he shoots 46% from the field and 42.9% from 3 with a net rating of 5.9. So with Lonzo playing 36 minutes a game, he’s once again a good shooter. He’s taking 8.4 threes a game in the last 5 games and he’s hitting them from all over.
But Lonzo Ball is not a simple open and shut case, there’s a lot more to him than just bust or star potential. And we’ll see more of it as he gets more opportunities on the Pelicans. But what do you think? Is Lonzo Ball a future all-star or bust? Can Lonzo keep this up?