What is HAPPENING To Lonzo Ball? (Ft. NBA Lineups, A New Shot, A Missing Zion, & Old Lakers)
Lonzo Ball has had a weird start to this NBA season on the Pelicans without Zion. What is happening to Lonzo Ball? #NBA #Lonzo
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There were expectations for this to be a breakout season of sorts for Lonzo, but things haven’t looked great. The Pelicans are 6-19 and Lonzo’s shooting less than 40% from the field, again. At the same time he’s averaging a career high percentage from 3 and had a nice game against the Suns when he went for 20 points and 11 assists. So I wanted to see what was happening with Lonzo Ball.
Lonzo is shooting more threes than ever before. We saw the new shot in the offseason that looked normal and not like this (goku death theme music) He’s shooting 6.2 3s a game, more than the 4.9 threes a game last year and more than the 5.7 3s a game in his rookie season. Actually, it’s not that much of a difference statistically from his past years. He’s shooting 33% from 3 which puts him at an almost average 3 point shooter, which would be 35.5%, but that’s only an increase of .4% from last year. Watching the games though, it’s really easy to tell that there is something different with his shooting and I’m not talking about the new form. Lonzo is shooting with more confidence, he’s not hesitating as much, especially on catch and shoot shots. In the past Lonzo would at times not take the open shot. He would pause and then pass it away. Now, there’s more conviction to it. On over 68 catch and shoot 3s this season, Lonzo has shot 37%.
There was also Luke Walton who was playing Lonzo inconsistently, maybe it was LaVar’s fault. That actually brings me to the one more important change, minutes per game. Lonzo has played well when he has been given consistent minutes. Last year when Lonzo played 30-39 minutes which was over 20 games, he shot 46% from the field and 42.9% from 3 with a net rating of 5.9. That’s elite shooting for 20+ games. In the games without LeBron, Lonzo averaged 12.5 points per game, 7.2 assists, and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 42% from the field and 37% from 3. That means that as the main guy running the offense last season with not too much help around him, he was able to shoot above average from 3 and playmake.
I looked at the Pelicans lineups and how effective each lineup was with and without Lonzo. And here’s where it gets really weird. The Pelicans have played 25 games this season and there is no 5 man lineup that has logged more than 9 games together. Yeah, out of all the lineups, not just starting lineups, the Pelicans have run throughout all the 24 games, there’s no 5 man combination that have played in half of their games. Other teams have multiple lineups that have broken the 10 game mark. The Lakers have 3, the Heat have 4, heck even the Knicks have 3 lineups, 2 of which have had 15 games together. One explanation could be injuries. Lonzo missed 8 games, but the rest of rotation players haven’t really had injuries besides Derrick Favors.
Now the slenderman, is heavily involved in the offense. Ingram’s usage rate has jumped from 22.7% last year to 28.3%. And we’ve seen Ingram be able to also initiate the offense as a point guard. He’s also 7th in the league in iso possessions meaning he’s handling the ball a lot. The Pelicans already have Jrue Holiday to be a point guard. Jrue’s actually averaging more touches than LeBron did last year. Lonzo was supposed to be the primary ball handler, but now he’s third behind Jrue and Ingram. There’s also a missing Zion Williamson who complimented Lonzo extremely well. We saw chemistry in practice, in preseason, and even off the court. Zion’s off-ball movement paired up with Lonzo’s playmaking. And then there were the fastbreaks. Not having Zion hurts Lonzo the most because that was the one player on this roster along with JJ Redick that seemed perfect.
Lonzo’s defense this year is all out of sync. While Lonzo is a solid 1 v 1 perimeter defender, his main value comes in team defense and being a glue that can cover other people on the perimeter. He has a tendency to gamble and do surprise double teams. The Pelicans, besides Jrue Holiday, aren’t filled with players that are defensive mind, (ahhhh) and because these lineups have not played together enough, there’s also a lack of communication and team chemistry.
I believe in Lonzo and what he can do. He’s only 22 years old so there’s a lot of time left before a final verdict. But what do you think? Will Lonzo play better? Will Zion return?