2016-17 Season Stats:
55% from the field
41% from three
68% from the free-throw line
Weight: 162 pounds Height w/shoes: 6′3.5″. Wingspan: 6'7″. Max Vert: N/A
Kevin Martin + passing
A young Rajon Rondo with range
Breaking: Lonzo Ball will be a top-4 draft pick regardless of what his father, LaVar Ball, says about his son to the media. Also breaking: Lonzo Ball is really good at basketball, and he has the potential to be really great. Ball took a middling and underperforming UCLA team last season to being an offensive juggernaut (along with the addition of scoring threat T.J. Leaf. Can't let Ball have all the credit) this season.
Ball's family has garnered a lot of press ranging from coverage of Chino Hills' incredible season last year with all three of the Ball brothers dominating high school opponents to LaMelo Ball dropping 92 points to LaVar Ball's wild comments that show his support for his eldest son, Lonzo. But you know all of that likely. You know that Lonzo Ball is an offensive talent with seemingly unlimited range. You already know that Ball has a funky-looking jumpshot. You've seen that Ball is the best passer in the upcoming NBA draft with vision that surpasses even the consensus (for now) #1 pick Markelle Fultz. What don't you know about Lonzo Ball?
For starters, his defense is the most under-appreciated part of his game. Lonzo Ball knows the game of basketball. He was raised around the game and pushed constantly. He's still pushed even when he comes home to visit his family. They play ball (hah) for fun, and there are no breaks. That much exposure to the game undoubtedly has positive effects on basketball IQ, and Lonzo Ball's defensive instincts are the direct result of that.
'Zo has quite a few highlights where he comes out of nowhere for a monstrous block, but that timing, if you go back and track it, is a result of detailed attention to both his man and wherever the ball is. He keeps constant track of all things happening on the floor. Lonzo Ball gets a lot of attention for his passing vision, and deservingly so, but his defensive vision needs more attention.
On defense, Ball shows great defensive mechanics; he usually has his hands up while sliding his feet well. He also provides good help defense, and he switches on defense extremely well for a player his age. Of course, there are moments when him being young works against him. Defensive lapses, weak closeouts, and getting beat off the dribble are all common mistakes that Ball commits as well. Overall, though, he is a strong defender, and that's mostly due to the unteachable aspect of his game: instinct.
Instinct really rules all of the good parts of his game. He's a passing genius; he consistently makes something out of nothing. The great part about Ball's passing, though, is that he executes the simple passes perfectly. When it comes to a basic chest pass to a shooter coming off a pin-down, he passes the ball perfectly into the shooter's pocket, allowing for the recipient to ease into their shooting motion. It's brilliant when you break it down.
Ball's rebounding also plays a big part in his overall offensive package. For a 6-foot-3 player, he's grabbing 6 rebounds per game, and that's really impressive. This is due, not only to his long arms, but also his instincts (again). He places himself in great position to benefit from long rebounds, and he gets after it on the offensive glass. The fact that Ball grabs so many rebounds (effectively making him a nightly triple-double threat), means that he often starts the fast break, and that's where he shines: in transition.
Ball sees the floor so well, so once he comes down with rebounds, he makes the right read almost all the time. When he doesn't start the fast break, he runs the passing lanes so well that it usually ends in an alley-oop or monster dunk for him after a pass from a teammate. Gee, I wonder why he's so good at that (hint: basketball instinct).
Yes, Lonzo Ball does have an "ugly" shot. He swings the ball around to the left side of his head, and that makes it tough to shoot pull-up jumpshots. But you know something? The best looking shots are the ones that go in, and his shots go in. Ball will have issues shooting mid-range pull-ups; it's hard for him to stop his dribble to gather the ball and to bring it up to the left side for his shooting motion. Is it fixable? Maybe. Maybe it'll be his weakness, but there are plenty of ways to counter that issue at the next level.
Bottom line: Lonzo Ball is shooting 72% on shots inside the 3-point arc. Him not having a mid-range pull-up might not even be that important with the way the NBA is evolving. What matters is that he has offensive versatility. With his ability to shoot off the dribble behind the arc, Ball shouldn't have too many issues creating his own shot. He's a fantastic spot-up shooter, so he should be fine at the next level.
With his size, Ball can either be a point guard with good size or an off-guard. At UCLA, 'Zo has shown the ability to play both roles well. He will need to put on some weight (he's very thin), but that will come with NBA weight rooms. A stronger lower body will help him when he'll inevitably switch onto bigger players on defense in the NBA. No matter what guard spot he plays, his passing vision and shooting ability will serve him well.
His jumpshot shouldn't be a problem. What we should pay attention to is how much he's elevated UCLA's offense, and he'll bring that with him to whatever team drafts him. What that team is also getting is a high basketball IQ and good defensive habits. With a strong NCAA Tournament showing, Ball could even make the case to be the #1 overall pick. He's right there. So while we all gawk at the headlines that LaVar Ball is making, let's appreciate the silent basketball genius of his son, Lonzo Ball.
After all, when asked about his dad, he himself said simply: "I just ball."