Has Lonzo Ball Finally Turned A Corner?
Quietly, Lonzo Ball is starting to change the narrative around his play. For the past few games, dating back to the Los Angeles Lakers’ meeting with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Ball has been playing with an ingredient many believe he has lacked: aggression.
And he’s doing so with more consistency. Last year, Ball had games in which he made it a point to attack the basket, but he could never string those types of games together. For the last two weeks, his aggression has shown up with more regularity. And the Lakers are going to need more of it going forward.
Ball’s aggression does two things for the Lakers: it opens up the offense, and it creates opportunities for Ball to utilize his court vision.
The second-year guard’s skills are best utilized in a full-court offense, or a half-court motion offense in which players are cutting, screening for each other, and keeping defenders moving, thus creating open passing lanes.
Ball is excellent at seeing plays before they fully materialize. His teammates just have to start their motion and Ball recognizes how to help them finish their play with the right pass.
But this becomes even more useful when Ball himself is part of the motion in the offense. When he attacks the basket, the Lakers’ passing threat is now on the move and has to be accounted for. At the very least, Ball will divert the attention of his defender and the big man in the middle, which opens things up for cutters like Kyle Kuzma.
This creates chances for Ball to more fully unlock the advantage that his court vision gives the Lakers. With an aggressive Ball, cutters are able to offer their services more easily, and big men like Tyson Chandler and JaVale McGee just have to anticipate the incoming pass, because they know Ball will find them.
If this is the turning point for Ball, then it’s certainly welcome, and honestly will provide a sigh of relief for Lakers fans. Ball came into this season with a lot to prove. He had to show that the flashes of offensive brilliance he displayed as a rookie were foreshadowing the type of player he would eventually be on a nightly basis.
For much of this season, though, that desired outcome had not come to pass. Making matters worse was the fact that Ball’s stats have seen a dip. He went from averaging 10.2 points, 7.2 assists, and 6.9 rebounds per game last season to 8.0 points, 4.5 assists, and 5.5 rebounds this season.
An initial decrease in stats was certainly expected, given the arrival of LeBron James, and the new distribution in offensive responsibility. But Ball is now in a position where he needs to prove his worth, because with James and Rajon Rondo wearing the purple and gold, Ball isn’t the only one who can make magic with the ball. Consistent aggression will be his blueprint to stay on the court.
Consistency, though, is new territory for Ball, as he has been quite the enigma is his early career. Victories are his top priority, as he’s always noted his indifference to his high or low performances, as long as the team came out on top.
But there have been questions about whether or not he has the heart to be a leader. At the same time, he has shown tremendous heart on the defensive side of his game.
Opposing guards struggle in their shooting percentage against him, and he disrupts the passing lanes at an exceptional level. His tenacity on defense is superb, and he plays that end with no fear. And that’s what is so befuddling about Ball and his style of play. He plays with a fervor on defense that he is capable of matching on offense, but often doesn’t. Until now. Now his personality on both ends is starting to resemble one another.
After putting together multiple assertive games, Ball has a new standard to be held to on a nightly basis. He has to be attacking, putting pressure on the defense, and creating opportunities for his teammates. We’ll see how long it takes before we won’t have to talk about aggression in Ball’s play as if it’s an aberration, and instead just another aspect of his game.