The Los Angeles Lakers struggled in the absence of Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram in their loss to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night. WHen asked what the team missed most with those two out, Kyle Kuzma didn’t hesitate.
“Playmaking, that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “Having Lonzo, he’s a dynamic point guard. BI can play a little bit of that point forward role. We miss those guys and that aspect.”
In the case of Ball, the numbers reflect Kuzma’s takeaway. The Lakers never assist more than when Ball is on the court, with 60.6 percent of their baskets coming on assists. When Ball sits, the team never assists less, with 56.1 percent of their scores coming unassisted.
The opposite is true for Ingram, as the team actually assists more with Ingram on the bench (58.7 percent) than they do when he plays (57.9 percent), although the difference is negligible. Still, it offers a reminder that an assist isn’t the only way to make plays.
For all of Ball’s playmaking prowess and the ball movement his presence leads to, the Lakers’ offense is actually worse with their prodigal point guard on the court, scoring 103.4 points per 100 possessions compared to 104.9 when he’s on the bench.
The case is the same for Ingram, who the Lakers have a worse offensive rating with on the floor (103) than when he sits (105.5). What those two do offer, however, is hidden when just looking at offensive ratings.
Some of both of their off-court ratings come while the other is in the game, but without both the Lakers are bereft of players who can create a shot for themselves or others, leading to a complete stagnation that can’t be fully quantified by their individual on-off ratings.
Plus, Ball makes the Lakers’ defense better by the numbers (a 104.1 defensive rating while he’s in the game versus 106.8 when he sits), while Ingram is one of L.A.’s best shooters, and without him in the game at all the team is sorely lacking in spacing threats.
All of this is without mentioning the intangible toll missing two of their best players and leaders takes on a team. As much as the Lakers have spoken about wanting to surprise teams and give their all despite injuries, being without their leading scorer and leading assister has to have a subconscious effect.
And they’re facing the prospect of being without both again on Tuesday night.