Lonzo Ball has entered the NBA with high expectations as a rookie. The player the Los Angeles Lakers hope can lead their rebuild may have struggled at times during their first two preseason games before sitting out the third one, and his return is questionable for the team’s Sunday night game against the Sacramento Kings.
But his performance at Las Vegas Summer League alone was already enough to leave some scouts offering lofty comparisons while trying to describe his game, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:
“Elite facilitator/passer, makes everyone better,” one longtime Eastern Conference talent evaluator said at summer league after only needing to see him twice to be sold on the Lakers rookie. “If you just do what you’re supposed to do, he will get you the ball right on time. He’s pretty incredible. No disappointment on my part. … The guy is special. He reminds me of J-Kidd.
“What all great passers do is the guy takes a picture in his head,” the talent evaluator added. “The guy rebounds the ball, and he looks up and takes a picture. Watch every other point guard. [Ball] looks up the floor and takes a quick snapshot. The other [point guards] don’t do that. That’s what he does. Like Jason [did].”
Ball has displayed the type of snapshot-taking ability that talent evaluator referenced, and not in the same way as the Lakers’ last young point guard. Ball has demonstrated almost supernatural vision on his outlet passes throughout his first Las Vegas Summer League stint, showing a unique talent for passing players open both in the halfcourt and on the break almost as if he knew exactly where they would go and which way the defense would shift.
During his tenure at UCLA Ball showed the same skill, with a knack for making the pass that led to the crack in the defense that a teammate would be able to exploit one pass later.
Despite those noticeable and prodigious talents, comparisons to one of the best point guards to ever play in the NBA might seem too much pressure to put on a first-year player, but they’re old hat for Ball. Even Kidd has not only compared Ball to himself, but also said he “might be better” and called those types of comparisons “a great compliment.” Ball’s own father thinks they might be setting the bar too low.
No matter what his dad, Kidd or an anonymous scout say, however, Ball turning out to be anywhere near as good as Kidd would be a huge win for the Lakers. Kidd is not only one of the best players to ever suit up in the NBA, but the way he won, with passing and selflessness on the floor while getting guys to follow his lead is exactly the type of expectations the Lakers are putting on Ball every time they call him the face of the franchise or tout his leadership ability.
Plus, if Ball is anywhere close to as good as Kidd — who has the second-most assists in NBA history — Johnson’s request for Ball to not break all of his records with the Lakers during his introductory press conference will seem less like overly-high expectations and more like speaking Ball’s greatness into existence.