Even with the Los Angeles Lakers getting off to a better than expected start, the rookie year of Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball has been a hot topic for debate on social media and the internet at large over the last few weeks, with many rushing to call him a bust after a poor-shooting start to his first NBA season.
And make no mistake, Ball’s shooting has been rough. He is only converting 29.9 percent of his looks, the worst percentage of any Lakers player to appear in more than one game, and has somehow been worse from deep, making just 23.4 percent of his attempts from behind the arc.
However, basketball is about more than just shooting, and after starting 10 games alongside Ball now, few are more qualified than Lakers center Brook Lopez to comment on everything else Ball brings outside of his wayward shot. The veteran has liked what he’s seen, via Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters:
Brook Lopez on Lonzo Ball: “The way he facilitates, he brings everyone up to a whole new level…it’s irreplaceable.”
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) November 6, 2017
Ball’s quick-hitting outlet passes in transition were a huge weapon for the Lakers early, allowing them to get into their offense quickly rather than having to resort to attacking teams in the halfcourt, which hasn’t gone well for the Lakers so far this season.
However, teams have started getting back more after getting the scouting report on Ball/the Lakers, and now the team is only playing at a marginally faster pace with Ball on the floor (105.29) vs. when he’s off (105.21).
That change has also started to affect Ball’s assist numbers as well, as the Lakers actually have a higher percentage of their baskets assisted when Ball sits (58.8 percent) vs. when he plays (55 percent).
Still, those numbers don’t mean Lopez is wrong. Not all of Ball’s passing is going to be reflected in those two stats, as sometimes he makes the proverbial pass that leads to the pass or hits a player at the perfect time to allow them to take advantage of a mismatch in isolation and score, which he wouldn’t get an assist for.
Ball’s passing has also had an intangible effect on the Lakers’ unselfishness as a whole. Even notorious ball-stoppers like Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson have seemed far more willing to move the rock this season, and the team’s more balanced and increasingly diverse offense has potentially helped keep the Lakers more engaged on defense as a whole, aiding them in ranking seventh in defensive efficiency while holding opponents to 101.2 points per 100 possessions.
Lopez is a good veteran and knows the value of trying to pump up a young teammate who is taking tons of criticism in the media, but he’s also not wrong. Ball is literally “irreplaceable” simply because of how much the Lakers have bet on him to be their franchise centerpiece.
While watching him and the team it’s easy to see why, even if the numbers don’t quite reflect it yet.
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