Los Angeles Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball has come under a lot of scrutiny for his offensive struggles this season. Because of that, something that has gone under appreciated is his ability on defense.
Thanks to his size, length, athleticism and next-level anticipation, Ball has been a terror on that end of the floor, constantly coming up with steals and blocks. If there’s one person who appreciates a great defensive guard it is Hall-of-Famer and former Lakers point guard Gary Payton.
The former Defensive Player of the Year appeared on NBA TV and was asked his top-5 defensive point guards, which Payton named Ball to:
Gary Payton shares his current top 5️⃣ defensive guards… ????
— NBA TV (@NBATV) March 27, 2018
It is definitely an impressive list as Payton put Ball next to Chris Paul, Patrick Beverley, Marcus Smart and Rajon Rondo. Even though he is only a rookie, Lonzo has already shown he can make a serious impact on that end of the floor.
A lot of it has to do with Ball’s amazing anticipation and great hands. Several of his steals come off the ball as he does a great job of reading the opposition’s eyes and seeing the play before it happens. He also does a great job of sneaking up behind players, picking their pocket without them ever seeing him coming.
He doesn’t qualify because of the number of games he’s missed this season, but if he did, Ball would rank sixth among all point guards in steals per game and second in blocks. The latter is arguably even more impressive as his athleticism has allowed him to come up with some impressive weakside blocks.
His jump shot, and overall offensive repertoire definitely needs work this offseason, but the fact that he can do so many other things is what makes him valuable. Payton is the greatest defensive point guard of all-time and if he recognizes what Ball does on that end, it must be the truth.
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