The shooting struggles of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball have been discussed nearly non-stop since the start of the season. Ball is shooting 32.1 percent from the field, which ranks fifth-worst in the NBA among players to appear in at least 20 games this year.
Ball has been ever worse when shooting from behind the arc. Of players shooting at least three 3-pointers per game, Ball’s 25.8 percent from distance ranks fourth-worst in the league.
At the center of the debate about Ball’s shot has been a discussion of his unorthodox, catapult-style shooting form, which sees him begin his shot down near his waster before snaking it up for a weirdly low release that makes it appear as though he’s just flinging the ball around without a care.
It’s a style of shot that hasn’t been seen often in NBA history, but does bear a striking resemblance to one player in particular — retired NBA journeyman Kevin Martin.
In a conversation with Marc Stein of the New York Times, Martin went into detail about how he turned things around:
“Lonzo’s shot is exactly how mine was through my freshman year of college — exactly,” Martin said. “The N.B.A. is a faster game, so I knew I had to tweak it just a little. Just moving the ball to the right a little bit, away from my face on the release, helped tremendously.”
That similarity is why Martin told Stein he’s so confident that Ball can turn his percentages around:
“The kid’s going to be all right,” Martin said. “He’s going to be a great shooter when it’s all said and done.”
Martin also struggled to shoot at the start of his NBA career, although not to the degree Ball has. The 12-year veteran shot just 38.5 percent from the field and 20 percent on threes as a rookie before not shooting below 40 percent again until the final year of his career.
He also finished his time in the league as a career 38.4 percent 3-point shooter who was deadly from distance at his peak.
The Lakers obviously have higher hopes for Ball than being the next Martin, but that’s not really the big takeaway from this. Martin was an undersized, pure-scoring shooting guard, with an emphasis on the shooting part, that contributed little else on the floor.
Ball has already proven to be so much more than that. He’s an above-average to great passer who assists on a team-high 28.7 percent of his teammates’ field goals while on the floor and averages 7.1 assists per game (also a team-high).
Ball is also — as a rookie point guard — leading the Lakers in rebounds per game with 6.8, which has allowed him to push pace to the tune of 105.79 possessions per 48 minutes, a team-high amongst Lakers getting consistent minutes.
Combine all of that with Ball already contributing on the defensive end of the floor, and it’s clear he projects as a far more complete player than Martin if and when he figures out his shot like Martin says he will.
If Ball can do so to the degree Martin did, he could end up being one of the best players in the NBA when he hits his prime.
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