While the Los Angeles Lakers still had D’Angelo Russell on the roster at the time of selecting Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the UCLA product was quickly handed the keys.
Russell was packaged with Timofey Mozgov in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets that created salary cap flexibility for the Lakers. President of basketball operations Magic Johnson quickly got behind the team’s newest point guard, championing his pass-first mentality.
Johnson’s gushing about Ball at an introductory press conference further added to the pressure and expectations that were already created by being a high draft pick, and in some regard endless comments made by his father, LaVar Ball.
Having completed a rookie season in which he faced endless scrutiny, Ball said he believes that will have had more pressure than playing on a roster that’s led by LeBron James, via the Lakers official podcast:
“Honestly, I think the pressure was higher last year. This year, he took a lot of the spotlight off of me, B.I., Kuz. Last year, all the wins and losses were kind of put on us. This year, you’ve got the best player in the world. Any time he’s on the team, everybody is focused on him. It’s up to us to lighten that load for him and just make things easier for him.”
While Ball flashed strong passing skills and better-than-expected defensive acumen, his biggest criticism faced were due to a low shooting percentage and struggles to remain healthy. After an offseason that included knee surgery and adding strength to his frame, Ball appears poised to rebound.
He was just cleared for full-practice participation and thus far has responded well to the contact and has shown a refined shooting stroke that is much more fluid and netted improved results.