Upon selecting Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers made it clear they expected him to be their answer for a pass-first point guard.
President of basketball operations Magic Johnson likened Ball’s responsibilities to what he held during his time as floor general for the “Showtime” Lakers. Ball was taking over for D’Angelo Russell, a No. 2 draft pick himself, but a point guard who had a scoring mentality.
Ball went on to average 7.2 assists per game, which would have ranked second amongst all rookies and eighth overall had he appeared in enough games to qualify. Ball demonstrated the instincts and court vision the organization raved about him having at the time of the draft.
However, it didn’t mean he avoided friendly banter and criticism from Lakers head coach Luke Walton. During an episode of “Connected With… Luke Walton,” he explained claiming to — at times — be a better pass than Ball but admittedly has since fallen in the rankings, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“I used to joke with Lonzo last year all the time. I’d say, ‘I don’t know. Some days I feel like I’m the best passer in the gym still. And then other days when you’re making those passes, I feel I’m No. 2.’ This year, just watching pickup, I’ve dropped. I’m like the fifth or sixth-best passer on the team.”
Joining Ball in the playmaking department for this season are most notably LeBron James and Rajon Rondo. However, during the episode, Walton also highlighted Michael Beasley and Lance Stephenson as proving to be effective passers in scrimmages at the UCLA Health Training Center.
Additionally, Kyle Kuzma spent the offseason improving his guard skills, and Josh Hart has also shown improvement in playmaking. Although Walton may no longer be at or near the top of the list, he presumably is willing to accept that in favor of a talented and successful roster.