After sitting out against the Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball will return to the lineup when as the team continues their four-game road trip by facing the Atlanta Hawks.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton suggested that Ball could play more minutes against Atlanta than he did in his return from a knee injury over the weekend, although it remains to be seen if the rookie would do so as a starter or come off of the bench like he did in his first game back.
If Ball does come off the pine again, the Lakers and their fans will continue their extended look at how he pairs with new trade acquisition Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt. The two will likely play together a bit regardless, but will do so right off the bat should Walton choose to keep his starting lineup intact even with his franchise point guard back in the lineup.
In his first minutes alongside Thomas against the Mavericks, Ball shot better from the field overall (37.5 percent) and from 3-point range (50 percent) than he has in either category on the season, but it’s important to remember that the 17 minutes they’ve played together are an exceedingly small sample size.
With that in mind, it’s also worth noting that the Lakers posted a net rating of -20.7 in Ball and Thomas’ 17 minutes together against the Mavericks.
While it’s too early to say whether or not that exceedingly moribund mark will continue over a larger sample of minutes, the fact that lineups featuring the pairing gave up a defensive rating of 132.7 (meaning that’s how many points the Mavericks would be projected to score per 100 possessions with Ball and Thomas on the floor) is not a promising sign for that pairing’s viability.
It’s also notable that the two struggled so mightily defensively against the Mavericks, who have posted the 10th-worst offensive efficiency in the NBA on the season. The Lakers won’t get a stiffer test against the Hawks, who have NBA’s eighth-worst offense this year (offensive rating of 103.6).
The Hawks, who have the NBA’s worst record and have owned that mark for futility for most of the year, aren’t much better on the other end, producing the NBA’s ninth-worst defense while allowing opponents to score 108 points per 100 possessions.
Still, Dennis Schroder should be able to give some of that back to L.A. on the other end, where he’s averaging 18.8 points on 47.5 percent shooting to go with 4.3 assists over the Hawks’ last five games.
Schroder’s starting backcourt mate, former Laker Kent Bazemore, will also serve as a defensive pest to make like difficult on whatever guards he ends up matched up on.
Atlanta is hardly in the midst of a turnaround of late, as they’re losers in the last three games and five of their last six, but they’re also the home team.
And given that young teams almost always play better at home and the Lakers have struggled on the road at times this season, the Hawks can’t be overlooked.
Los Angeles Lakers (24-34) Vs. Atlanta Hawks (18-42):
4:30 P.M. PST, February 26, 2018
Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: Spectrum Sportsnet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Brandon Ingram
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Josh Hart
PF: Julius Randle
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Isaiah Thomas
Projected Hawks Starting Lineup:
PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Kent Bazemore
SF: Taurean Prince
PF: John Collins
C: Dewayne Dedmon
Key Reserves: Miles Plumlee, Mike Muscala, Tyler Dorsey, DeAndre’ Bembry
WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN THE DISCUSSION? CHECK OUT THE NEW LAKERS NATION FORUM CLUB