The Los Angeles Lakers are going to be in everybody’s headlines this season; that’s how it is when you sign LeBron James in free agency. With that being the case, Lonzo Ball‘s development this year is one of the other sideshows on this team, as we’ve demonstrated often here at NBA Analysis Network. Ball did not initially start at point guard because of him coming back from a reported summer meniscus tear, and Rajon Rondo was brought in via free agency to be an insurance policy. That being said, in the time being with Rondo suspended three games for his incident with Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets, it’s allowed Ball to shine back in a starting role that he should’ve had already to begin with.
Ball has averaged 11.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game and has an effective field goal percentage of 61.1 percent to start the season, per Basketball Reference. Now, it’s only been five games, but Ball has shown he can coexist with LeBron better than Rondo. Rondo is a player that is of the highest basketball IQ, and he’s always going to showcase innate passing ability and vision, which helps all teams, but Lonzo was the team’s number two overall pick last year, and he has similar passing traits.
Ball is a point guard that is 6-foot-6, and he’s got tremendous passing acumen and sees plays before they happen, like Rondo and James. With Ball in the game in a starting role, it should allow the game to come to him more, and not force him to press things while playing only bench minutes. In addition, Ball has been in the game in crunch time already a bunch this year, and over time, the Lakers will be better off for it.
The other key young pieces such as Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart know they are going to get amazing feeds from Ball, and with them playing with him last season, there’s better chemistry with Lonzo running the point than Rondo. He’s going to make passes over the opposing defenders often with his vision and 6-foot-9 wingspan, and Ball makes Kevin Love-like outlet passes that lead to easy baskets for players like JaVale McGee, James and Kuzma, even after opponents’ made baskets.
Although it’s been just three games, Ball’s numbers have come up a bit when he’s started, and that should tell the Los Angeles Lakers all they need to know about the kid and this Rondo situation. As a starter, he’s posted 12.7 points, made 2.0 three-pointers (while shooting 40.0 percent), had 6.7 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals in 31.4 minutes per contest, according to NBA.com. Against the Denver Nuggets last night, he and Lance Stephenson really made things happen in the second half, and specifically, crunch time to get a victory.
Ball is a player that is going to have his hiccups with the shooting here and there, but his upside is so much greater than Rondo’s at this point. Unlike Rondo, the seond-year point guard out of UCLA can make things happen both on and off the ball, as Fox Sports One’s Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless highlighted on “Undisputed” earlier today. I know, sourcing Skip as a stamp of approval doesn’t hold a ton of weight among NBA pundits, but clearly Ball is a guy that looks to have turned a corner with his shooting, and with LeBron on the court with him, he should have a ton of wide-open threes and transition assist opportunities.
He can handle things as a lead guard, or as a 2 (as he’s actually been 57 percent of the time this season, per Basketball Reference) and let players such as Hart or Stephenson run the offense, and be a spot-up player. Rondo has to have the ball to be effective, and Ball is a better cutter, along with being a better shooter off the bounce.
Ball can take advantage of pick-and-roll switchouts with opposing bigs, such as Denver’s Nikola Jokic yesterday, much better than Rondo can with his step-back prowess, and he provides much more tangible impact on the defensive end with his length both on and off-ball.
Picking Jamal Murray clean in the backcourt epitomized that, and you can’t teach 6-foot-9 length for a point guard. If the Los Angeles Lakers and head coach Luke Walton are thinking proactively, they’ll keep Ball in the starting lineup and have Rondo get run off the bench. I wouldn’t play Rondo and Ball together given that both can run the offense well as the other primary passer outside of James, and with that, let the kid get the majority of the minutes.
It doesn’t totally matter whether he’s on or off the ball as the lead guy, just let Lonzo Ball make things happen more, because he opens it up more than Rondo.