The hype around Lonzo Ball before the 2017 NBA draft was huge. Transforming a 15-17 UCLA team into a title contender, combining that with all the crazy things his father Lavar was saying about him, you couldn’t help but wonder how this 6 ft 5 point guard was going to transition his game to the next level. Almost three years after the draft, the former 2nd overall pick has played his best season yet, but not as a member of the team that had drafted him. The Lakers included Lonzo in a deal for Anthony Davis, a move that seemingly is paying dividends for both sides, even though Lavar wasn’t happy with it.
Many of Lonzo’s inconsistencies throughout his first two years as a Laker were caused by him always being injured, which stopped him from finding his groove. The leading indicator for that is that in this shortened regular season, Lonzo played 56 games, which is the most regular-season games he’s played in his NBA career. Ball’s playmaking ability and pushing the pace type of play have transitioned to the NBA seamlessly, and his defense is what caught people off-guard, given that he was projected as below-average defender coming into the 2017 NBA draft.
Lonzo’s main struggles were on the offensive end, and his shooting mechanic caused most of them. Gathering the ball from his left hip has limited Lonzo’s ability to pull up from mid-range and forced him to play predictably, shooting threes or driving the ball to the rim, which are both areas in which Lonzo had struggled. However, this season Lonzo has showcased his new shooting form, which resulted in him attempting 6.5 threes a game and converting them at a rate of .383. Ball has worked with Pelicans assistant coach Fred Vinson and improved his shooting drastically. Lonzo’s new jumper forced defenses to guard him outside the 3 point line, which opened the lane for him and allowed him to drive and kick the ball or finish the play by himself. Even though his mid-range game is still below average, he is getting more and more comfortable pulling up from 15 feet, or hitting an occasional floater.
Ball is a type of point guard other players love to play with. If you are open, you can be sure Lonzo will get you the ball in the perfect spot, and if you run the floor, he will reward you. Lonzo has developed excellent chemistry with all Pelicans players, but his fit with Zion Williamson is what fans are most exciting for. Lonzo made an appearance on The JJ Reddick Podcast and talked about his relationship with Zion. He said that even though the rookie sensation has only played 19 games, the two have developed great chemistry on the court.
“It’s really just natural. Z is a different type of talent. I’ve never really played with a guy like him before. He complements my game tremendously, and I’m just happy to be with him.”
Lonzo Ball, via The J.J. Redick Podcast
It’s been entertaining watching the duo of Ball and Williamson. The two do complement each other perfectly. Lonzo’s numbers have improved drastically since Zion was inserted into the starting lineup. According to basketball reference, throughout 19 games they played together, Lonzo is averaging 13 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 8.16 APG while shooting .455 from the field and .429 on 6.63 3PA. In those 19 games, Williamson is putting 23.6 points per game with a true shooting percentage of 62.4%. His scoring volume is the highest for any player in the past 23 years.
Furthermore, his TS% is unmatched by players with comparable volume. It is also worth mentioning that per 100 possessions, the Pelicans are 14 points better when the duo is out there together. Zion is scoring most of his points in the paint and from the free-throw line (5.2). His second jump is one of the best in the league, and he is converting a high volume of his misses. Coach Gentry hasn’t drawn many plays for Zion. Most of his buckets come from freelance and pick and roll offense or post-ups from the left block. He is also the main target of Lonzo’s alley-oops. The pairing of Ball and Williamson is one of the most exciting alley-oop combos in the league. Ball is hitting Zion perfectly on spin-off lobs, and the duo has already had some iconic alley-oops from past half court.
“It looks good, but I really just aim for the corner of the backboard, really. I mean, as you know, Zion’s probably going to catch it no matter where you throw it. So, for me, I really just try to get it over the defender because I know (Zion’s) going to get higher than him. As long as I do that, it’s going to work out.”
Lonzo Ball, via The J.J. Redick Podcast
Although we haven’t seen a significant sample of the games the two have played together, it’s evident that Ball and Williamson have tremendous chemistry on the court. Their games complement each other perfectly, and the duo is just starting to unlock their potential. Both are humble guys, and both have shown that they are dedicated to perfecting their crafts. If they can stay healthy and continue expanding their games, the sky is the limit.