His shot was always the bridge to stardom. Lonzo's funny mechanics made everyone skeptical about his NBA ceiling, so when he tweaked it a little bit this summer it seemed we might see a step forward in his career. A new environment in New Orleans, a team ready to develop young players and build a core in the next few years - everything was working in Lonzo's favor.
The season so far has turned out to be quite the opposite. The Pelicans play better with Lonzo off the court and it is most obvious in half cour defense. Lonzo is great in transition, his vision and passing are elite, but once you set your defense, he becomes useless on offense. Having Zion would help with the transition, but will make him even a stranger fit in the half-court.
Taking into consideration that Lonzo was the 2nd overall pick and this is his third season in the league, is it time to accept that he is a 10/5/5 player? That would make him a 6th man at best. Kendrick Perkins didn't hold back and has made up his mind on Lonzo (via The Jump):
"This is who he is, he's not a superstar, and he's not a star. He was a no.2 pick with high expectations fro, his father, and everybody else. To me, he's a bust because this is not no.2 production."
Bust is a bit harsh from Perk, even if he did say it in the context of Lonzo being the no.2 pick. Let's not forget that Lonzo had a lot to deal with off the court with his dad and the BBB debacle. Add to that that Lonzo gets hurt a lot and he spent a lot of time rehabbing the last three years. That being said, Zach Lowe made it clear what needs to change for Lonzo to start playing up to his potential and projections (via The Jump):
"Make a free throw"
It all comes back to his shot. Lonzo is a 45% career free-throw shooter. His percentage did improve this season and is up to 56%, but that is nowhere near good. We know that free throw shooting is the best indicator of someone's overall shooting potential and by that tool, Lonzo won't live up the no.2 pick.
Meanwhile, in Orlando, Markelle Fultz is quietly shooting 47.3% from the field and 77% from the charity stripe. Leaving Philadelphia was good for Fultz who had the time and space to take it one day at the time. There were no videos of him shooting in practice, no drama online. Fultz is playing better as the seasons goes along and started 22 out of 27 games this year.
Who would say just six months ago that Markelle Fultz would be a better shooter than Lonzo Ball? The first two picks of the 2017 Draft, both labeled by their shooting struggles. Who will have a better career? It's not insane anymore to say it's a close call.