Lonzo Ball ankle sprain will keep him out the court 3 – 6 weeks according to the Lakers. Grade 3 sprains can last longer than six weeks, and with such an injury, you can’t rush recovery. Sadly, I speak from experience. Even when you are able to walk around, you still have a way to go, and this gives Lonzo a perfect opportunity to work on his free throws.
Lonzo’s shooting has always been his greatest weakness. You see one shot and know that it’s broken. While the NBA had players that had a weird shooting form and made it work, Lonzo pulling the ball from his right hip to his left shoulder and slinging it like a rock obviously isn’t working. When he was drafted, Magic told everyone that if any shooting form is to be changed, they would do it gradually and in the offseason. Then the offseason came, we herd that his form has been tweaked and some improvements have been noticed. His FG% is up from 36% to 40.6%, his 3PT% is up from 30.5% to 32.9%. Not as much as you would hope from a top draft prospect, but an improvement none the less. But is it the offseason “tweak” that did this?
The most significant change in the offseason was LeBron joining the Lakers, and LeBron will get you open shots. He creates gravity and makes sure you get the ball when open. When they want to see if a players shot is progressing or regressing, scouts and shooting coaches look at their free throw rate. Lonzo’s stats are not looking good – he regressed from 45.1% last year to 41.7% this year. To put it in perspective, if you think of free throws and Lakers, you will think Shaq. Shaq’s worst free throw with the Lakers was 06/07 when he shot 48.7%!! In his eight seasons in LA, he averaged 53.3% from the charity stripe. Shaq was one of the most dominant forces in basketball ever, and this made him a liability end of games. Not looking good for Lonzo.
Reggie Miller was a guest on “The Dan Patrick show” and said that the regression in Lonzo’s shooting is baffling to him, as that was supposed be his focus in the offseason. He pointed out that a playmaker/ballhandler who can’t shoo free throws is unplayable at the end of games and this has to change.
“It’s become more mental every time he steps on the free throw line. I guarantee you the opponents know that and they’re going to exploit that”
The first criteria when building a championship contender around LeBron is “can he shoot?” LeBron will have the ball, and you just need spacing to let him work, this is not quantum physics. So the fact that the Lakers are 30th in the NBA in free throw percentage is alarming. Their top guy at the stripe is Zubac with 89.6%, KCP is second with 87.9%, Kuzma third with 76.4% and Hart fourth with 70%; everyone else on the team shoots below 79%.
This is not a team that can contend, and maybe that’s why LeBron is taking his time coming back from injury. The news that Zubac, KCP, and Hart, were mentioned in trade talks also points to such a conclusion. The Lakers are obviously putting all their chips in the upcoming free agency to build a contender around LeBron.
If he wants to stay in LA next to LeBron, Lonzo needs to up his free throws, and he needs to do it fast.