Los Angeles Lakers: It’s Put Up Or Shut Up Time For Lonzo Ball

The Los Angeles Lakers are getting what they wanted but it comes at a cost. With the news that point guard Rajon Rondo will miss an extended period of time due to a fractured hand (per ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk and Dave McMenamin), the Lakers will put their hopes on the court vision of point guard Lonzo Ball. Since arriving in L.A., Ball has shown flashes of great play but he’s also given the NBA those moments where his draft selection deserves to be questioned.

The Lakers can’t afford to have much of the latter as LeBron James is now leading a charge that has the team on a four-game winning streak. Although it’s early in the season, this is Ball’s chance to make Rondo expendable.

On the year, Lonzo Ball is averaging 8.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in 26.1 minutes per game. Rondo has averaged 8.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists while playing 25.3 minutes per game. They are similar numbers but each player brings a different element to this Los Angeles Lakers team.

With Ball, the Lakers can sprint. Rondo, however, no longer has the legs for a consistent track meet style of play, but his court vision is still among the best in the NBA. Now, what happens with the Lakers?

To be fair to Ball, he’s been the starter as long as he’s been healthy dating back to his rookie season in 2017-18. Back then, the Los Angeles Lakers were just a group of young players just learning the ropes but now, the stakes are a bit higher. Will LeBron be the shadow that Lonzo Ball needs to follow in order for his inner Magic Johnson to emerge?

With time being split between the two playmakers, will Ball now get the 34.2 minutes he got last season? In his rookie year, Ball averaged just 10.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 7.2 assists while shooting .360 percent from the floor. Those were not outstanding scoring numbers, and turnovers were a problem at times, and the Lakers record mirrored the results.

This season, the Lakers have better balanced scoring with James (27.6 points per game), Brandon Ingram (15.2), Kyle Kuzma (17.6), and JaVale McGee (14.1).

Scoring has not been their problem as they rank ninth in the league in offensive rating, per NBA.com. Where Ball must excel with Rondo out is shooting. LeBron will still handle a lot of the ball-handling duties as he’s done throughout his career, as his court vision is up there with some of the game’s greats but this is what Luke Walton wants to see. He has to know that the Lakers will be in good hands once the LeBron era is over.

Ball averages 7.9 shot attempts per game. Those are modest numbers considering he plays alongside higher volume shooters that can open things up for Ball in James (19.2 shots per game), Ingram (13.2), Kuzma (14.9), Josh Hart (8.4), and McGee (9.9). Of his 7+ attempts, Ball is shooting 4.5 of those from three-point territory. This has to change.

Imagine an offense where defenders will have to worry about the consistent penetrating ability of Ball and LeBron to score. This will open up better scoring chances for McGee and Tyson Chandler as rollers while also providing better spacing for Kuzma and Ingram on the wings. What separates Ball from Rajon Rondo is that Rondo can’t shoot at all. He’s a shorter version of Ben Simmons.

The starters for the Los Angeles Lakers, compared to their other lineups have played 117 minutes together and are in the negative in points scored (-4.4), shot attempts (-1.7), three-pointers (-7.3), and three-point attempts (-15.3), per NBA.com. Maybe this will change with Lonzo Ball now receiving more time on the floor.

For their remaining eight games in November, the Los Angeles Lakers will face just Goran Dragic (on the Miami Heat) and Ricky Rubio (Utah Jazz) as opposing PGs who could really give Lonzo Ball a run for his money. This bodes well for a Lakers’ team looking to make up ground in the standings and for a player searching to reclaim his rightful starting spot.

While the Los Angeles Lakers’ success this season will hinge on the shoulders of LeBron James, it’s Lonzo Ball who will have the eyes on him this year.

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