EL SEGUNDO — Last month, before Lonzo Ball was cleared to return to the lineup for the Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James was already coming up with nicknames for the pairing of Ball and fellow point guard Rajon Rondo.
“Lonzo is going to be great. He’s going to be great for our ball club. We got two great point guards in ‘Zo and ‘Do,” James said.
That cringeworthy nickname attempt wasn’t necessarily in preparation for a lineup that would feature both players, but at the Lakers’ practice on Tuesday, head coach Luke Walton revealed that we can expect to see Ball and Rondo share the floor at times now that Ball is healthy.
“I can’t tell you how much because we haven’t really seen it yet, but there will definitely be times that we put that kind of lineup out there. Those two, LeBron, Brandon (Ingram), that’s as good of playmaking as we have, so we’ll figure that out, but I have no idea how much we’ll do it,” Walton said.
But while the Lakers’ still have to evaluate how the pairing does in reality, in the theoretical realm, a Rondo and Ball pairing looks like it could work, especially now that Ball is bulking up.
On Lakers Media Day, basically everyone on the team was raving about how much stronger Ball looks, and on Tuesday he said his extra muscle had taken him from 190 pounds to 205 or 210.
“You can feel a big difference,” Ball said. “It helps a lot. You get to the basket easier, switch better guarding bigs. We play one through four switch, so it helps me a lot.”
In addition to switching onto bigger players, Ball’s extra strength seems like it could allow him to just straight up switch to shooting guards as a default in lineups where he’s paired with Rondo, and people much smarter than this author agree.
“Lonzo’s physical growth over the summer should allow him to check 2’s or 3’s without much difficulty, while Rondo stays on 1’s,” said Pete Zayas (aka Laker Film Room) of Silver Screen and Roll.
Zayas also noted that as a shooting guard, Ball “would have fewer ball screens to navigate from those positions, which could provide him more opportunity to wreak havoc as a help defender,” something he showed a particular aptitude for last season and would help further fuel the breakneck pace the Lakers want to play with.
The pairing could also be potent offensively, with one caveat.
“Lonzo needs to be able to knock down threes the way he did at UCLA in order to play alongside Rondo, but if he can do that, the Lakers can field a lineup that features the most potent trio of playmakers in the NBA,” Zayas said.
Ball famously (infamously?) shot just 30.5 percent from behind the arc last season, but has tweaked his jumper to give himself a more repeatable release that might help his percentages. If it works, then lineups featuring him and Rondo could be dangerous.
“They’re both selfless, playmaking guards that make their teammates better, and those are the type of guys we want on the floor, so to most of the time be able to have one of those guys at the point is a big plus for us.”
If they can manage to get both on the floor, it might be even bigger.