Don’t look now, but the Los Angeles Lakers have crept up in the defensive rankings — they are currently 18th in the NBA in defensive efficiency — something they always knew they were capable of. Lonzo Ball, widely known for his abilities defensively whenever engaged, has gotten back to some of those habits and his teammates are noticing.
Kyle Kuzma spoke with Allen Sliwa of ESPN Los Angeles Monday night, and commented on the team’s point guard dynamic and how good Ball can be:
“I think it’s definitely an adjustment period coming in. Last year he didn’t necessarily have a backup to spell his minutes, and we’re lucky enough to have Rondo this year to really help us when somebody is struggling, but I think (Lonzo) has done a pretty good job for the most part.
“He’s really cleared up shooting the ball, which was one of his weaknesses last year, and he still does a great job defensively. I think that kind of gets overlooked within his game, but I think he’s one of the best defensive guards in the league when he wants to (be).”
Just watch this clip of Lonzo when he’s at his best defensively. He creates all kinds of havoc and then uses that chaos to his and the Lakers’ advantage. This was incredible.
Lonzo Ball made a ton of key defensive plays in that fourth-quarter comeback. Total havoc-creator. pic.twitter.com/IbjOLRaNOH— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) October 26, 2018
And as much was made about whether Rondo’s presence on the roster might mess with Ball’s confidence, the idea of potentially not signing a player who plays a position of need and of a certain caliber so as not to threaten another player on the roster was always pretty ridiculous now that the Lakers are a “win-now” team.
It would have been concerning — and might still be concerning — if Luke Walton finds any excuse he can to play Rondo over Ball, who is the better player at this point. And while there have been instances since Walton met with Magic Johnson in which Ball has sat down the stretch of games, it’s nice that the Lakers have options just in case he doesn’t have it going any given night and for whatever reason.
Eventually, it’d obviously be great for Ball to simply take over the role of starting and closing point guard. But Kuzma’s points remain valid, both about Ball’s defense and the help Rondo offers if or when Lonzo isn’t playing up to the best of his abilities.