One thing you hear more than just about any other complaint about Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball is his habit of sometimes floating around the game and not getting involved enough. To try to make sure he avoids that floating tendency, Luke Walton and his coaching staff have had Ball setting a bunch of screens all over the place, particularly for LeBron James.
It’s actually kind of fun to watch. He’s like some kind of Roomba out there looking for people to get in the way of.
It’s impossible to say whether this is as a result of that, but Ball’s play has picked up recently and that floating issue is becoming less pervasive. Ball was asked after practice about this new strategy and said he’s enjoyed it:
Lonzo on the increase of screens he’s setting for LeBron of late in 1-3 pick and rolls: “What are you going to do, put a point guard on LeBron?” Said it gives LAL an advantage because even if they blitz LeBron, he has a 4 on 3.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 15, 2018
When James was signed, a lot of the discussion was about whether he and Ball could work in pick-and-roll situations given the latter’s shooting concerns. That still remains to be seen, but, with Ball as the screener, defenses have to choose between going under and letting James shoot (which hasn’t worked very well for defenses lately as he’s gotten his shooting rhythm back, as he showed while spewing flames against the Portland Trail Blazers), switching (as Ball alludes to) or letting Ball catch a pass with space in front of him and options to choose from.
In theory — and somewhat in practice — this seems to make sense tactically.
From screening for LeBron James to playing excellent defense, Lonzo Ball is doing all of the little things that @LakerFilmRoom says make him so valuable for the Lakers.https://t.co/ISVtRTy1Of pic.twitter.com/4VSCHut7i1— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersSBN) November 16, 2018
More importantly, though, is that this gets Ball involved in the game somehow without merely giving him the ball and telling him to go; something he still isn’t very adept at at this point of his career. And with Ball being more involved in the offense, that ignites him to be more active on defense, as is the case with most players, but especially younger ones.
Now, we’ll see if defenses adjust to this type of set. If they can, well, it’s back to the drawing board for Walton and his staff. Over the next few weeks with Rajon Rondo out, James and Ball will have the opportunity for plenty of reps. If they can find some kind of consistent rhythm and chemistry like the rest of the team is starting to, the fit between those two makes a ton more sense.