Lonzo Ball has had a weird season thus far. He is, quite frankly, a weird player to analyze. Lakers head coach Luke Walton seems to recognize this, and is trying to find the best way to utilize him.
Before the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Miami Heat Sunday evening, Walton was asked what kind of expectations he has for his second-year point guard offensively as it pertains to scoring numbers (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“We don’t need a certain amount (of scoring). What he does for us and the way he helps us win — defensively, rebounding, steals, playmaking — is what we need. And obviously some scoring on top of that would be nice, but there’s not a set number that we need from him every night.”
Walton’s right. If you’re still grading Ball by how many points he’s scoring, it’s safe to assume that, a) you haven’t been paying attention to his career and, b) that you have been consciously ignoring analysis about his game and the way he helps the Lakers win. It’d be like watching LeBron James play and grading him based on how much Gatorade he gives his teammates.
Just in case you fall into that category, here’s this for the zillionth time: Ball creates chaos defensively and then tries to predict how opposing offenses might respond to that frenzy so as to be in the right spot to take advantage. Now that Walton is using him as a screen-setter, Ball is doing the same thing offensively, too. When he’s fully engaged, he’s about as impactful as any player his age.
Nowhere in the above graf is scoring mentioned. Not a single time. The Lakers are obviously better off when Ball is knocking down shots when those opportunities present themselves, but that’s by no means what they rely upon.
A fair criticism of Ball’s game thus far this season without mentioning scoring specifically is his tendency to either hesitate on shots, or pass up on them altogether. During a 24-second shot clock, there simply isn’t enough time to create another open shot consistently if one of the players on the court is regularly passing up on their open looks. If that’s your gripe, cool. But if you’re simply pointing at Lonzo’s points (or lack thereof) in the box score after games, then there simply isn’t much I can do for you at this point.
Lonzo does have to cut out that hesitation, though. It stagnates the offense to the point where it starts to offset the impact he has on the other end of the court. But that isn’t something you’ll be able to grade by point totals on their own.