The Los Angeles Lakers already showed they’re on the cusp of playoff contention last season despite having a team built around young players like Lonzo Ball, but like all inexperienced teams, their next step forward will be seeing how much each player can improve their individual game this summer.
To that end, Lakers head coach Luke Walton spoke at the team’s exit interviews about how they’re sending each of their players home with an individualized workout plan for the offseason with specifics on how to work out and what parts of their game to work on.
In a sit down with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, Lakers head trainer Gunnar Peterson outlined the workout portion of that plan he created for Ball:
Peterson: In terms of what we’ll work on, it’s overall strength, core strength, ankle stability and joints, just like the other young guys. Connective tissue strength, ligament tendon stability. For these guys, with their body length, you think about it like building a building. You’re supporting a structure as it’s going up. The foundation has to be strong, and the welds are solid, or else the higher you go, the more risk you have. And for the rookies especially, they’re tripling the work load and travel load from college.
The Lakers similarly took a slow-and-steady improvement mindset when it came to strengthening the rail-thin frame of then-rookie Brandon Ingram last season, a patience that appeared to pay dividends when Ingram was able to take a massive leap forward this season.
If the team is hoping for similar strides from Ball, then helping him add functional strength would seem to be a good start. Ball was able to be a difference-making defender in his rookie season, a credit to the physicality he was already able to bring at a young age, but he could also often be seen getting smacked around by screeners he ricocheted off of like a pinball.
Ball also could use any added strength to potentially aid his finishing ability around the rim. Much was made of Ball’s wayward jumper over the course of his debut season, but if the rookie could’ve just converted more shots at the cup his numbers would’ve looked a lot better.
According to NBA.com, Ball shot just 46 percent within five feet of the basket, an atrocious number that could improve if he was a little stronger and better able to keep his balance against contact.
Ball also averaged just 1.4 free throw attempts per game, the lowest among Lakers rotation players, and it would stand to reason that if he were stronger he would be able to seek out more contact and get rewarded for it.
It sounds like the Lakers aren’t planning to have Ball come back ripped or anything, but if they can help him make gradual, functional improvements in his strength like they did with Ingram, it could be a huge step for his development.