Prior to the 2017 NBA Draft, one of the primary talking points when debating whether or not the Los Angeles Lakers should draft Lonzo Ball was whether or not his unorthodox jumper would work at the NBA level.
Ball had previously had success at every level of basketball despite the wonky appearance of his jump shot, and while his release point was strange, the quickness of his release seemed to assuage concerns about his shooting at the NBA level.
Or, at least that seemed to be the line of thinking until Ball actually started shooting at the NBA level, struggling mightily to the tune of 36 percent shooting overall while making just 30.5 percent of his threes as viewers worldwide poked fun at his weird-looking jumper.
Now, that was just Ball’s rookie season, and most 19 to 20-year-old rookies improve, but former Lakers guard and media appearance enthusiast Isaiah Thomas doesn’t think Ball will be one of them, at least not in regards to his jump shot.
During an appearance on CBS Sports Radio, Thomas said he didn’t think the Lakers would be able to iron out the kinks in his former teammates’ shot:
“Lonzo is a great kid,” Thomas said. “I don’t think they’re going to be able to fix his jump shot, but they can work with him and get it better than how it is right now. He’s a talented, talented young player that’s going to be special in this league because he has the tools to be special.”
Ball showed a ton in basically every area outside of shooting last year, so Thomas is right when he points out how good Ball could be even if his jumper never comes around.
However, Ball’s jumper coming around still isn’t off the table, and it’s worth noting that none other than Thomas himself said so earlier this year when he told Bill Oram for a piece in the OC Register that he didn’t think the Lakers needed to adjust Ball’s shot:
“It’s ugly as hell,” Thomas said. “It’s an ugly shot, but he’s been successful with it his whole life, so you get to the highest level, there is no need to change it.
“You just got to figure out ways to continue to make it better. He is a gym rat so he is going to continue to get better no matter what and no matter how it looks.”
So maybe this is all just a big misunderstanding, because while the sensational headlines that are surely going to crop up about Thomas thinking Ball’s jumper can’t be fixed will (likely) mostly ignore the fact that he also thinks Ball will be fine regardless, Thomas might also be saying that the Lakers can’t fix Ball’s jumper because he doesn’t think it’s the most important problem to be solved.
And regardless of what Thomas thinks of it, Ball’s jumper has worked at every level so far, and he shot fairly well for stretches of last season while consistently showing top-tier potential in every other area of the game. Whether he figures the jumper out or not he’ll likely be good, but getting his jump shot to fall consistently will allow him to be great.
It’s unknown if “fixing” Ball’s form would accomplish that goal even if the Lakers and Ball could or wanted make such a change, but however they go about getting their young point guard to hit more shots or not, it will be likely be the difference between stardom and solidity for Ball.
And we’ll see if Thomas is right about either Ball’s shot or his potential along the way.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.