Last month, Lonzo Ball told ESPN 710 Los Angeles, “Markelle [Fultz] is a great player, but I feel I'm better than him. I think I can lead a team better than him.” Neither Ball nor Fultz has set foot on an NBA court and already there’s a bit of a rivalry brewing. As both of these players look to usher in a new class of NBA hopefuls, that’s just plain good for basketball.
Lonzo Ball has become one of the more polarizing draft prospects. His unique blend of skills and unorthodox shooting touch have left fans and analysts alike excited to see what he does at the next level, despite a certain family member. One thing everyone agrees on: Lonzo is ready to take the next step in his career.
In one season playing for UCLA, Lonzo Ball averaged 14.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 7.6 assists in 35.1 minutes per game with a PER of 24.7.
Ricky Rubio (with a three-point shot)
The word ‘unique’ encapsulates all that Lonzo Ball is on the floor. Standing at 6’6” and 190 pounds with a 6’9” wingspan, he has more length than your typical NBA point guard. Hailing from Chino Hills, California and playing a single season at UCLA, Ball matched the electricity, hype, and pressure of playing near Hollywood. It’s unlikely the NBA stage will faze him.
Lonzo’s intangibles, his poise and instinct with the ball in his hands, are rare at such a young age. His eyes are always looking up to make the smartest play, and that vision allows him to connect with teammates. He’s a pass-first point guard and true floor general.
Ball thrived running transition offense at UCLA. He can crash the glass or become an immediate outlet man, turning up the floor to speed up the break. His anticipation with the ball in the open court is his biggest weapon. It cannot be emphasized enough: most players at this point in their career do not possess the vision, creativity, and touch Ball does. His 4-to-1 assist to turnover ratio in transition (per Synergy Sports Technology) drives that home.
Lonzo Ball’s athleticism in the half court is best displayed when he plays off the ball. His length and vertical are highly effective in cutting back door to the basket. He reads his defender, catches him sleeping, then bursts to the rim, typically for an alley oop. Because of his vision and off-ball athleticism, Lonzo Ball will be a versatile player in the NBA game.
Overall, Ball’s defense is adequate. There are plenty of highlights of him making steals or chase-down blocks in the half court, but many were only necessary because Ball failed to fight through a screen or close out properly. He has the fundamentals and basketball IQ, but he needs to find ways to assert himself physically.
In addition, today’s NBA game demands point guards who can score in the half court. Without much explosion off the dribble when the game slows down, Ball will have to find ways to get in the lane and score on his own. His shooting numbers are impressive so far (73.2 percent on two-point field goals and 41.2 percent on threes, along with a mediocre 67 percent from the line), but it’s rare to see a player with such an odd shooting motion find success in the NBA. Defenders will be smarter, faster, and longer so Ball may struggle to keep his range.
Fit with the Mavericks
As with Markelle Fultz, it’s extremely unlikely that Dallas will actually have the chance to acquire Lonzo Ball. But it’s exciting to imagine what would happen if they did. It wasn’t that long ago (though at times it’s felt like a decade) that the Mavericks were raising a banner with one starter with an odd shooting motion (Shawn Marion) and a legendary creative passer at starting point guard (Jason Kidd). There’s little doubt that Rick Carlisle would once again be able to utilize a highly intelligent point guard of Ball’s caliber. Carlisle loves guards who rebound well, can handle the offense, and are looking to keep the ball moving.
There would be some question about how Lonzo would play off the ball next to Curry, Yogi, and Barea if his shot mechanics pose a problem. But his ability to cut and use his athleticism at the rim are intriguing.
In terms of culture, it’s hard to say how Lonzo Ball would fit with the organization. Mark Cuban would love the jersey sales and attention that an electrifying player like Ball would bring. But the possible distraction his father, LaVar Ball, poses can’t be too appetizing for a charismatic owner like Cuban. It would be important for Carlisle and the front office to be sure they are all in agreement on such a polarizing prospect, should the opportunity arise.