While in the process of wrapping up his freshman season at UCLA, Lonzo Ball was lauded for being “Jason Kidd with a better shot.” With the form on his jumper a wildly unorthodox motion though, an analogy was made to Jim Furyk. If the professional golfer could find that much success on the PGA Tour, surely Ball’s repeatable and reliable stroke could find a way to survive in the NBA.
Fast forward less than three years and Ball’s biggest perceived weakness in his first two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers might be the least of what ails his game currently. Rather, the problem is a newfound but undeserving confidence in a long range shot that’s still largely a work in progress.
Lonzo Ball has attempted 88 3-pointers this season. He has attempted 28 shots from 5 feet and in. pic.twitter.com/Xf7hvkItQD— Christian Clark (@cclark3000) December 4, 2019
Against the Dallas Mavericks last night, Ball attempted twelve shots but ten of those came from three-point range. Bad shooting night’s happen, but what surprised all onlookers was Lonzo’s persistence in shooting the long ball since he’s never been a noted deep threat.
Here’s a super scary stat: Ball is averaging more three-point attempts a game (6.8) than assists (5.6). Also, only JJ Redick is averaging more shots from distance (7.4) than the starting point guard, who had supposedly arrived in New Orleans as a high IQ decision-maker and ready to find teammates in transition.
Yes, Ball entered the contest versus the Mavericks with a 35.9 3PT%; however, he launched a number of his shots early in the shot clock, without exploring open driving lanes and paying attention to the fact that the team was struggling to find the mark from deep all night. Whatever happened to that pass first mentality, a noticeable confidence in attacking the rim in a straight line and an overall winning mentality?
In his 2017 NBA Draft Scouting Video Series, Mike Schmitz praised all three of those characteristics, but let’s focus on Ball’s purported ability to make north-to-south drives and finish at an elite level. His first shot attempt last night was a half-hearted foray into the paint that wound up getting blocked away easily by Kristaps Porzingis.
Nothing straight to the rim detected about that drive and it certainly didn’t have the appearance of a confident looking shot. His other attempt inside the arc also came in the first quarter and he was outclassed defensively once more, this time by the 20-year-old offensive wizard but average athlete Luka Doncic.
Sure looks like someone’s finishing inside the paint could use a lot more practice than a jumper that shouldn’t be a primary option on the floor in the first place. This is made especially true when we witness Ball seemingly pass up at least one sure-fire lay-in every game, like the attempt he should have had in transition at the 4:44 mark of the second quarter.
Doncic did a fly by on the play in an effort to get back defensively, ending up out of position to contest a potential lay-up. Ball would have been able to lay it in with ease, but he instead elected to pass and the possession wound up a bad three-ball attempt after Lonzo passed up the initial open look from the corner.
Hours before the Pelicans-Mavericks matchup, I made the argument on both Twitter and then on radio that Jrue Holiday needs more minutes at shooting guard — in hopes of rekindling the magic seen two years ago when Rajon Rondo allowed Jrue to play much more often off the ball. New Orleans enjoyed great success then, and with 30 clutch time wins, were regarded as one of the best closing teams. The Pelicans have been one of the worst performing crunch time teams so far this season. Thus, the idea to let Lonzo facilitate while Jrue picks his spots and then earns his money by closing out the game strongly with legs and mind still fresh enough has merit.
That Lonzo is, unfortunately, a figment of our imagination, for the time being anyway.
The guy hooping before us at point guard is attempting more three-point shots than collecting assists and has shown a complete aversion to driving the ball to the hoop with requisite confidence. Breaking down an opponent’s defense is a priority for any decent floor general, not matching Redick jumper for jumper.
Whether the fault lies with Lonzo or the coaching staff matters incredibly little to me at the moment; what does matter though is that the Pelicans find a legitimate point guard on this roster again. For the sake of filling necessary roles within Gentry’s offense, the madness witnessed last night shouldn’t be allowed to continue.