NBA 2017 No. 2 draft pick Lonzo Ball is getting more headlines for his struggles than his triumphs in the early part of his career. While he is currently averaging a versatile 9 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.1 assists, his shooting has been terrible for a player getting over 33 minutes per game. In first 19 games as a starter, Ball is shooting 31.5% from the field connecting only 25% of his three-point shots and a measly 46.2% from the stripe. His inability to shoot has earned him the moniker “Air Ball.”
It is difficult for a 20-year old to be thrust in the limelight, especially under the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles. Expectations for Ball has been sky-high even before his first NBA game. For starters, the Lakers have been looking for a savior after years of being the league’s laughing stock. The once mighty and proud franchise has not been to the playoffs since 2013. In the last next four years, their best season produced only 27 wins including a franchise worst 17-65 record in 2015-2016.
Former Laker great Magic Johnson, who is head of the team’s basketball operations, had a straightforward message to Ball after the team drafted him. “He has greatness written all over him,” Johnson told reporters. “He’s the new face of the Lakers, the guy who I think will lead us back to where we want to get to be.” That is definitely a lot of hype and pressure even for a seasoned veteran, much more a rookie.
It doesn’t help that Lonzo’s father, LaVar, is one of the more colorful personalities the league has even seen. His outspoken nature coupled with outrageous claims like Lonzo is already better than Steph Curry or how his son can beat LeBron James in a 5-on-5 game has put a bulls-eye on Lonzo’s back. LaVar’s overbearing words and style has made players go after Lonzo on the court, playing harder than usual.
Alarm bells are ringing in Los Angeles after LaVar, who previously said he would not intervene with coaching, mentioned recently that the team was babying Lonzo and not coaching him properly. This is not a welcome development since such pronouncements are distracting for the team and may even destroy the relationship between player and coach.
Despite his shooting woes, Lonzo has shown some promise but he must start improving his shot-making very soon. While his two career triple-doubles are impressive, triple doubles are not as hard as they used to be with a more fast-paced league going small ball. Aside from his shooting woes, Lonzo is basically a ball-mover since he’d rather pass off than to take the shot.
If his shooting woes continue, Lonzo will quickly become a marginalized player who was once destined for greatness. While most rookies can get away with many bad games, every Ball game is put under the microscope due to all the hype surrounding him. His shooting percentages simply won’t do for a starter and the expected superstar of any franchise. He needs to start putting the ball in the hoop!