Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball is being judged on unfair expectations

Jay Asser 08:00 11/11/2017
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Big Baller bland: Lonzo Ball.

Lonzo Ball will always be under the brightest of spotlights, and that spotlight is burning hot right now.

For obvious reasons, the Los Angeles Lakers rookie is facing the type of criticism just 12 games into his career that peers in his draft class may not experience for years.

That can come with the territory when you’re the number two overall pick and the face of the most glamourous franchise in the league.

But really, Lonzo has no-one to blame for the pressure on his shoulders other than his own father, the Big Baller Brand head honcho himself, LaVar Ball.

The greatest marketer in sports at the moment, LaVar has und-oubtedly turned his son into a household name, but the flip side has seen him – as Snoop Dogg brilliantly described it – put his son, “in the lion’s den with some meat chop drawers on”.

Have LaVar’s brash words motivated Lonzo’s opponents in head-to-head battles? Outside of Patrick Beverley in the season opener, it’s hard to quantify, but how much that’s affected Lonzo’s performances is probably marginal.

What isn’t negligible, however, is how LaVar’s bravado has unfairly raised expectations for his son. And yes, they are unfair because the only one dealing with the fallout is Lonzo, who has yet to express himself in any way other than humbly and respectfully.

So, lets strip away the outside noise and unreasonable hype and examine Lonzo through the lens of a rookie who is just 12 games into his career.

He can’t shoot… right now. Lonzo’s funky jump shot, which sees him, as a right-hander, launch the ball from the left side of his face, is delivering exactly the kind of results you would expect if any NBA player switched to that motion tomorrow – which is to stay, not good.

The numbers back up the eye test and they are not pretty.

His shooting percentage of 35.2 per cent in the paint and 23.3 per cent from everywhere else are both the worst rates in the league for players who’ve attempted a minimum of 50 shots. His overall mark of 29.2 per cent, meanwhile, is the second-worst for any player through their first 12 games in the shot clock era (since 1954-55).

Ball and the Lakers have been chalking up the struggles to his footwork and balance, which may well be the source of the problem and not his form, which didn’t hinder him from shooting 41.2 per cent on 3-pointers at UCLA.

Granted, the college arc and the NBA 3-point line are different beasts, but if you watched Ball at all as a freshman last year, you saw him hoisting and knocking down deep step-back 3s with regularity.

With the NBA featuring far better athletes and the margin for error diminished, Ball will have to adjust and that, naturally, will take some time.

While his level of aggression has confusingly fluctuated on brief occasions, Ball, for the most part, hasn’t let his shooting woes affect his confidence, which has so far been one of his most promising qualities.

And, of course, there’s everything else he can do on the court – from his trademark passing to rebounding to showing flashes on the defensive end.

To expect him to be a finished product already at the age of 20 is asking a lot. Too much, in fact.

The aforementioned spotlight may not go anywhere, but keep watching because the Lonzo Ball show is barely into its first act.

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