Forget about LaVar — Lonzo Ball is the real deal
Don’t let LaVar Ball’s contentiousness cloud your perception of his son, Lonzo. LaVar feeds perfectly into the outrage culture we as a country have surrounded around all aspects of our life. His frequent appearances on sports talk shows have included shameless promotion of his company, Big Baller Brand, saying he could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one and claiming Lonzo is better than Stephen Curry. While the media provides him with free marketing and his claims are absurd, don’t let the polarization around LaVar blur the lines to Lonzo’s play.
Lonzo is an incredible talent who will likely be a top two pick in the 2017 NBA draft. But when measured up against University of Washington’s Markelle Fultz, the other top prospect in this draft, he lacks the explosiveness that Fultz possesses. Then there’s his shot. That unorthodox shooting form causes concern for some, others just view it as ugly mechanics. As someone who grew up watching Shawn Marion virtually chest pass the ball into the basket, I subscribe to the philosophy that it doesn’t matter what it looks like, it only matters if goes in.
After losing to University of Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen, many began to criticize Lonzo’s performance on the big stage, but this loss was not a failure on Lonzo alone. This year’s UCLA team received much hype because of Lonzo’s spectacular regular season performance, but the team was not ready for a deep run in the tournament.
Kentucky’s duo of guards demonstrated why they will both be NBA lottery picks. De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk combined for 60 points and forced Lonzo to turn over the ball four times. Fox and Monk did this to teams all season long, so this game shouldn’t be a glaring blemish on the body of work Lonzo built in his one season at UCLA. It is true, Lonzo didn’t have his best game versus Kentucky, but few players ever do.
While Fultz posted big stat lines all year long at Washington, he never showed the ability to elevate his team’s play like Lonzo showed at UCLA. Ball’s ability to take control of the floor, run an offense and create shots for his teammates are all skills of past point guards.
The style Lonzo plays with is more comparable to that of former point guards Steve Nash and Jason Kidd rather than the modern point guards like Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving. With Lonzo as an exception, the shift toward the new era of ball-dominant point guards is here and is likely to stay considering how AAU brings up the next generation of talent.
Many current and former NBA stars criticize AAU basketball for breeding a culture of entitlement rather than work ethic, individuality rather than teamwork, and in-game stats rather than practice and preparation. The best players dominate the game because they dominate the ball. That is why the rise of ball-dominant point guards are changing how basketball is being played, while making point guard the NBA’s premier position.
Though the two guards are vastly different, Ball and Fultz both are deserving of the №1 pick, but it all depends on which team gets the pick. Fultz is more of a pure scorer than Ball, and while he will need to develop a jump shot at the next level, he is very comparable to D’Angelo Russell coming out. This is why regardless of the pick, Lonzo is the man to bring excitement back to the Lakers.
The Lakers aren’t receiving much discussion as the league gears up for the playoffs, but in the depths of NBA League Pass, the Lakers decided to experiment with playing Russell at shooting guard. If they moved Russell and drafted Ball, that would make way for a 2017–18 Lakers lineup that looks like this: Lonzo Ball, D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and Ivica Zubac. That is a lineup with an average age just over 20 years old. Add in Paul George to LA rumors and the Lakers are relevant once again.
Lonzo Ball on the Lakers would be the best case scenario for the team, the league and for NBA fans (and how could we forget, also for his dad LaVar). Ever since Kobe Bryant retired, the Lakers lost their identity and started the rebuilding process. Now with Laker legend Magic Johnson as the president of basketball operations and Luke Walton as the head coach combined with young and talented players, the foundation is set for LA to become a prominent team in the NBA once again.