Lonzo Ball’s Shooting Is a Serious Problem for LA Lakers

Ball is a rare player who can make a significant impact on a game while scoring just five points. In almost 35 minutes while he was on the floor, the Lakers outpaced Detroit by 24 points, as Ball put the clamps on Blake Griffin on switches—yes, Blake Griffin.

When he’s fully engaged, Ball can be one of the best players in a game, despite his inability to consistently finish at either the basket or free-throw line. That’s why he can’t let a poor shooting night take him out of his game. He’s not a good shooter. He’s going to have a lot of off nights.

Ball has some similarities to retired All-Star Jason Kidd. Although Kidd was a far more ball-dominant point guard than Ball, in his second season, Kidd only shot 38.1 percent from the field and 33.6 percent from three-point range. At his shooting peak, he hit 42.5 percent from deep in the 2009-10 season, well above his career average of 34.9 percent.

It took Kidd over a decade to find his shot. Now that the Lakers have James, they’re suddenly in win-now mode. They may not have time to wait for Ball to find a consistent jumper or free throw, especially if teams are able to take advantage of his inability to shoot in the postseason.

Walton and his teammates have encouraged Ball to be more of an aggressive scorer and he has looked to shoot more within 10 feet of the basket. Per NBA.com, Ball is attacking in that range on 38.1 percent of his attempts, up from last year’s 31.6 percent. Ball is also converting at a higher clip as well, up from 52.2 percent to 55.4 percent.
Would the Lakers see an even bigger jump from Ball at the basket if he could also convert at the line?

“It seems like that’s true, but that’s just me trying to get into his head,” another video analyst said.

Ball may not even consciously know but he needs to be a credible scoring threat for the Lakers, especially as the team moves on past the regular season.

“We’ve got to fix [our free-throw shooting], especially if we want to win in the playoffs,” Ball said recently on the Spectrum Sports Net broadcast. “We’re not going to win if we keep missing free throws as a whole. Myself, I obviously have to make mine and the rest of the guys that are getting to the line.”

For now, Walton can only act as cheerleader, encouraging Ball to be aggressive as a scorer.

“I think the more he continues to play aggressively, the more he gets to the line, he’ll get more comfortable there. He’ll knock them down,” Walton said.

It’s an annoyance today, but in April, May and potentially June, it could be a serious problem.