- Is Lonzo Ball still in the Lakers’ plans?
- Rajon Rondo adds veteran presence to LA’s lineup
- Many teams would be interested in Ball if he becomes available
There would be a wide cross section of answers if you asked a bunch of basketball fans to summarize, thus far, the Lonzo Ball era in Los Angeles in a single word.
Underwhelming. Promising. Erratic. Interesting. Overhyped. Developing. Uninspiring. Optimistic.
But there’s one that very few people would have even considered just a month ago.
Such is the seismic landscaping of the NBA.
And when that earth-shaking rumble lands the Lakers LeBron James – the greatest player of his generation and one of the top three greatest players of all time – beachfront property can get submerged in the blink of an eye.
Save the blustery LaVar Ball talk. Even though it’s been pretty good lately, there is a chance that Lonzo could go from cornerstone to tantalizing trade asset, in exchange for a player that could help James and the Lakers compete now (looking at you, Kawhi, AD, or Dame).
Save for Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, the last eight seasons indicate LeBron James rosters are dotted with veteran players.
Save for Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, the last eight seasons indicate LeBron James’ rosters are dotted with veteran players, either dudes that qualify as “his guys” or immediate contributors who have been in the league at least a few years.
Which is why it wasn’t such a surprise that the Lakers landed 32-year-old Rajon Rondo, who, despite his insistence on winning above all, signed with LA with at least the chance to win the starting job and supplant Ball.
But what’s the right call here if you’re the Lakers?
You have to believe that Ball, the no. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft is up for this challenge, and this actually might be the jumpstart the mild-mannered kid with the overbearing pops needs to get his career in the fast lane.
Last year, he battled injuries and inconsistencies en route to 10.2 points per game on a paltry 36% from the field. Ironically, his awkward jump shot was not even a major talking point (perhaps someone else’s shooting woes overshadowed that) as he struggled to a 30.5% clip from beyond the arc.
Where does Lonzo Ball end up?
|1st Regular Season Game||Odds|
|As a Laker||-300|
|Not a Laker||+200|
But take a look at the other parts of Lonzo’s game. It’s littered with skill that tell you he is, at the very least, a guy who will be playing in this league for a dozen years. Throw in the upside of being an All-Star or greater, and teams would be insane to not want him in return for whatever star they are giving up.
Ball averaged 7.2 assists a game to go with nearly seven rebounds per and 1.7 steals a game. Only two other rookies in NBA history have reached those lofty statistical heights: Ben Simmons and Magic Johnson.
Lonzo Ball vs Rajon Rondo Odds 2018-19 NBA Season
|Prop||Odds to be Lonzo Ball||Odds to be Rajon Rondo|
|Most Assists Per Game||+120||-160|
|Most Points Per Game||-350||+240|
|Most Rebounds Per Game||-170||+130|
|Most Steals Per Game||-130||-110|
|To Start Game 1 of Regular Season||-200||+150|
Taking his defense a step further, Ball finished his campaign ranked third among point guards in ESPN’s defensive real plus minus at +2.31. It’s something that the 6’6” Ball (with the 6’9” wingspan) dwarfs Rondo in, physically and statistically. The 6’1” Rondo has dropped off the face of a cliff defensively since his Celtics days, and his defensive real plus minus was a dismal -0.37, good for 46th in the Association.
Ball allows the Lakers to be a switchy defensive unit, in a league where finding one mismatch and pounding that disadvantage into a fine powder is what great teams do.
Lonzo provides resistance, whereas Rondo may provide a steal, but nothing stout to hold up. Not at this point in his career, anyways.
Where Rondo wins out are in categories that Ball needs to grow into. Rondo is a proven leader that can run an offense, in spite of his own personal shooting woes.
Last year, a supposedly washed-up Rondo resurfaced and was a boon for Anthony Davis, as the Pelicans’ point guard enjoyed one of his finest offensive seasons ever, racking up 8.3 points and 8.2 assists on 46.8% shooting from the field and 33.3% from three-point range.
Pairing Rondo, known to seek out assists over anything else, with LeBron, who’s now going to be working the post? Let’s just say the King will be well fed.
Perhaps that security in stability might be enough to sway the Lakers into dealing Ball. If it lands them a current prime-time guy, it appears that that may have been the plan.
Whether they keep their young prospect, or put him in to this duel with a tried-and-true vet, add another one-word description to the Lonzo Ball era with the Lakers: intriguing.