The marriage between Ball and the Lakers was seemingly set up months ago when Ball’s father, LaVar Ball, mentioned it during the college basketball season.
LaVar was back it before the draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn with this gem on the ESPN broadcast, via Sports Illustrated‘s Andrew Perloff:
Here’s what social media had to say about Ball becoming a member of the Lakers:
The UCLA point guard was superb in his lone season with the Bruins, averaging 14.6 points, 7.6 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game. A year after UCLA went 15-17 and missed the tournament, Ball led the team to a 31-5 mark and a trip to the Sweet 16.
That made him one of the top players available in this year’s draft. But his unique skill set and his outspoken father made him one of the more divisive players this year as well.
Ball is visionary as a passer and legitimately makes the other players around him better, as Fran Fraschilla of ESPN noted:
Doug Gottlieb of FS1 further broke down his excellent passing:
Ad Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com appreciated another aspect of his playmaking ability:
He’s also a blur in transition and rarely makes the wrong decision with the ball in his hands. And he’s an effective perimeter shooter, hitting on 41.2 percent of his three-pointers at UCLA.
Add in excellent size for the point guard position—he stands 6’6″—and Ball has the upside of a franchise player.
On the other hand, Ball’s weaknesses are just as pronounced. He isn’t a great defender, for starters, and was exposed by De’Aaron Fox in UCLA’s two matchups against Kentucky this season. Fox combined to score 59 points and distribute 13 assists in the two games while stifling Ball on the other end, holding him to a combined 24 points.
He also has a funky shooting motion, which isn’t a factor when Ball has space to get his shot off but could be an issue when he’s tightly guarded at the NBA level. Ball isn’t as accomplished in the mid-range game or shooting off the dribble.
As Synergy calculated (h/t Derek Bodner of DraftExpress), Ball took just 35 jumpers off the dribble for UCLA, though he did connect on 48.6 percent of them.
Much of that is due to the fact Ball brings the ball up the left side of his body but shoots right-handed. He also has a low release point, though one NBA executive doesn’t necessarily believe it will affect him adversely in every scenario, as he told Vice Sports’ Sam Vecenie:
“Very few people focus on the ball pick up off the dribble. Steph [Curry] is the best shooter off of the dribble we’ve ever seen, and it’s in large part due to how quick he is picking up the ball. Going to his left—particularly on step-backs—Ball is going to actually be better than most players because of how he brings the ball up on that side of his body.
“Going to his right, I’m not saying he’s going to struggle, I’m saying I’ve never seen him do it. Never. And with the dynamics at play on his shot, that makes sense.”
Indeed, another NBA executive suspects that Ball’s shooting motion will limit him in some ways.
“He’s going to make threes, but he’s not going to be the greatest off-the-dribble shooter,” he told Vecenie. “There are just certain shots he can’t even take. The same thing could be said for anyone, though. It’s not like the end-all, be-all.”
Generally, however, Ball either facilitates for teammates, takes three-pointers or drives or cuts to the basket on offense. And as long as his shot finds twine, well, it’s hard to imagine Ball messing too much with a form that is unorthodox but hardly broken.
Because he has such a specific skill set, Los Angeles is going to have to build around him and create a system that highlights his best traits and hides his worst. But much like he was for UCLA, Ball has the ability to be a transformational talent for the Lakers.
That’s high praise. But if Ball improves his defense and adds some versatility to his scoring repertoire, his elite vision and passing will make him one of the NBA’s most talented and entertaining young point guards in years.
Ball was always expected to land on the Lakers, and he’s basically the perfect player to orchestrate Luke Walton’s offense. Ball will allow the Lakers to play fast and attack in transition, and with D’Angelo Russell traded to the Brooklyn Nets, Ball is the immediate starter at point guard.
He now finds himself as the future of the franchise, along with Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. While there will be adjustments to be made at the NBA level, Ball should immediately make the Lakers a fun team to watch. And if Paul George is added to the fold via a trade, the Lakers should show substantial improvement next season.
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