NBA 2018-19: An aggressive Lonzo is the key to Lakers realizing the potential
LeBron James. Los Angeles Lakers. Quicken Loans Arena. Sneaking out a win against the team with the worst record in the NBA.
These are not words that would usually go together in the same sentence. LeBron’s teams usually overpower weak foes. When the King takes center stage, very little can come in his way. But, on his emotional return to Cleveland, James just couldn’t put his former team away.
The Cavaliers hung with the Lakers and then some. Some nonchalant defense along the constant bleeding of offensive rebounds to Tristian Thompson meant that the Cavs moved the Lakers when needed to. If you think I’m overexaggerating, look at the stats. Thompson had 15 rebounds, 10 of which were offensive. It was clear the Lakers were struggling.
Then something happened. Lonzo Ball blew past Cedi Osman and flushed it home and all of sudden, the energy was back in the Laker play. Till then, their display looked disjointed. A moment on LeBron magic here and there followed by some dreadful defending, some Brandon Ingram post-ups and a second unit that looked like it sorely missed Rajon Rondo. They were finding it hard to string plays together, always handing Cleveland the momentum back. That was until Lonzo went on his own personal run.
To be fair, this is not to hype Ball for a 15 point, 7 rebound and 6 assist performance. It is to showcase what his assertion can bring to the rest of the team. Sure, Bron has Kuzma and Ingram to rely on for scoring and Javale seems to be pitching in with some of his own. But an aggressive Lonzo changes the dynamic for Lakers.
Ball’s shooting woes are much chronicled, he can go from hitting stepback threes on some plays to not even hitting the rim on others. But it is his reluctance to take those shots and his lack of confidence in making them that has caused worry. Lonzo seems to hesitate every time he has a shot, and it is this lack of aggression that has meant that the opposition can sag off him and help negate some of his passing acumen.
To make my point even clearer, towards the end of the of the game against the Cavs, Ball found himself wide open for a short corner triple with the Lakers down by three. Instead of taking the shot, however, he chose to drive and kick but the play resulted in nothing more than out of bounds to the Lakers.
After a flying start in terms of shooting, Ball’s numbers dropped back to the ground over the last two games. However, despite it being only game, you can see he is doing everything he can to take the Lakers to the highest ceiling possible. And he somehow feels that taking shots is contradictory to the offensive flow.
Head coach Luke Walton has tried to parlay this reluctance by playing a LeBron- Lonzo pick and roll that seems to be paying dividends. As Ball responded when asked about those plays, “What are you going to do, put a point guard on LeBron?”
At this moment though, this combination is not as deadly as it can be. Defenders are now starting to trap James as soon as he gets by the screen, forcing him to feed the ball to a reluctant Lonzo or look to other options as they try to get him to pick up his dribble.
All this leads back to the same conclusion, Lonzo Ball should, must be aggressive with his play. Taking it to the cup of screens will surely open more passing lanes from him. And it is this confidence that can lead his three-point shot back on track. This, along with his active hands on defence could mean that the Los Angeles might finally be able to see the star that they know Lonzo is
But more importantly, this will add a new wrinkle to the already offensively loaded Lakers. The Lakers are at 10-7 in the loaded Western Conference where everything is still possible. Anyone and everyone looks competitive and wants to fight for a playoff place. And, while LeBron’s presence should mean that the purple and gold should make the playoffs, you can sense that they’re all still getting used to the King’s presence and the pressure and spotlight that he can bring with him.
An aggressive point-guard might help alleviate some of that pressure. And as Ball deals with his reluctance to shoot, he must realize that his aggression is the key to the Lakers realizing their full potentional.