Lonzo Ball was the engineer of the most efficient offense in the nation and is one of the more unique top prospects of recent memory. The 6-6 guard had strong numbers across the board, averaging 14.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and leading the nation in assists with 7.6 per game. Ball’s best skill is certainly his ability to create for others and make everyone around him better. He has excellent basketball IQ and should be able to step into an NBA offense from day one as a floor general. Ball does have some shortcomings athletically, which were highlighted by his struggles in head-to-head performances against explosive Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox.
Lonzo Ball’s best skill on offense is his playmaking ability from every area of the floor. He’s tremendous in transition, where he can grab rebounds and initiate the fast-break himself. He throws full-court lasers with precision to teammates running the floor. He can be a weapon off-ball as well, where he can run the floor, catch the outlet pass and then immediately whip the ball to an open cutter or shooter. He always knows the right time to dish the ball in the open court or take it to the rim himself. In the half-court, Ball uses his size and outstanding IQ to make every pass in the book. He drops dimes out of the pick and roll, hitting the screener on dives to the rim or on pops to the three-point line. He’s also adept at driving and dishing to open shooters. The ball never sticks on offense with him in the game, leading to high percentage shots for everyone.
For as good as Ball is creating for others, he isn’t as skilled at creating for himself. He lacks elite strength and explosiveness, plus his limited handle and funky shot mechanics make it difficult for him to create his own offense. When defended by NBA athletes, it may be a challenge for him to score. He’s not a threat in isolation situations and struggles to score out of the pick and roll. He settles for passing out of the pick and roll almost exclusively, which NBA defenses will adjust to. Ball is a smart off-ball player, consistently getting scoring opportunities from cutting to the rim. He shot an outstanding 73.2% from inside the arc due to all the open looks at the rim that UCLA’s ball movement created. He doesn’t like shooting contested shots at the rim, often electing to pass out to shooters instead of taking contact in the paint. He averaged just 2.7 free-throw attempts per game.
Where Ball can score in the half-court is with his jump shot, despite the unorthodox mechanics he possesses. He shot 41.2% from deep at UCLA and showed the ability to hit from NBA range with ease. However, his shot release may impede him from shooting at a high rate at the next level. He’s at his best shooting off the catch and isn’t fazed by defenders contesting hit shot. His release makes it difficult for him to shoot off the dribble though, and he’s forced to settle for tough step-back jumpers. Ball also shot just 67.3% from the free-throw line, which is a bit concerning.
Defensively, Ball has tools to be a useful defender, but he does struggle on that end of the floor at times. He doesn’t have great lateral quickness or awareness defending ball screens. He did use his 6-9 wingspan to collect 1.8 steals per game and can be a factor on the defensive glass. One way for Ball to become a more effective defender is by increasing his effort level on that end of the floor. He will be going against top-notch athletes every game in the NBA and needs to be more of a factor stopping them than he was at UCLA.
Lonzo Ball is a polarizing prospect with clear-cut strengths and weaknesses that will show up at the NBA level. He should be able to step in right away and impact the game with his playmaking ability. Ball’s mere presence on the court increases ball movement and allows everyone to play better because of it. He will struggle to score on his own against NBA defenders and needs his jump shot to translate to the next level. He would benefit from impacting the game as a scorer, which would open up more passing lanes. Despite lacking top-notch athleticism on both ends of the floor, his excellent IQ should make up for his shortcomings. If Ball is able to score or defend at a high level to complement his passing, he can be one of the best guards in the league.