NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Lonzo Ball

by Jonah Ballow
NYKnicks.com
@jonahballow

The Path
On the name alone, Lonzo Ball was destined to reach the highest level of basketball.  Ball is a California native and the son of two former college basketball standouts.  While at Chino Hills High School, Ball led his school to an undefeated 35-0 mark during his senior season while claiming the state title as the nation’s No. 1 team.  The five-star recruit landed a spot at UCLA and immediately joined elite company on the college level by being named to the preseason watch list for the John Wooden Award.  Ball and the Bruins reached the Sweet 16 before suffering a defeat to Kentucky.  As many expected, Ball hired an agent and entered the NBA Draft following one season at UCLA where he averaged 14.6 points, 7.6 assists, and six rebounds per game.

Strengths
Ball possesses eye-opening playmaking skills for a 19-year old.  At 6-6 and owning a 6-9 wingspan, Ball utilizes his significant size advantage to view open passing lanes.  He operates in the open floor with fluidity and athleticism that allows for opportunities in an up-tempo style of game.  Ball found the lane with ease at the college level while finishing with either hand at the rim.  The California product is a prime example of a “pass first” point guard that seeks space to create shots for teammates.  From a shooting perspective, Ball thrives from deep range.  This past season, Ball drilled 41.2 percent of his attempts from the college 3-point line and showed range out to the NBA arc.  Defensively, Ball jumps passing lanes and displays a knack for defensive awareness, especially on the weak side.

Next Level
Ball is considered a top three prospect in the upcoming June Draft.  Most pundits have placed him next to Markelle Fultz as an elite point guard in a deep class.  The mock drafts currently have him behind Fultz and he’ll most likely returning to Los Angeles to suit up for the Lakers at pick No. 2.  From all accounts, Ball’s pick-and-roll acumen, ability to score from deep, and playmaking style should translate to the next level and could lead to a spot in the starting lineup on opening night.

Statistically Speaking
Ball racked up 274 assists in 2016-17 to pass the great Jason Kidd for the second-most in a season by a Pac-12 player.

What They’re Saying
“Lonzo Ball is like today’s Jason Kidd.” – ESPN’s  Jay Bilas

“He sees plays before they fully develop and throws passes to teammates who don't even know that they are open.” – ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla

“The ball doesn't stick, his decision making is quick, and his creativity and vision are nothing short of elite.” – Derek Bodner’s Draft Express