UCLA recently eliminated from the NCAA tournament by a defensive minded Kentucky team with a final score of 75-86. With all the hype surrounding UCLA freshman Lonzo Ball it was actually Kentucky freshman De’Aaron Fox who ended up being the star of the show. Fox completely outplayed Ball in the contest scoring an efficient 39 points on 13-20 shooting. However, it is totally unfair to judge Ball’s long term projection off one off game. Ball uplifted a UCLA program that was 15-17 last year to a stellar 31-4 record this season. Due to the unsettling amount of noise surrounding Ball, largely created by his father, he has become a tough prospect to honestly evaluate. Here I will discuss how Ball may fare in the NBA as well as which teams may target him in this year’s draft.
What truly separates Ball from the field is his phenomenal court vision. He does a terrific job of making the simple play to get each of his teammates involved. His speed and athleticism allow him to push the ball on the fast break creating many easy scoring opportunities for his teammates. With the growing speed of the NBA game and even more space to operate I believe Ball’s ability to run the fast break will easily translate to the pros. One of Ball’s other strengths is his sidewinder jump shot which he used to knock down 41% of his three point attempts. He has taken threes from NBA range with regularity and should have no problem fine tuning his release at the next level. Apart from the X’s and O’s of Ball’s game the biggest thing that will translate is his feel for the game. By all accounts he is an unselfish player who puts winning above everything.
The main thing Ball must work on before playing his first NBA game is his body. Standing at 6”6 and weighing 190 pounds, Ball will need to get stronger to avoid getting pushed around at the next level. A stronger frame will aid him when guarding the Russell Westbrook’s and Kyle Lowry’s of the world. Other than strength he will also need to work on his effectiveness in the half-court offense. Ball can sometimes be unselfish to a fault and should look to create his own offense more often. He would have a much easier time getting his shot off in the half court if he became a more reliable shooter off the dribble. Ball’s sidewinder release makes his ability to pull up off the dribble very awkward and is something he will need to work on to take his game to the next level.
Ball is a surefire top 3 pick with his ability to transform a team’s offense. In my opinion he would be a great fit for both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns. Both teams are at the bottom of the league in the assists department and could certainly benefit from Ball’s court vision. Although the fans, the media, and his father would love for Lonzo to end up with the Lakers that isn’t a sure thing. The Lakers are currently loaded at the guard spot with D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. Adding Ball to that group of guards could have the potential to complicate things. He would however be an interesting fit with the Suns who could pair him with Devin Booker to create a killer back court. Wherever Ball ends up he has the potential to be a special player in the NBA with his unique skill set. If he can improve his scoring ability and assertiveness Ball could be a superstar in the NBA.