Whenever LeBron James was linked to the Los Angeles Lakers it came with the caveat that if he did come, Lonzo Ball would have to go but there are some great basketball reasons for why James may want to play with Ball rather than against him. Putting aside all the off-court reasons for James to request that Ball is moved, he has not played with a player with the basketball IQ and passing ability that Ball brings to the table.
Ball had a good rookie year campaign despite struggling to find consistency from deep. Unfortunately, it was cut short by a knee injury that recently was announced to be an MCL tear; he should recover by training camp in the fall. Ball showed off his uncanny passing ability, excellent skill to rebound the ball, and defended better than expected. He finished second in assists and steals, fourth in rebounds among rookies and had two triple-doubles, all of this in 52 games.
The thing that really stood out when Ball was on the court was his incredibly high feel for the game. He was known for his kick-ahead and fly route passes that often led to layups for teammates but he also had a great knack for getting the ball to his teammates just at the right moment by reading the defense. After gathering the defensive rebound, Ball brought the ball up with pace and recognized that Brook Lopez would have the perfect seal on Andre Drummond by his next dribble, so he took said dribble and then fired a pass to the outside shoulder of Lopez leading him to the basket. Then off the inbounds, he saw that both defenders went with Julius Randle and that opened the door for a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope three.
Ball’s court vision is the perfect compliment to James’ game, especially if he does not want to have to create everything like he did this past season for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Just picture how much easier the game would be for James who also has a crazy high basketball IQ as well. He could play off the ball some with the confidence that when he sees a lane or cuts backdoor the ball will find him right on time just like in these plays.
This pairing also opens the door for James to post up more often with a passer who can get the ball to him in the right spots. In the playoffs, the Cavs’ seemed to struggle to get James the ball in the post when he was being fronted, not throwing it high enough like in the example below which led to a turnover. In the second clip, Ball saw that Pope didn’t have a good angle for the pass so he flashed up to create a better passing angle and placed the ball with such precision that most NFL QBs would be jealous.
Besides Ball’s passing ability, his cutting off the ball whether it is catching a defender not paying attention or slipping off a screen is a great fit next to LeBron’s legendary passing ability.
The hardest thing for players with high basketball IQ is to play with teammates who may not match that, plays that seem obvious to them may not be to some of their other teammates, which can sometimes lead to turnovers and missed opportunities. Forgetting the physical difference, they are very similar basketball players, high IQ, with amazing court vision, and a willingness to make the right pass. Ball will have to find more consistency in his three-point shot to space the floor but overall the notion that these two players cannot play together is just false. Not only can they play together, they can thrive together.
LeBron James has never played with a player like Lonzo Ball; Kyrie Irving is an amazing offensive player and better than Ball but the two play two very different games. He’s never had a player that sees the court the way he does and can make every pass in the book. He may not want to play with someone so young and has some growing to do but in Ball he would have a running mate that would make things easier for him on both ends of the court which all could extend his career.
It has seemed for so long that LeBron’s decision to come to the Lakers would be tied to whether they could attract another star like a Paul George or Kawhi Leonard to join him and that still might happen but James should look for a moment, the Lakers might already have the perfect running mate for him already in uniform.
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- Posting Up LeBron James might be the Cavs best option
- The passing fancy of Lonzo Ball by ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz
- How the NBA is getting Assists wrong
- All stats from NBA.com/stats
- Photo Credit: David Richard/USA TODAY Sports Images
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