NBA fans are aware of Lonzo Ball and Zion Williamson‘s talent. For both stars, the transition into the league hasn’t been easy, but it’s been exciting to follow along. The New Orleans Pelicans have done their best to accommodate the two young stars. Here’s how Williamson might be the teammate Ball needs.
Joining the New Orleans Pelicans
Let’s face it: The New Orleans Pelicans are a fascinating team and good at adjusting to change. For example, they got the top pick in the 2019 NBA draft, letting them trade Anthony Davis for Williamson and a set of teammates, including Ball, who’ll help him shine.
Williamson did great during the preseason but was injured, leading to a delay in his debut. The 20-year-old’s other new teammates excelled, but Ball just didn’t fit in at first, details FiveThirtyEight. At times, he started; at times, he came off the bench. So, Ball’s role wasn’t clear — or maybe his confidence was down. He just simply didn’t click at first.
This was about to change though as he worked in the offseason to improve his form. Ball became more willing to shoot. His overall game started getting better, but his shooting still wasn’t working.
Lonzo Ball slowly improves his game
Back-to-back games against the Pacers and Rockets helped Ball improve. It was like a light came on. In those games, he made 11 of 20 three-pointers and collected his first triple-double (the first in over a year). The point guard got two more later, and his career total doubled as a result.
Ball found his rhythm in a 12-game series beginning in Indiana and ending with the final game where Williamson was absent. When Williamson came back, Ball’s usage rate declined, but his efficiency spiked. In the 20 games after Williamson’s return to the court, Ball increased his effective field-goal percentage.
The teammates are good for one another with Ball’s assist rate increasing over 2 percentage points. It’s unsurprising since the pair have chemistry on the court, especially on an open floor. Ball is great at long-range passes, ranking No. 5 of 316. Of the 25 who’ve thrown at least a thousand of these passes, Ball’s is the fourth fastest at 27.71 miles per hour. Fans and teammates are also impressed by his accuracy.
What’s left for Ball?
Ball is great at most things in offense. The 22-year-old is willing and insightful with the capacity to be a transformational passer. In his career, he’s sought to turn open shots into wide-open shots for other players. Ball’s unselfishness carries over to his teammates. If he’s on the court, 67.1% of the baskets were assisted, compared to 58% when he’s not on the court.
The point guard’s tenacity also led to more passes occurring (14) per 100 possessions. Ball is overeager to pass at times, which drives his turnover habit. His giveaways come as a result of bad passes. There are also times Ball still has trouble converting looks. In fact, of 174 players attempting at least 125 shots within the three-point line — outside the restricted area — Ball was at in at the bottom (170).
Scoring, then, still isn’t his strong suit. His form is much better, but he can’t make the shot well. Ball has tremendous prowess on the court, but he still must learn how to shoot effectively and improve his defense. Williamson will help him.