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NBA Draft Scouting 2017: Breaking Down Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball, UCLA
After just one season of college basketball at UCLA, Lonzo Ball has already become a household name. He put together a marvelous season, led the Bruins back to the top of the Pac-12, and took home many honors. But, it was his father, and his often controversial comments really took the Ball name to the next level. Lavar Ball has been quoted saying he could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one, that Lonzo was already better than Steph Curry, and that he favored a 1 billion dollar shoe endorsement for his three sons. Pair that with the recent release of the "Zo2's", Lonzo's own personal shoe that has a hefty price tag of $495, and Lonzo already has made a name for himself before he even steps foot on an NBA court. But, just how good will he be at the next level? Will his game translate well to the more physical NBA? A deeper look into strengths and weaknesses may just give us the answer we're looking for.

Offense: One of the most impressive aspects of Lonzo Ball's offensive game is his breakneck speed. He is incredibly quick and agile and uses it to get easy transition opportunities. He is the fastest baseline-to-baseline prospect I've seen since John Wall back in 2010. UCLA head coach Steve Alford used that speed and quickness very well, letting Lonzo truly run crazy in those transition opportunities. With his pinpoint passing ability and lightning speed, Ball was highly successful. He is going to have to go up against quicker and bigger defenders in the NBA, but that strength of his game should still serve him very well moving forward. Lonzo also possesses extraordinary court vision and a wonderful feel for the game. Despite being just 19, Lonzo can recognize defenses and anticipate plays as well as a longtime NBA veteran, which makes him so dangerous when he chooses to attack. Occasionally he will try to sneak passes into tight windows which is where he gets in trouble, but overall, his turnover rate was very low for someone who averaged an NCAA-best 7.6 assists per game this past season. Outside of his speed, Ball's other physical gifts are also mind-boggling. At 6'6" with a 6'8" wingspan, Ball has ideal size for today's NBA which should enable him to be creative offensively in the NBA, such as using his size when attacking the rim or perhaps even posting up down low against mismatches. He is also an incredible athlete always able to create a highlight. He had more than just a few posterizing slams while at UCLA and while that shouldn't be something he relies on going forward it provides energy to the team and the fans, which should not be overlooked in the NBA. Yet, for all these positives, there is one glaring question mark for Lonzo offensively: his jump shot. His form is messy and unrefined, where he brings the ball back and essentially throws it at the rim. However, it is hard to say that this shooting form hasn't served him pretty well; he was a superb shooter in the high school ranks and shot 41 percent in his lone season with the Bruins. I assume whoever drafts him won't try and completely change it considering how much work it would take, but it will need some tweaks. It's a relatively slow release and it needs to be raised, or else longer defenders in the NBA are going to be able to get pieces of it. No matter what his form does look like going forward, he has to be less streaky. For all the times Lonzo took over games in '16-'17, there seemed just as many times he disappeared, or his shot was completely off. A lot of that has to do with mentality and preparation, so hopefully he'll have a good system of vets wherever he goes to help him out. Lonzo also has to improve at an area that not a lot of people seem to put enough emphasis on: the free throw line. He shot 67% from the stripe this past season, which is pretty poor for a guard playing at such a high level. Considering so much of his offensive game is blowing past defenders and getting to the rim and drawing contact, that is a very worrying stat for me.

Defense: People are quick to criticize Lonzo Ball on nearly everything, including defense, but I think he actually proved to be a pretty dang good defender while at UCLA. That size is where he is really going to have an advantage defensively. He'll be able to handle offensive players going hard to the rim and get in the way of shots with his long arms, while also disrupting passing lanes on the perimeter. He also has pretty good footwork and agility, which obviously plays such a huge role in on-ball defense. He does a good job having short, choppy feet and staying low to the ball and not reaching, which is something that always impressed me whenever I watched him play. He is good moving side-to-side as well as vertically, so there isn't any easy way to get around him, and he plays a pretty disciplined brand of defense. Ball is a pretty solid playmaker on that side of the ball, recording 1.8 steals per game this year. If he can keep that up, he'll really be able to create a lot of transition chances and fast-breaks where he can work some real magic. If there is one thing you can look for improvement on defensively, it is his focus. I mentioned something similar with Markelle Fultz in my scouting report on him, but Lonzo occasionally looses track of the ball and gets backdoor cut on often, or doesn't make the proper rotation that his team needs. The good news is that isn't the toughest thing to fix, and his natural physical tools are going to be able to overcome any of the mental errors he makes along the way. Defensive rebounding is a really underrated part of Lonzo's game. He had multiple double-digit rebound games while at UCLA and uses his lengthy frame to snatch up loose balls off the glass. I assume he'll be spending most of his time on the outside and leaking out for long outlets at the next level, but his ability to do work on the glass is still going to be an important thing to have in the future.

Verdict: So many people are split on just how good Lonzo Ball is going to be that I think he is a super intriguing prospect. He is as gifted and dynamic a player as I've seen coming from the college ranks in awhile, but there are clearly some major deficiencies in his game, and you never know how his father's comments could affect his reputation of perception. The general consensus around Lonzo is that he is going to be either a superstar or complete bust at the next level, but I disagree, I see him somewhere in between. With his court vision and ability to create, I don't think there is any doubt he'll be able to produce at a very quality level in the NBA. I see him being a quality starter for an NBA contender who can set up teammates all the time and give the fans plenty to enjoy. For a number of struggling NBA franchises just looking for any type of guard help, that will be more than enough.

Where He'll Go: No. 3 to the Los Angeles Lakers

How does Lonzo end up in LA? Full NBA Mock Draft 2017: Edition 1 

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