Lakers Logic: Can Lonzo Ball be a star without having a great rookie season?

Welcome to Lakers Logic, a column where I pose a question and answer it. You can expect topics that are current and on the more serious side, but you’ll also find hypotheticals that I plan to have some fun with.

Kicking off this column with a question about Lonzo Ball just felt right. As the number two overall pick in the draft, he has a ton of expectations from the team and from the fans. So with that, I ask, does Lonzo need to have a great rookie season in order to be a star player?

About a quarter of the season is already in the books as the Lakers stand at 8-12 after last night’s loss to the cross-town rivals, the Clippers. Lonzo has started in all 20 of the games and is averaging 32.9 minutes per game. The Lakers are certainly counting on him to have an impact every time he steps on the court. Through these first games, his shooting has been less than stellar, to say the least. He finished a game against the Blazers 0-2 at the beginning of November and last night had a field goal percentage of just 14.3 on 1-7 shooting.

Lonzo’s free throw shooting is another cause for concern at the moment. In the games where he took free throws, he’s missed quite a few. Only one game did he go 100% from the line hitting both of his free throw attempts. For a point guard, it’s unusual to see a 42.9 percent in the free throw column, unless your name is Rajon Rondo who has never averaged over 65 percent on free throws in a single season. A lot of this has to do with Lonzo’s mechanics on his shot, which is something that certainly still needs some work.

Some of the good news is that Lonzo isn’t really a shoot-first point guard. Plus, he did set the record for the youngest player to record a triple-double, beating Lebron’s record by a whopping five days. But, hey, he still beat it.

Looking at the stats alone shows that Lonzo hasn’t been extremely consistent. His plus-minus rating for the season ranges from -24 to +29. Twenty games feels like it’s just barely enough to speculate on how well a player may or may not do in the NBA. Right now, it doesn’t feel like Lonzo is a bust by any means, but he does need to work on being a bit more consistent night in and night out. That’ll mean a lot more work on nailing his shot down. He can’t have many more games where he scores single-digit points. Even if he isn’t a shoot-first point guard, the Lakers need everyone contributing on offense as much as they can.

On that note, Lonzo doesn’t need to have a great rookie season to work his way up to being a star player, but he absolutely needs to have a good season and finish it out on a higher note than he started it on (three points, four assists, nine rebounds in a loss to the Clippers). When Lonzo has a positive +/- rating, the Lakers have won the majority of those games (seven out of nine, to be exact). Only one win came when Lonzo was -11 and that was because the entire bench found themselves with positive ratings that game (11/13 against Phoenix).

Despite not having the best start, Lonzo is a player to keep an eye on. If he gets the hang of a few more things, he could easily be a step closer to becoming a star player down the line. Besides, aren’t we all already positive that LaVar Ball will make sure he isn’t anything less than a star player? Speak it into existence.

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