Lonzo Ball had an injury-plagued rookie season, to say the least, ranging from a shoulder injury to a sprained ankle and subsequent contusion that led to him missing the last 35 games of the season.
Ball’s injury struggles started last summer when he had a meniscectomy in mid-July which caused him to miss the summer as well as most of training camp and the preseason. He came off the bench for the first two games of the season as he was under a minutes restriction.
The oft-injured Ball was and is still considered to be a very important part of the Lakers moving forward but between himself, LeBron James, and Brandon Ingram, the presumed big three only played 23 games together, going 15-8.
In his sophomore season, Lonzo Ball had moments where he looked apprehensive and other moments where he looked like the player that the Lakers envisioned when they selected him with the second overall pick. You could see the moments of jubilation from the veterans when Lonzo looked like the latter as they pushed him to be great.
Lonzo and LeBron showed a penchant for playing with each other, most evidently displayed when they both had a triple-double in a game against Charlotte. But it was when James went down to a strained groin when Ball really broke out. Between Christmas and Lonzo’s injury, the Lakers were five points per 100 possessions better defensively with Ball on the court. Their offense also flowed better with the team’s assist rate jumping from 56.3% with Ball off the court to 61.3% with him on it.
In January, Lonzo was playing the what seemed like the best basketball of his young career. He was averaging 11.1 points per game, shooting 36.4% beyond the arc to go along with seven assists, six boards and 1.5 steals per game.
Defensively, Lonzo Ball looked to be one of the best defenders (if not the best) on the team. Comparing defensive rating for the Lakers with Lonzo versus without him shows how vital he was to the team.
In December, the Lakers had a 106.7 defensive rating, which ranked top 10 in the league. Compare that to February and March, where the Lakers were 26th and 19th respectively.
Lonzo was matched up with Damian Lillard tonight and did a really good job fighting over screens, denying, getting deflections while staying in front. He was a big part of holding him to just 8-23 shooting and here's some of his highlights. pic.twitter.com/AQVrMT01zO
— UnwrittenRules (@UnwrittenRul3s) November 15, 2018
People can label him as a bust, but Ball’s presence on the court was paramount for the Lakers. Sure, his scoring is still coming around, but his defense is invaluable. Even though he only scored five points in a win against Detroit in January, he had a +24 to go along with 11 assists. In 22 minutes against the Rockets before he was injured, he was a +15 despite only contributing eight points.
Ball ended the season averaging 9.9 points, five rebounds and five assists while shooting 41% from the field and 33% from 3-point range, numbers that did not effectively weigh his overall impact on the team.
Lonzo Ball is one of the most important pieces to the franchise moving forward. And whether he gets traded this summer or not, the offseason is going to be incredibly important for the young guard.