After a rocky debut at Summer League, Lonzo Ball has impressed the NBA world in the Las Vegas exhibitions with his court vision and leadership.
Of particular note has been Ball’s passing, his most highly praised skill coming out of college.
While there were questions about Ball’s athleticism and shooting form, many believed his ability to see the court, make on-target passes, and find open teammates would make him, at the least, a rotation-worthy guard.
None of that has changed in Summer League. While it’s easy to get carried away by good performances in meaningless games against lesser competition, Ball has looked like a generational passer, the kind of player who sees a play happening before anyone else and catches defences off-guard with his looks.
Several times in Summer League, Ball has wowed crowds with quick, full-court outlets passes to find a teammate streaking down the court for an easy basket. While Ball makes the passes look effortless, they are not easy — few players in the league can scan the court so quickly, see the defence relaxing, then fire a pinpoint heave to an open teammate.
While these types of plays may excite the crowd, it could have a deeper impact on a team. Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton explained on ESPN’s Zach Lowe’s podcast, “The Lowe Post,” that this specific skill is something the Lakers loved about Ball. Additionally, it should blend in with what coaches want Lakers players doing on offence.
“That was a major thing we talked about in the [draft] rooms,” Walton said. “And it’s a simple thing, but like you said, when you’re a wing player or a big man and you know if you run the floor that ball is gonna hit you — and he does it 100% of the time. If you watch him as he’s getting the ball out of bounds, his head is already surveying what’s going on in front of him. And if a defender’s not looking, he’s throwing it.
“It could be risky, but for now, I don’t give a damn. Throw the ball every time. Because we want our wings, we preach to our wings and our bigs to sprint that lane, sprint that lane. But when the ball is actually getting thrown to them, now they’re more likely and they want to get out there. Because those are free points, free layups for them.”
Walton said he could see that Ball’s passing has already become contagious on the Summer League team and that he was receiving texts from Lakers veterans saying they can’t wait to run fast breaks with Ball.
While excelling in Summer League and playing well in actual NBA games are much different, the encouraging aspect of Ball’s performances are that his court vision won’t go anywhere. As Walton noted, some of his passes may get picked off in the NBA against better, more heady defenders. But Ball’s unselfishness should encourage teammates to run the court and share the ball, and that should have a huge intangible effect on what looks like an exciting, young Lakers team.