Monday, September 25, 2023

Lonzo Is Ballin’ For Chicago, Stats Show Huge Growth In Year Five


Lonzo Ball is no stranger to Los Angeles, California. He was born in Anaheim, California, just 37 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. He grew up and went to high school in Chino Hils, 40 minutes from Los Angeles. After one year at UCLA, the Lakers drafted Ball, and he headed back to, guess where? Los Angeles.

But, life wasn’t so sweet at home.

The Lakers went 35-47 in his first season with the team. He averaged 10.2 points, 7.2 assists, and 6.9 rebounds — a good line for a rookie. But, he shot 36 percent from the field and 30 percent from beyond the arc.

Next season, the Lakers improved by just two wins for a record of 37-45. Ball improved his shooting percentages, but his points, rebounds, and assists dropped. He was starting to look like a bust at the number two pick in the 2016 NBA draft.

That summer,  the Lakers decided to make a change. They traded Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, and three first-round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans for superstar Anthony Davis.

The Pelicans

Ball was not phased by the news of his trade in the video, mostly because he could make a move with two of his teammates in New Orleans, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart.

However, similar to the Lakers, the next two years only got worse in The Big Easy.

The Pelicans went 30-42 in Ball’s first season with the team — notching the third-worst record in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, Ball’s last team earned the best record in the West and won the NBA Championship in the bubble.

On the bright side, Ball had his best season with the Pelicans that next season. He averaged 14.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game. He played in 31.8 minutes per 55 games he played that season.

More importantly, his shooting had never been better. He shot 41 percent from the field and just under 38 percent from beyond the arc.

Something still wasn’t right, though.

Ball went through two coaches in his two seasons with New Orleans — Alvin Gentry and Stan Van Gundy — the latter was criticized for his coaching style mid-season on their way to a 31-41 record.

Ball played off-ball more frequently than he would have liked on the team. While it helped him develop the versatility of playing off-ball and improve his shooting, it wasn’t the playstyle he’s accustomed to during his NBA career.

Ball and the Bulls

Insert the summer of 2021, when Ball was included in a sign-and-trade with the Chicago Bulls that inked him a four-year $85 million deal.

Now under Billy Donovan, Ball’s talents are used in all the right ways. He’s the instigator of the Bulls’ full-court offense, the recipient of pick-and-rolls, and has the green light on shooting the three-ball.

On Monday night, Ball showed off his improvement against his first NBA home. The Bulls defeated the Lakers 121-103 at the Staples Center (or now Arena).

Ball dropped 27 points on 10 of 13 shooting (7 of 10 from beyond the arc), seven rebounds, eight assists, and two steals. He was the team’s second-leading scorer, sandwiched between Compton native DeMar DeRozan and UCLA alum Zach LaVine.

Ball’s first four years in the league were a rollercoaster. But, after being traded away from his hometown team to one of the worst team’s in the company, he’s getting hot in the coldest place he’s ever lived in, Chicago.

Through 14 games, Ball is averaging 13.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game on 41 percent shooting from the field and an astronomical 44 percent shooting from three-point land. His defensive rating of 103 represents the best value of his career too.

If you’re a Bulls fan that was initially curious as to why Arturas Karnisovas chased Ball since the last trade deadline and gifted him with a contract worth north of $20 million per year — this is why.

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Ball and the Bulls take on the Portland Trail Blazers next in the fourth game of their five-game west coast road trip.

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