Learning from Curry
Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry has been undoubtedly one of the greatest players in the NBA over the past three to four seasons. The future first-ballot Hall of Famer has continued to add a plethora of achievements to his incredibly impressive resume. However, Curry's greatest legacy has been the way he has almost single-handedly led a revolution which has completely changed the way basketball is played.
Over the past few years, the NBA has completely shifted it's focus to the importance of the three-point shot, and evidence of this is the superb three-point shooting abilities of the league's two best teams, the Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Curry, with his three-point shooting masterclasses, has influenced the way the game is played through all levels of basketball. Children, teens and adults have all looked to add the three-point shot to their game, largely because of Curry.
The relevance of all of this to Lonzo Ball? He has the opportunity to have that same influence, but with his passing game.
Lonzo is a master with the ball
Ball is an extraordinarily skilled passer who has the unrivalled ability to elevate the level of play and contribution of his teammates. This was proven throughout his outstanding freshman campaign for the UCLA Bruins. In the season before Ball arrived at UCLA, the Bruins finished 15-17. In Ball's sole season at UCLA, they went 31-5. Ball owned one of the highest true-shooting percentages in the country in college. More significantly, he led the entire NCAA in assists, finishing with 274.
Now, Ball begins his NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He began the 2017 Las Vegas Summer League with a forgettable game against the Los Angeles Clippers, followed by an impressive triple-double against the Boston Celtics. Against the Clippers, Ball scored just five points on 2-15 shooting, to go with five assists. Against the Celtics, he managed 11 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds. While it has been an up-and-down campaign so far, one thing is clear: he will contribute far more from his passing game than his scoring game. Combine this with his ability to improve his teammates' performances, and Ball has the potential to glamorize the underappreciated column in every box score, the assist column.
It has long been said that the Summer League is of little importance, and that nothing can be proven until the opening game of the NBA season in October. For Ball, this was never going to apply to him. After his uncharacteristic play in Game 1 of the Summer League, social media erupted with harsh criticism of the new Lakers recruit. After his impressive performance against the Celtics, however, his critics could only respond with any variation of the following: "it's the Summer League, it doesn't matter."
A real game changer
Ball is now the face of the Los Angeles Lakers, and all eyes are on him. With his exciting passing game, and the readily-available tutelage of Magic Johnson, the greatest point guard of all time, Ball will only flourish at the top level. The 19-year-old has drawn comparisons to Johnson, whose unselfish pass-first mentality brought five championships to the Lakers franchise.
It is certainly the era of Curry and others now, but Ball will be at the forefront of the next era in the NBA. As Ball seeks to dazzle audiences the world over, the importance of passing looks set to overcome the dominance of three-point shooting in the NBA. With Ball's star set to rise, he will inspire the next generation of ballers to incorporate a sophisticated passing game in their offensive arsenal.
However, the limit to Ball's game-changing potential doesn't end there. He also has the ability to reverse the revolution of the point guard position. The league has seen a shift towards point guards who are no longer pass-first players, but rather players who develop into scoring leaders for their respective teams. The past three NBA seasons have seen a point guard become the Scoring Champion at season's end.
Long removed from the pass-first roots of Johnson and others, Ball can capitalize on his passing talent and reverse this revolution. With Ball leading the way, point guards can once again be suitably referred to as 'Floor Generals'. Ultimately, Ball can lead the next generation of emerging point guard talent to develop their game around the nucleus of a vital passing game. Like Curry has done with the three-point shot, Ball can be the catalyst for the emergence of a pass-first focus league-wide.
Has Lonzo Ball got the tools to change the NBA? Comment below!