The Rookie of the Year award looks like a one-horse race with Ben Simmons way out in front, but we shouldn’t rule Lonzo Ball out entirely.
There’s no escaping the Ball name at the moment.
Wheather it’s LiAngelo being arrested in China, LaVar being called out by the president, or Lonzo being the youngest player ever to record a triple-double in the NBA, the family name is everywhere.
They are impossible to ignore, and Lonzo’s performances on the court are only making it harder.
It doesn’t matter if he’s producing triple-doubles. He could be adding to the decline of his 25% 3-point shooting percentage. You’re going to hear about it.
The only avenue no longer being explored is Ball’s Rookie of the Year chances. With Ben Simmons an odds-on favourite to take out the award at $1.06, Ball is on the second line of betting at an inflated $21.
Can Ball win the Rookie of the Year award?
It’s going to take Simmons going down with a lengthy injury for Ball or any other rookie to wrestle the award from the Australian’s grasp. Immensely talented and using his season on the sidelines to his advantage, Simmons is producing numbers beyond what anybody expected.
That’s no reason to rule Ball out entirely, though.
If Simmons falls over tomorrow, somebody has to win the award. At the moment, there’s a good chance it would be Ball.
His nine points along with 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game don’t jump off the page. They aren’t numbers the casual, counting-stats obsessed, NBA fan is going to sing about. But to the more astute observer, in particular, the ones that have ROY vote, Ball is up there and will be on the ballot.
Let’s ignore his struggles with scoring for just a moment. There isn’t any other part of Ball’s game he’s not already good at. Not just “good for a 20-year-old”, but good in general.
His vision and ability to pass teammates into easy shots look like that of a veteran. The composure he keeps, even when being hounded by the likes of Patrick Beverley and John Wall, is unwavering. For a point guard, he’s already an elite rebounder. And as an above average defender, he’s quietly accumulated 16 blocked shots in 19 games so far this season.
If he can recreate the 55.1% shooting from his year at UCLA, he will be back in the conversation and challenging Simmons for the award by the end of the season.
Will that ugly shot improve?
We can over-analyse Ball’s shot mechanics until the cows come home, but it isn’t changing anytime soon. Magic Johnson has already said as much:
“We’re gonna let him shoot and play his game. If after the season, he’s not shooting well, then we’ll sit down with him and say, ‘Hey, let’s maybe look at a different way or let’s try to improve the way you are shooting.'”
Lonzo’s shot doesn’t need to change just yet, anyway. The college 3-point line may be closer to the basket, but Ball shot 41.2% from beyond the arc on his 194 long-range attempts at UCLA; many of those shots were at the NBA distance.
Ball and his coaches know the shot can fall. Right now, it’s an issue of selection and more than anything, a case of ‘the yips’.
— ProCity Hoops (@ProCityHoops) November 22, 2017
As we’ve seen, he’s not short of confidence. Despite the low percentages, he’s still throwing up 4.8 3-point attempts per game which is the second-most in the team. Shooters shoot, and there’s nothing that will stop Ball from hoisting them up until he finds a way to get them through the hoop.
Once the shot’s start falling – there’s every reason to suggest they will sooner or later – so will his odds to win the ROY.
After Beverley gave him nightmares in his NBA debut, Ball can get his revenge on the Clippers today. This time, though, the Clippers will be without their starting point guard who was ruled out for the season last week.
Could tonight be the night Lonzo finds his shot matched up against Austin Rivers?
He’s at $1.79 to score over 9.5 points coming off his best 3-point shooting of his career before the Thanksgiving break. We know he’s going to shoot, and perhaps the four days off are enough for him to relax and revive his previously efficient shooting stroke.