The Summer Workout Plan is a weekly series breaking down what certain players can do to take their game to another level this season. After looking at what the next step is for Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby, we're putting Lonzo Ball's game under a microscope this week.
The Los Angeles Lakers selected Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft thinking he'd be the leader of their offence for years to come.
Then the Lakers signed LeBron James to a four-year contract this offseason.
The move won't change Ball's game dramatically - he's never been the type of player who needs to dominate the ball to make an impact - but it does put more pressure on the 20-year-old to improve his jump shot. LeBron has always been at his best when he's surrounded with players who can space the floor at a high rate, and Ball will likely struggle to succeed next to the four-time MVP if he's unable to be a greater threat from 3-point range than he was last season.
Ball at least proved he's not afraid to take 3-pointers in volume in his rookie campaign, which separates him from Rajon Rondo, the veteran gunning for his spot in the starting lineup heading into training camp. Compared to the other players in his draft class, Ball took the sixth-most 3-pointers in the league last season. He also became one of only 11 players in NBA history to attempt at least 5.0 3-pointers per game as a rookie.
The problem was Ball made 30.5 percent of those opportunities.
While some of that number was brought down by him converting less than a third of his 3-point attempts off the dribble - a shot almost every first-year player struggles with - Ball wasn't significantly better in catch-and-shoot situations. Of the 151 players who took at least 150 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers in 2017-18, only 10 converted a lower percentage than the Lakers point guard. It contributed to Ball ranking in the 49.5 percentile in spot-up efficiency.
Ball did show some signs of improvement as the season progressed, though. Following a rough start, he combined to make 40.6 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts in games played between December and February. It was more in keeping with what he displayed in his freshman season at UCLA when he made 44.6 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts.
"I can shoot," Ball told ESPN in the second half of the season. "I just missed at the beginning of the year. I told you I was going to keep shooting, and now they are going in."
He came back down to earth in March, but Ball still had some notable performances from behind the arc that month, the most memorable being when he knocked down six triples in a comeback win against the Spurs in San Antonio. Half of those 3s were set up by his teammates on passes you can imagine LeBron making to him next season.
If that was a sign of things to come, Ball will have no problem fitting in with LeBron. Not only was his usage rating on the lower end for a starting guard last season, Ball's strengths align well with LeBron's. He has the vision to set the 14-time All-Star up for the types of easy buckets he didn't get in his final season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the cutting ability to thrive off-ball and the versatility to take some of the pressure off of him on defence.
Throw in Ball's play in the open court, and he has the potential to be LeBron's dream point guard.
That's a big if for someone who was one of the worst 3-point shooters in the entire league as a rookie, but it gives Ball a clear path to starting on the Lakers this season and helping Los Angeles becoming a Western Conference powerhouse again sooner rather than later.