Heading into the 2018-2019 season, one of the stories to watch for the Los Angeles Lakers was who would be the better fit to start at point guard, alongside LeBron James of course. During the summer, the Lakers acquired the services of NBA champion and 4-time NBA All-Star Rajon Rondo.
From the outside, it was assumed that Rondo will be on a mentorship role for Lonzo Ball as they have very similar playing styles. However, due to offseason surgery for Ball, the Lakers had Rondo starting as Ball continues to recover. With Rondo starting, the Lakers started 0-2, losing to the Portland Trailblazers and Houston Rockets. It’s hard to put the blame on these losses to Rondo’s play as he was one of the guys who was playing well for them averaging 13.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 10.5 assists on 57% field goal shooting and 50% from three.
In the Rockets game, Rondo got into a very heated altercation with Chris Paul which eventually led to a suspension. With that, Lonzo had his opportunity to start and he has fit in very well with the starting unit. After losing to the San Antonio Spurs in overtime, the Lakers have won two straight and are looking like a much more fluid team with Ball starting.
In an article for Sports Illustrated, Lakers coach Luke Walton was still noncommittal on who should start once Rondo comes back,
“I’ll go home and watch the tape tonight and get on the plane [Friday] and talk to my coaches,” he said. “We’ll evaluate everything.”
All things considered, it should be pretty much a no-brainer for Walton to keep Lonzo Ball in the starting unit. First of all, he allows that Lakers to play at a quicker pace, something that they emphasized before the season started. Ball is much more effective player in transition compared to Rondo. After their win against the Nuggets on Thursday night, Ball said
“I thrive in transition,” Ball said, after posting 12 points, six rebounds, eight assists and five steals against Denver. “Any time I can get a steal or a rebound and push it, it will help me out a lot.”
Secondly, he would be more comfortable playing off the ball at times with LeBron James handling most of the ball-handling responsibilities. Also, he is a better scoring threat than Rondo especially from the perimeter. James says that Ball, albeit being a very good passer, is much more effective when he looks for his shot.
“He’s (Lonzo Ball) a very cerebral basketball player,” said LeBron James. “If he’s playing aggressive basketball and thinking shot-first, everything else opens up for him.”
Also, Rondo will fit in better with the second unit as he becomes the primary ballhandler and guys like Kyle Kuzma, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley can play off of his decision-making. This is contrary to when he starts where LeBron will do most of the facilitating.
Lastly, and maybe most important, Ball is being looked at as an integral part of the Lakers’ long-term future. They need him and the other young guys to develop into stars of their own. Simply put, Ball starting now makes the most sense if they want to make the most of LeBron’s stay in LA.