The New Orleans Pelicans need a more aggressive version of Lonzo Ball
Sure, both Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram have excellent potential as rotation mainstays, with Ingram having the capability to mold himself into an All-Star talent.
But in Lonzo Ball, the Pelicans were receiving a potential franchise point guard.
Ball had struggled to develop offensively with the Lakers, but he had established himself as one of the best individual defenders in the game. He still possessed elite court vision and athleticism, and there was a sense that Ball–out from under the shadow of LeBron James and Magic Johnson–could become one of the best point guards in the game.
The former UCLA star has shown some signs through the first four games. He is shooting just under 37 percent from beyond the arc, and he is averaging over seven assists per game.
However, the Pelicans are winless.
Of course, New Orleans will be anticipating the eventual return of Zion Williamson. But until their rookie sensation is fully healthy, they need Ball to be more aggressive.
Get to the rim
Well over half of Ball’s shot attempts have come from beyond the arc. Over 80 percent have come from 10 feet (midrange) or beyond. For someone as quick and athletic as Ball, this is inherently negative.
Ball has been criticized in the past for his relative inability to finish through contact at the rim, especially with his weak hand. However, he is 6-of-8 on all shot attempts at the rim. He was bound to adapt to the physicality of the NBA game, and he has a far stronger frame than in past years. Finishing against opposing frontcourt players should not be as much of an issue.
The bottom line is that Ball is far more of a playmaker when he can get into the paint and either explode past defenders or use his vision to set up his teammates. If he is driving and setting up the likes of Derrick Favors or kicking out to shooters like J.J. Redick, he also gives himself the opportunity to make an impact on the offensive glass. That is something he cannot do when he roams the perimeter.
Be a leader
Favors and Jrue Holiday are veteran leaders for the Pelicans, but their promise as a playoff contender is predicated on the performance of their young stars.
As such, Ball needs to grow into a leadership role. He started to develop some of those instincts with the Lakers, but now he has greater bandwidth to showcase those qualities given that he sees more of the ball.
Holiday was supposed to be the most productive offensive player for the Pelicans, but he has already been noticeably hampered by injuries. Ball needs to take ownership of the backcourt and be more aggressive as a playmaker on both sides of the ball.