Ever since Lonzo Ball was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers with the second overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, basketball fans already had one question imprinted on their minds: is he going to be a bust or will he deliver?
To be fair, this question has yet to be answered because Ball has lots of years left to play. But in his two seasons donning the Lakers uniform, after almost every game — win or lose — haters would lambast Ball as a major draft bust.
Why was this so? Was Lonzo really that bad? Or did the circumstances around him breed this type of tension? Let’s look at the possible reasons why critics were so quick to label Lonzo Ball as a bust during his time with the Lakers.
The biggest and most obvious reason behind the hype around Lonzo Bal was his father, LaVar Ball. The outspoken and gregarious Ball patriarch appeared in many interviews before and after Ball was selected second overall. In these interviews, he basically said his family would take over the basketball world, and his eldest son Lonzo would be the one to start the ball rolling.
It is true that Ball performed extremely well during his high school days and in his lone year at UCLA. Lonzo built his resume through his own merits. With or without LaVar’s antics, Lonzo was always slated to be a lottery pick. But LaVar’s continuous and relentless yapping made it appear as if Ball was the second coming of Michael Jordan or even greater. But the fact of the matter is that Lonzo — like most top prospects — needed time to develop, and still does. Not everyone is born a star right away.
The mere fact that he was drafted by the Lakers
The Lakers are one of the most illustrious sports organizations in the world. They have had a number of legends like Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal, just to name a few. While it’s often a blessing to be a member of the Lakers, for Lonzo Ball, it became more of a curse.
To recall, Magic Johnson — arguably the greatest point guard of all time — was the Lakers’ president of basketball operations during the time they picked Ball. This fact alone added a layer of hype around the young gun. Also, note that the 2017-18 season was the second year of the post-Kobe era. The Lakers had been beefing up their squad through the draft.
But Lakers fans have always set the bar high for the team. A few years of rebuilding is okay. But this can’t go on for five, six, seven seasons. Lakers fans want to win, and they want to win now. For some reason, all of this pressure was placed on Ball — a young gun who had all the talent in the world but who, at the same time, was still learning the ropes of professional basketball and life in general.
Analysts have broken down the various weaknesses of Lonzo Ball’s game early on. Some pointed out his indecisiveness, immaturity, and recklessness. These analysts made solid arguments by actually dissecting how Ball displayed these flaws.
But for casual NBA fans, the first thing they notice is Ball’s awkward slingshot jump shot. Though he has tweaked it now and has also improved his shooting percentage in the process, fans back then constantly slammed and made fun of Ball’s funky shot. This gave haters a bone to pick. For the critics, it didn’t matter if Ball filled up the stat sheet and displayed extraordinary court vision. For them, Ball’s jump shot looked broken and was a reason why he was considered a bust.
Outshined by Kyle Kuzma
Kyle Kuzma was the 27th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. That is 25 picks later than Lonzo Ball — a much more touted prospect. As such, it was understandable that there wasn’t much buzz surrounding Kuzma upon his entry into the league. All eyes were on Ball, as well as Brandon Ingram, whom the Lakers selected as their second overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
But right from the get-go, even in the Summer League, everyone quickly took notice of Kuzma. He easily filled up the stat sheet, played like a veteran, and at the end of the season, was crowned NBA All-Rookie First Team.
Overall, it was a good sign for the Lakers. They proved they had that keen eye for unknown talent. But for Ball, it once again gave his doubters a bone to pick. They were happy for Kuzma. But Ball — as the second overall pick of the draft — should’ve been doing way better than a non-lottery pick.