Even After a Triple Double, Lonzo is Chasing the Wrong Side of History
Thirteen games into his rookie season, Los Angeles Lakers’ 2017 number one pick is struggling, especially from a shooting standpoint. While many fans — Laker fans — are willing to push his struggles aside and only look at the good he’s doing (which is quite a bit), it’s necessary to look at the bad (also quite a bit).
On the good side of things, Lonzo’s passing is everything we hoped it would be and more. He’s averaging 7.4 assists per game while making passes that no other rookie outside of a man with the last name Simmons is making this year. He accounts for 29% of his team’s assists, while limiting his turnovers to 2.5 per game.
Also, as a point guard, he’s quickly become a solid rebounder (6.8 per game), and those rebounds often turn into some unbelievably accurate break-out passes. At least once a game, he turns a non-transition possession into a transition possession with his perfect end-to-end passing. He clearly has a gift and should be on the floor for this team. However, the obvious problem lies in his shooting. That’s where the bad comes in.
In a different era, Lonzo could be a future Hall of Fame point guard without shooting the ball. But in this modern era where teams are shooting more than ever — especially from behind the arc — being a ballhandler that struggles to even hit midrange shots doesn’t bode well for long-term success.
Through his 13 games, Lonzo is shooting 31.4% from the field and 25% from three. His effective field goal percentage is just 36.5% and he’s not even hitting his free throws (50%). He has just three games where he shot over 40% from the field and nine where he shot under 29%.
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In interviews, Lonzo has stated that it’s all mental and that he can shoot. However, there are obvious mechanical traits about his shot that bring about questions. He only shoots off his left side, meaning that he brings the ball up from his left. That doesn’t bode well for him when he’s moving or driving right, meaning he’s essentially getting high quality shots from only one side of the court. So, is it mental or mechanical? Or worse: both?
Back to the good. The past few outings, he’s looked great defensively. You have to love the steals (1.3) and the blocks are phenomenal for a guard (1.1). He had four blocks in the loss to the Celtics and two each against Portland and Detroit. He’s active and aggressive defensively. He gets burned sometimes, but forces a good number of turnovers as well.
His defense should only improve, as it’s clear he’s not a Kyrie type of guard (see: defensive liability). He wants to be active on the defensive end and he wants to stop opposing points guards like, well, Kyrie. It’s the poor shooting and the effect it has on the rest of his offense that’s the cause for concern.
His inside-out game and penetration is great thus far. However, how long is it going to be before defenders stop cheating over to help in the lane on his drives? Did you know he’s only hit 39.5% of his layups? Not very good, especially considering they account for almost exactly one-third of his shots. If he can’t get that together, it’ll start affecting the shots he gets for his teammates.
Again, we’re just 13 games in so it’s not at all time to panic. Frankly, Saturday night’s triple-double was extremely encouraging, and part of history, as he became the youngest ever to record one in an NBA game. However, he’s still chasing the wrong side of history, with a start bad enough to put him in the running for worst-ever FG% in a season for a player taking at least 10 shots per game. That isn’t something we should just brush off.
Note: All statistics came from NBA.com and NBA Miner