One of the most exciting players in college basketball this season has been Lonzo Ball, the point guard from UCLA. His rise up draft boards has many picking him as a top 5 draft pick for next year’s NBA draft. At the next level, struggling teams such as the Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets will be keeping their eye on Ball and other floor generals Markelle Fultz, Dennis Smith Jr and De’Aaron Fox in what may be one of the best point guard draft classes in recent years.
Ball is currently averaging 14.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 8.6 APG – second in the nation. He’s led UCLA to an undefeated 11-0 record, which includes a win over former #1 Kentucky, a win that ended the Wildcats’ 42-game home win streak. UCLA is now #2 in the nation and the play of Ball is a huge reason why.
At 6’6 he’s a mismatch for opponents. He can dominate smaller guards and blow past bigger forwards. His high IQ, court vision and accurate passing has people comparing him to Jason Kidd. His unorthodox but lethal shooting motion is reminiscent of Stephen Curry, while his Derrick Rose-type athleticism completes the image of someone who can become the face of an NBA franchise.
Ball played high school basketball at Chino Hills with his younger brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo, who will both be playing at UCLA in 2017 and 2019 respectively. It wasn’t a high school powerhouse that you see most prospects play at. It just happened to be the local public school. The Chino Hills system involved scoring as many points as possible as quickly as possible. Points would leak out from all three Ball brothers and Lonzo himself averaged a triple-double in his final high school year (27.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, 11.5 assists and 5.1 steals), leading Chino Hills to a 35-0 record.
Many wondered whether Ball’s game and style of play would translate well to the collegiate and professional level and so far it definitely has. UCLA is running more in 2017 and their play in transition is what makes this offense exciting to watch. Lonzo’s court vision on fast breaks is unmatched and he makes plays that you don’t see other point guards make. The Bruins like to score quickly, even after a opponent has scored, similar to what Chino Hills did. UCLA makes 60% of their shots within the first 10 seconds of a possession after the opposition has scored.
Even though he’s not playing with his brothers, it hasn’t affected that way he dominates the game. His ability to make those around him better is evident. Bryce Alford (son of head coach Steve), Aaron Holiday and Isaac Hamilton are shooting more efficiently. Thomas Welsh is slowly becoming a prospect to watch at the next level, while fellow freshman TJ Leaf is making a case to be a lottery pick in the 2017 draft.
Lonzo is setting the bar for his brothers, who some feel may be better than the older sibling. LiAngelo made headlines when he scored 72 points in a game earlier this season. He’s become the go-to guy at Chino Hills with Lonzo gone and is making the most of his opportunity. A three-star prospect, many are wondering what position LiAngelo will play at the next level. He’s a top scorer, but tends to struggle on defense in a system that disregards it. Meanwhile, LaMelo has taken over as Chino Hills’ point guard and is slowly adjusting to the role. He grew from 5’8 to 6’3 in over a year but is still only high school sophomore. All three brothers are expected to be one-and-done in college, according to their father, Lavar Ball.
With Lonzo taking over the college basketball world and being considered a #1 pick in the NBA draft and his younger brothers dominating at the high school level, it’s a situation we’ve never seen before. The NBA has become faster and guys like Stephen Curry is taking over with his outside shooting. However, soon it won’t be a matter of the Ball brothers adjusting to the game of basketball. It will be the game of basketball adjusting to the Ball brothers.