Following Wednesday’s 133-96 blowout loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Lakers have dropped their eighth straight game and sixth without rookie point guard Lonzo Ball. The No. 2 overall pick has been out with a left shoulder sprain, and the Lakers have struggled mightily without him on both sides of the floor.
Ball is the unquestioned floor general for the Lakers, leading the team with 7.1 assists per game. Without him, the team runs the pick and roll less effectively, and seem dysfunctional at times due to their increased reliance on isolation heavy plays.
This is evident in the Lakers two leading scorers, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram, both of whom have experienced decreased efficiency throughout Ball’s absence. Ingram has struggled from beyond the arc, not having made a 3-point shot in his last five games and Kuzma has suffered even more, shooting an abysmal 35% from the field (34-of-97) in his last six games.
Things have been even worse on the defensive end without Ball, who leads the team with 6.9 rebounds per game and averages 1.0 blocks and 1.4 steals per game. Without Ball, the Lakers are allowing opponents to score 124.3 points per game.
The loss against Thunder is the latest example of their poor defense, as the Lakers allowed Oklahoma City to shoot 60.2% from the field and 40.0% from 3-point range. The Thunder big three of Russell Westbrook(20), Paul George(24), and Carmelo Anthony(21), as well as rookie Terrance Ferguson(24), all scored at least 20 points.
Ball is criticized for his poor shooting and lack of aggressiveness, which has overshadowed all the things he does well for the Lakers. His awareness and vision on the court, as well as his better than advertised defense are just a few of the reasons the rookie is invaluable to the Lakers rebuilding process.