Although it may be hard to believe, Lonzo Ball was once a tremendously feared 3-point shooter.
The lanky 6’6″ prodigal son of Chino Hills, took the basketball world by storm during his 2016-17 UCLA campaign with his outspoken father and a funky — but efficient — jump shot.
As a freshman, Ball paired his adept vision with dead-eye accuracy from deep. The then teenager drilled his 3-point attempts at a 41.2 percent clip, and posted a true shooting percentage of 67 percent overall.
Yet, as a Los Angeles Laker, it has well been documented that his shooting has been less than ideal. As a rookie, Balls 3-point percentage wavered in the 20-30’s before settling in at 31 percent by season’s end.
This season, Ball has exemplified both sides of the coin in terms of his shot.
After starting slow, Ball’s shooting took an encouraging turn before falling into another slump of late. To understand more clearly what is going on with Ball’s jumper, it’s best to examine what type of shots he is taking.
Like the eye test, Ball’s data continues to be unusual.
According to the NBA’s tracking data on openness of shot attempts, Ball’s shot quality this season ranks only in the 40th percentile of the league.
Examining the attempts Ball is getting, it becomes more clarifying when comparing to the rest of the league.
Based on his shot quality score, an average player would be expected to convert Ball’s 3-point attempts at a 36.5 percent clip. Ball on the other hand, sits at 34.3 percent.
Despite still shooting below what would be expected from an average player, there still are encouraging signs.
Based on last season’s data, Ball would be expected to convert the attempts he is getting at a 31.2 percent mark. Though as his 34.3 percent real conversion rate shows, there indeed has been improvement from the sophomore.
There’s less cockback/wasted motion this year. The form is also a tad bit less left-sided, and the pocket is a tad higher. Less wasted motion allows him to shoot better vs contests.
As Ward details, Ball has benefited from minimizing the “wasted” aspects of his form, which had allowed defenders to close space against his release last season.
Going up with a more vertical and higher shooting pocket/release also has helped create better overall balance. The visual difference between his mechanics now compared to last season are glaring.
Ward’s diagnosis was spot on in terms of Ball’s tinkering impacting his efficiency against contests.
On the season, Ball surprisingly has flourished shooting over contests. According to Synergy, the 21-year-old is in the 90th percentile in guarded “catch and shoot” opportunities in the half court this season.
Ball’s improvement is an enormous plus for he and the Lakers. Unfortunately, when looking at the data when he is left open, things begin to nosedive.
In unguarded catch and shoot chances, Ball is in the mere 2nd percentile of the league. The stark difference between the two is especially eye-opening considering one would expect those numbers be reversed given the openness.
One possible reason for the contrast could be Ball’s reputation of being a “rhythm” player. Ball himself has noted doing things such as grabbing rebounds allows him to feel more engaged and confident in game. This may also be why Ball is often prone to his patented step back or side step on his attempts.
Unfortunately there have been instances when Ball simply has been stationary within the team’s isolation-heavy offense. Lately the team has done a better job utilizing Ball in screen action, which has helped keep him involved and moving.
Doing these types of things to keep him Ball engaged could ultimately help his confidence when he catches in open situations.
In an era of instant gratification, it is often difficult to remain patient. Lakers’ fans know this first-hand. Yet, given Ball’s subtle improvements this season, there is still plenty reason to feel optimistic that the wait will eventually be worth it.