LeBron James, Lakers Beat De'Aaron Fox, Kings Despite Lonzo Ball's Struggles

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistNovember 11, 2018

SACRAMENTO, CA - NOVEMBER 10:  LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots the ball during the game against the Sacramento Kings on November 10, 2018 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers improved to .500 with a 101-86 win over the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on Saturday night.

L.A. has now won two straight and four of its last five overall dating back to Oct. 31.

LeBron James spearheaded the Purple and Gold charge with 25 points, seven rebounds and two assists, while Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma added 12 and 11 points, respectively.

De'Aaron Fox led the way for the Kings with 21 points, but Sacramento shot just 34.8 percent from the field on the second night of a back-to-back.

     

De'Aaron Fox Bordering on Star Status

The 2017 NBA draft was renowned for its exceptional crop of point guards. Chief among them: Markelle Fultz, Ball, Dennis Smith Jr. and Fox.

Fox, however, wasn't exactly a name that garnered much attention entering the 2018-19 season. While Fultz and Ball both buzzed because of the potential impact they could have on contenders, the Kentucky product remained something of an outcast among his peers.

That's not the case anymore.

While Fultz has struggled with his jumper and Ball has tried to figure out his role in a crowded Lakers rotation, Fox has made major strides as a scorer and facilitator.

To wit: Entering Saturday night, the 20-year-old was averaging 18.5 points and 7.5 assists on 49.7 percent shooting from the field, including 39.4 percent from three. For context, Fox shot 41.2 percent from the field and 30.7 percent from beyond the arc as a rookie.

However, a full offseason provided Fox with the time he needed to hone his shot and morph into the centerpiece of Sacramento's offense.

That much was evident against the Lakers, when he broke out for 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting from the field (3-of-6 from three) and mixed in a slew of long-range jumpers to complement his exceptional straight-line speed.

The Kings are still a couple of years away from making real noise out West, but Fox's continued development should give them plenty to be optimistic about moving forward.

     

...and Lonzo Isn't (Yet)

Unlike his intrastate counterpart, Ball hasn't experienced a breakthrough yet—and it's not necessarily by any fault of his own.

To be clear, the 2017 No. 2 overall pick has been better this year than he was as a rookie and drained 44.0 percent of his shots, including an encouraging 38.8 percent from three, entering Saturday.

However, the crowded nature of L.A.'s backcourt and James' installation as the Lakers' lead ball-handler have understandably siphoned off opportunities from Lonzo.

As a result, his usage rate has dipped from 17.4 percent last year to 15.2 percent this year, according to Basketball Reference.

Naturally, that means Ball has to make the most of his opportunities. And on Saturday, he didn't, as he mustered four points (2-of-10 shooting, 0-of-6 from three) and four assists in 20 minutes.

Perhaps things will clear up for Ball next season, assuming Rajon Rondo bolts in free agency. But for the time being, patience will be of the utmost importance.

     

What's Next?

The Lakers will cap off the second night of a back-to-back Sunday at Staples Center against Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks. The Kings will be off until Monday when they host the San Antonio Spurs.

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