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Pelicans' Zion Williamson: Lonzo Ball Becoming NBA's Best PG 'Is in His Future'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 30, 2019

METAIRIE, LA - JULY 16: Lonzo Ball #2 of the New Orleans Pelicans speaks at an introductory press conference on July 16, 2019 at Ochsner Sports Performance Center in Metairie, Louisiana. 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 2019 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images
Layne Murdoch Jr./Getty Images

Zion Williamson said New Orleans Pelicans teammate Lonzo Ball is going to become the best point guard in the NBA.

"That is in his future," Williamson told Macklin Stern of Complex in an interview released Tuesday.

"I'm expecting Lonzo to come into his own," he said. "I'm not saying he wasn't himself in L.A., but now he's in a scenario where he can truly be himself. We're about to play a super-fast-paced game. I think we all trust him with the ball and all trust him to make the right read. You've seen it, I've seen it. He's a playmaker. He makes the right plays."

The 21-year-old UCLA product, whom the Los Angeles Lakers selected with the second overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, has showcased terrific across-the-board production, but his unique shooting stroke has led to problems at the professional level.

Ball averaged 10 points, 6.4 assists, 6.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals across 99 appearances for the Lakers. He shot just 38 percent from the field, including 31.5 percent from three-point range, over the past two seasons.

In early July, Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin spoke with ESPN (via Christian Rivas of USA Today) about the relationship between Williamson, the first overall pick of the 2019 draft, and Ball:

"[Head coach Alvin Gentry] and [assistant coach] Chris [Finch] have spent a lot of time sort of analyzing how Zion and Lonzo will interface with each other 'cause Lonzo can be very, very productive without being overly ball dominant. So, the thing we're most excited about with that group is they all natively share the ball and by adding JJ [Redick] and getting some of the floor-spacing, shooting that we hope to get from [Nicolo] Melli, we feel like we're starting to make it so we can get the full bandwidth of all that playmaking by having play terminating on the court—and that's where Lonzo needs to be successful. It's not just the pace that we play at, it's that he generates opportunity for people without having to be overly ball dominant."

Griffin is accurate in stating Ball can make an impact without needing a high usage rate, but becoming the league's best point guard as Williamson predicts is an uphill battle.

Ball ranked 37th at the position in ESPN's Real Plus-Minus last season because of his negative impact at the offensive end of the floor.

He must become a better shooter in order to truly push himself into the conversation of the NBA's top point guards. It's much the same situation as the Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons, though Simmons is more efficient around the rim, and his high-end upside rests almost solely on developing an outside shot.

That's not to say Ball can't eventually improve his offensive game enough to fulfill Williamson's prophecy, especially on a deep NOLA roster, but it's going to take substantial improvement.

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