Lonzo Ball 'Cant Make Shots' and 'Can't Finish,' Says Eastern Conference Scout

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 18, 2020

New Orleans Pelicans' Lonzo Ball shoots against the Sacramento Kings during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)
Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press

Lonzo Ball's nothing-short-of-miserable run in the bubble may have cost him millions of dollars. 

One Eastern Conference scout gave Tim Bontemps of ESPN a mostly scathing review of Ball's performance.

"He can't make shots," the scout said. "Not only can he not make shots, but he can't finish, and it's gotten to him. ... [I'd pay him] $12 to 14 million [per year] for three years, maybe?"

Ball could sign a rookie extension this offseason, but his next deal could be hard to gauge. In the macro sense, he finished with averages of 11.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.1 assists while knocking down a career-high 37.5 percent of his threes.

In the micro sense, he was one of the worst regular rotation players among teams who made the trip to Orlando. He averaged 7.1 points, 6.6 assists and 5.0 rebounds in seven seeding games, shooting a ghastly 30.5 percent from the floor.

Another scout gave Ball's overall performance in 2019-20 a better grade. 

"I think he's turned the corner," the scout said. "His game is on the upswing. ... Am I concerned? A little bit, but I still think it's an upward trend."

Ball is one of the NBA's most difficult players to assess. He does literally everything besides scoring well. He's a good defender (bubble struggles aside), one of the game's dozen best passers and has positional versatility because of his size and solid lateral quickness. 

Aside from an uptick in three-point efficiency, though, Ball remains a below-average scorer. He struggles to finish at the rim and is seemingly allergic to contact, perhaps owing to his struggles at the free-throw line. In three NBA seasons, Ball has been to the line 195 times—about as often as James Harden in a 20-game span.

Opposing defenses are comfortable going under picks against Ball because they don't trust his ability to pull up and knock down a jumper and lack fear that he'd attack them at the rim. There is a somewhat direct comparison to Ricky Rubio in that regard, though Rubio has always been a good free-throw shooter, so his aversion to contact is a bit perplexing.

Teams and fans alike have a tough time assessing a player like Ball, in large part because he'd be a borderline All-Star if he ever figured out how to get into the 15-17-point range on a nightly basis. Still just 22 years old, he has time to figure it out but is in a bit of an accelerated timeframe due to his name recognition.