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Pelicans' Lonzo Ball Isn't an 'Impactful Defender' Right Now, NBA Scout Says

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2021

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, left, drives as New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)
Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball has improved offensively in his fourth season, but his defense might have suffered as he approaches restricted free agency in the offseason.

"He's just not an impactful defender [right now]," a scout told Sam Amick and John Hollinger of The Athletic.

The advanced stats tell a similar story. Ball's 1.2 defensive win shares represent the lowest mark in his career, per Basketball Reference. His defensive box plus/minus has also dropped each year and is 0.0.

That hasn't helped a squad that ranks 27th in the NBA in defensive rating.

Despite the decreased production on that end, Amick and Hollinger argued Ball has "length, athleticism and potential on that end" that will help him in free agency.

He is averaging a career-high 14.1 points per game, and his 42.2 percent shooting from the field and 38.1 three-point percentage are also personal bests.

Ball excelled early in his career with the Los Angeles Lakers for his ability to help the team in a lot of ways even when his shot wasn't falling. He had 13 double-doubles and two triple-doubles as a rookie in 2017-18 despite averaging just 10.2 points per game.

His improved shooting appears to have come at the expense of other attributes, but the 2017 No. 2 pick can be a difference-maker if he puts it all together.

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If New Orleans lets him leave in free agency—a possibility considering how much it owes Brandon Ingram, Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe next season—Ball can get a fresh start with a new squad. Amick listed the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks as potential landing spots for the 23-year-old.

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