Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of debates floating around NBA Twitter. One of them happens to be “Will Lonzo make an All-Star appearance in his NBA career?”
I am going to be the first person to tell you that he will make multiple All-Star appearances in his NBA Career, and I am going to take it another step further and say he will develop to be a better basketball player than a D’Angelo Russell, who has an All-Star appearance under his belt and is an All-Star caliber player.
So let us dive into our favorite resource, the advanced stats and analytics. In his third season, D’Angelo Russell averaged 15.5 points per game, 5.2 assists per game, and 3.9 rebounds per game on 48.1 eFG% and a usage percentage of 29.5%. Similarly, this year in his third season, Lonzo Ball averaged 12.4 points per game, 7 assists, and 6.2 rebounds on 52.3 eFG% and a usage percentage of 18.3%.
Those are very similar statistics, but right off the bat we can see that Lonzo Ball is better in every basic statistical category except his point totals, and even with his point totals, he is only lacking by three points, Lonzo is also scoring more efficiently, while being used a lot less.
D’Angelo Russell was the 1st option on that Nets team, while Lonzo Ball is a 4th or 5th scoring option on the Pelicans. We haven’t even hit the on/off and defensive numbers yet.
Let us start off with the on/off numbers. When D’Angelo Russell was off the court for the Nets during his 3rd season, the team’s net rating was a -7.2. When he was on the court, they were better but not much better as they had a net rating of -3.6. Now let us get to Lonzo Ball.
When Lonzo Ball is not on the floor for the Pelicans, they have a net rating of -1. When he is on the floor, they have a net rating of 0.5. Something we have to take into when measuring this number is the situation. D’Angelo Russell was on a pathetic Nets team that went 28-54 and was 12th in the East and was one of the only reliable scoring options. Lonzo Ball is on a Pelicans team that has one of the best young cores and had 28 wins before the season was suspended with 18 games left.
Lonzo Ball also is the 4th best player on his team and his team missed number 1 overall pick Zion Williamson for most of this season. So Lonzo’s numbers won’t necessarily show as big of a jump in impact because his team has other great players but when he is on the court, his team isn’t negative unlike Russell.
Now let us get into the defensive end of the basketball court. Lonzo Ball is a far better defender than D’Angelo Russell, and it isn’t very close. Both the stats and the simple eyes test will prove that for you.
Lonzo Ball is a great on and off ball defender. He puts great pressure on his match-up by using his size and wingspan to force easy turnovers, and off the ball, he is great at reading passing lanes and knowing what is going to happen before it actually happens, which is a credit to his exceptional basketball IQ.
Russell; however, is not a great defender and often gets beat very easily when he’s on the ball and he doesn’t recognize offensive schemes as well off the ball.
Now let’s get to the stats. Lonzo Ball is third on his team in Defensive Win Shares, which is a stat that measures how much a player’s defense contributes to winning. His DWS is .087. Meanwhile, in 2017-18, Russell ranked 17th in DWS among anyone who stepped court for the Nets that season by posting a DWS of .033.
All in all, both players are great and will have very successful All-Star careers and anyone who actually looks into all of this wouldn’t even be debating whether or not Lonzo would have a single All-Star appearance in his career or not.
I use this comparison to show how both were very similar in terms of how quickly they developed and how Lonzo’s trajectory is even greater than that of someone who already has an All-Star appearance. The reason why Lonzo is often quickly criticized is because of how much expectations his father put on him coming into the NBA and how other players drafted around him have developed much quicker than he has.
People shouldn’t let that fact blind them of how much talent Lonzo has himself. I believe Lonzo Ball will be an All-Star because he has already significantly improved his game from everywhere and the only thing he is lacking is being more of an aggressive scorer, which I think he will develop over time just like Russell did.