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The Lonzo Ball dynamic: We’re vastly underrating young Lakers guard

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Second-year Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball has been sidelined over the past 14 games due to a bone bruise and ankle sprain. He’s not slated to return for at least another week.

With Ball out of action, Los Angeles has struggled to maintain its standing in the Western Conference Playoff race. That really got us thinking about his value to the Lakers. Even more so than basic stats, it seems that Ball continues to be underrated.

Sure that seems a bit ridiculous given how much Ball’s father, LaVar, has hyped him. But a deeper dive into the numbers back up this claim.

Just look at the record: Los Angeles is vastly superior with Ball on the court.

  • Last year saw a rebuilding Lakers team post a 11-19 record in the 30 games Ball was sidelined. The team was 24-28 when he played. This isn’t a coincidence.
  • The numbers have been even more ridiculous in 2018-19. Los Angeles is 5-9 in the 14 games he’s missed. Meanwhile, it has put up a 25-22 record in his 47 games.

The splits are also real: Check out Ball’s plus-minus totals.

  • Ball finished last season minus-0.4 per game when on the court. Los Angeles was outscored by an average of 1.5 points per game. Not gawdy numbers, but they are indicative of his importance.
  • Thus far this season, the Lakers have been outscored by an average of just north of one point per game. Ball is minus-0.3 in his 30-plus minutes of action per game.
  • In the 14 games that Ball has missed, Los Angeles has been outscored by an average of 8.9 points per game. That’s some absurd stuff.

The devil is in the advanced stats: Ball might not shoot well, but he’s an all-around talent.

  • Ball boasts a 105.1 career defensive rating. To put this into perspective, LeBron James’ defensive rating is 105.9 this season.
  • James has only had two full seasons with a better defensive rating than Ball is averaging throughout his career.
  • Los Angeles’ offensive pace is about 104.0 when Ball runs this unit over the past two seasons. Under Rondo, it sits at 105.3. Not a huge difference, especially given how much Rondo likes to run up and down the court.

In no way are we saying that Ball has somehow morphed into a star since he went down to injury. But it is readily apparent that the Lakers miss his presence on both ends of the court.

You don’t really know what you’re without until you’re missing it. That’s the story of the Lakers with Ball sidelined over the past couple months.

It might now be time for fans and others around the NBA world to value Lonzo at a clip that’s represented by his true on-court value.