The Lakers were hoping Lonzo Ball would be an instant star who would help lure LeBron James and other free agents next summer, but that hasn’t happened yet, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. That was especially obvious during last night’s game with the Sixers that featured a wealth of young talent on both teams. Ball made just one of nine shots from the field and didn’t play in the final 16 minutes.
“What we know he’s going to become requires a lot of work, and a lot of growth,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton. “He’ll get there, and there’s going to be some ups and downs on that path.”
Ball is only 20 and has enjoyed some success, becoming the youngest player in league history to post a triple-double. But he hasn’t been the finished product the Lakers thought they were getting, averaging 9.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists in 15 games but shooting just 30.3% from the field. L.A. hopes to have enough cap room to offer two max contracts in July, but there’s no guarantee the current roster will be enough to attract elite talent.
There’s more out of Los Angeles:
- Fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma appears to be more of an impact player than Ball, according to Josh Plantos of The Washington Post. The swingman out of Utah, who was taken with the 27th pick, is second on the team in scoring at 15.5 points per game and ranks third among all rookies in win shares, with Ball at 21st. He is also far ahead of Ball in Player Efficiency Rating and is versatile enough to play three positions.
- Kuzma’s performance is one of several reasons for optimism in Los Angeles, writes Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders. The Lakers also have a projected $47MM in cap space for next summer, trade chips such as Julius Randle, Corey Brewer and others, a well-run front office under Magic Johnson, the continued development of Brandon Ingram and Bird rights on Brook Lopez.
- Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report suggests an unorthodox strategy for opening more cap space next summer: an extension for Luol Deng. The proposal would add three years to Deng’s contract with a minimal amount of guaranteed money. The Lakers could then buy him out and stretch his remaining salary over 11 years rather than five, resulting in an annual payment of about $3.3MM. The plan, if Deng is willing to play along, would give L.A. $57.3MM in cap space for 2018/19, almost enough to offer two max contracts. The timing is tricky as Deng isn’t eligible for the extension until July 7, which is a week into free agency.