Is Lonzo Ball the Lakers scapegoat?

It is already a given Lonzo Ball's first season isn't going according to the script, but is he the only one to blame for the Lakers' struggles?

We are halfway into Lonzo Ball's first season in the NBA and safe to say, he hasn't lived up to the hype many people expect him to be as the #2 overall pick of the Lakers. Crowned as Magic Johnson's golden boy, Lonzo has been decent at best doing the job he is supposed to be doing for the Lakers. He has been speeding up the pace, making teammates unselfish, and transform the team to have a different culture away from the ISO ball but his stats aren't helping his cause.

Similar to other rookies guards in the past, Lonzo has begun his season playing safe and not being aggressive. Like his UCLA days, he lets the game come to him rather than forcing the issue and looking for his shot. It is certainly a strength and a weakness of his game but the league consensus was he would take over the Lakers and dominate similar to what Ben Simmons has done over in Philadelphia. The expectations riding on his shoulders due to the comments of his outspoken father, LaVar, and the fact he is playing for one of the biggest franchises in the whole of sports is unfair and I break down why he shouldn't be the first person Laker fans put the blame on for the team's struggles.

The Kid is Just 20 years old

We all have to remember that coming in as a one-and-done player from college, Lonzo just turned 20 last October so we must preach patience here. Yes, he is struggling but that is all part of the rookie learning process. If a team drafts a player who can produce right away and they hit gold (Karl Anthony-Towns) but the same can be said also to players who take a while to develop but look at the rewards (Stephen Curry). Lonzo's primary duty is to facilitate the offense, not shoot, and he is doing exactly what the Lakers are asking from him. They need a leader and a facilitator to run the point and that is exactly why the Lakers traded D'Angelo Russell. They have enough scorers in Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma, and Jordan Clarkson to put the ball into the basket where the only hole they need to fill is how to give the ball to these scorers. 

The latest point guard to be an All-Star is Kyrie Irving and he was drafted back in 2011. Not even D'Angelo Russell nor Devin Booker have even showcased enough to garner enough votes to be in the All-Star game especially with how deep the league is with talent. If Lonzo can breakout at the right time where all current superstars are declining, it will the be the perfect timeline for both the Lonzo and the Lakers.

Jason Kidd (1995) 11.7 5.4 7.7 1.9 3.2 .385 .698
Lonzo Ball (2017) 9.0 7.0 7.2 1.4 2.6 .315 .467

"Rookie Jason Kidd and Lonzo Ball averages"

Lonzo is often being compared to Jason Kidd throughout his days in Chino Hills to all the way in the NBA. The passing instincts and early shooting struggles are the two main talking points in determining the comparison. From the chart, Jason Kidd and Lonzo Ball's rookie season have looked nearly identical so far. With the biggest criticism of Lonzo's game being his poor shooting at this point, people tend to forget Kidd had the same problems to start off his career as well. A positive way to look at this is how Lonzo isn't forcing his shot up and attacking whatever the defense is giving him.

Unfair Criticism

Chino Hills with Lonzo Ball- 35-0. State Title as a #1 seed 

UCLA with Lonzo Ball- 31-5. Sweet 16 as a #3 seed

Is there a common trend shaping up here? Lonzo Ball's game centers on getting his teammates involved and earning wins. Though results aren't showing on a professional level yet, the culture change is evident with the arrival of Ball.With the Lakers #1 for pace at 103.3 per game and top 10 in opponent FG% at 45.2% per game, a mindset on unselfishness and defense has been set with the opening of the Ball era. The Lakers have a different identity now with Lonzo on the roster with more emphasis on pace and movement.

"I really don't care. I mean we took a loss so it don't mean anything. I just wanted to win." 

-Lonzo Ball on his first triple-double of his career in a 90-98 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks

What is great with Lonzo is the fact he lets the team's performance do his talking. He is a rare breed in today's game where he thinks about the team first before himself. His focus on getting the team the win is what sets him apart from the rest. From his time in high school to the NBA, he is always known to be a pass-first guard who wants to get his teammates involved first before he does. The fact he won't change that part of his game is great because that is what got him that million dollar contract in the first place.

Yes, he is in a slump right now especially in his shooting but he knows where exactly to improve on. He doesn't mask on the fact his other parts of his game are working and his level-headedness is what should make the organization happy. He is trying his best to see results in his game but the shot isn't just falling through. Coming into the league, people already know his shot is weird but as the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" and now is the time to fix it and he knows it.

The Lakers are actually in a decent position right now

Come to think of it, the Lakers are actually just 3.5 games back of the 8th seeded Utah Jazz. With a tough schedule coming up, the Lakers will have to wish Santa comes early for them as 13 of their next 17 games are against teams who are in playoffs spots right now. It's December and the Lakers are still in the hunt and they are geared for a playoff push as they have already beaten the likes of Detroit, Washington, and Denver this season. With Kyle Kuzma still coming into the team off an injury, the outlook for the season could be an interesting one for Lonzo Ball and the Lakers.

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