Exploring how quick is too quick to give up on an NBA young player, with the latest example being Lonzo Ball
Lonzo Ball was the No. 2 overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. Although he was a high draft pick, he has yet to put together a consistent season in the league.
Ball was born in California and stayed in the state when he chose to play at UCLA in college. Being drafted by his hometown Lakers was a dream come true for Ball, but it wasn’t easy. If playing in his hometown wasn’t a distraction enough, he had to play with LeBron James and have unfair hype put on him by his Dad.
Ball also missed 65 games due to injuries in his first two seasons. Before the start of the 2019-20 NBA season, Ball was dealt to the New Orleans Pelicans, with other teammates in a blockbuster deal for all-star power forward Anthony Davis.
More from Sir Charles In Charge
New Orleans isn’t the media frenzy L.A. is and going into his third season many people expected him to have a breakout season. Ball is currently averaging 12.1 points, 5.7.assists, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. Those are all decent numbers, but not the year many people who follow the league projected for him. On Dec 9, 2019, Ball was taken out of the starting lineup by Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry. Former NBA player Kendrick Perkins wasn’t afraid to share his opinion of Ball after the benching.
“He’s a bust, because this is not number 2 production right here, a number 2 pick, this is not what you draft a number 2 pick for,” Perkins said on ESPN the jump.
In the month of January, Ball is averaging 18.8 points, eight assists, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. Ball has always been criticized for his lack of shooting, but in January he is shooting 50 percent from the floor and 35.1 from the 3-point line. On January 6, Ball had his third-straight 20-point game against the Jazz, causing Perkins to apologize to him for calling him a bust.
Even if Ball hadn’t put together this hot streak, how quick should we as sports fans, sports commentators and sports analysts throw out the word bust? When is it too soon? Every year there are rookies that adapt to the NBA game with no problem, but what about the rookies that don’t? Are they busts if they are taken in the lottery? How quick should we say a player is a bust?
My barber said Trae Young was a bust after seeing him struggle in summer league, something that was disproved after a stellar rookie season that saw Young average 19.1 points and 8.1 assists, and he made 156 3-pointers.
Rasheed Wallace was traded away from the Washington Bullets after one season that saw him average 10.points, 4,7 rebounds, and less than one block per game. He would go on to be an all-star with the Portland Trail Blazers, the team he was traded to. Although Wallace would finish his career with modest numbers, 14.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game, he would be a pivotal piece in the Pistons 2004 championship team.
Chauncey Billups, who also was a member of that championship team, was drafted number 3 in the 1997 draft by the Boston Celtics. Billups played 51 games for Boston in his rookie season before being shipped away to the Toronto Raptors. He would be traded two more times before signing with the Timberwolves for the 2000-01 season and at this point most fans and basketball analysts thought he was a bust. His second season in Minnesota, in a three-game series that the Timberwolves were swept by the Dallas Mavericks, Billups averaged 22 points and 5.7 assists, shooting 45 percent from the field and 40 percent from the 3-point line.
After signing with Detroit for the next season he continued to play well, but it was in the 2004 NBA finals where he averaged 16.9 points and 5.7 assists while winning Finals MVP as he led the Pistons to their first title in 14 years.
In recent drafts, D’Angelo Russell and Victor Oladipo were both selected No. 2 in their respective drafts. Both players were traded away early in their careers and both players would go on to make all-star teams. I’m sure both teams wouldn’t mind do-overs or better patience. Part of the problem might be player development and player personal. Some rookies go to teams that have several lottery picks, which makes it hard to build chemistry, especially when a lot of young players are fighting to make a name for themselves.
You can also attribute some of the struggles of young players to coaches. Some coaches know how to get the best out of their young players while some don’t. Sometimes a change in scenery will help a young player. Instead of being on a team full of young players he may go to a team with more veterans, coaches that believe in him and the team might have better player development, which is key to a young player’s success.
I’m not sure if there is a right time to give up on a young player. Every year at the end of the NBA season an NBA player is awarded the Most Improved Player of the Year, showing players do get better in the league.