The Los Angeles Lakers are finally digging themselves out of the hole that they’ve been stuck in for the past four seasons; in that time span, they’ve won just 91 games (.227 win percentage). Fueling the engine that’s driving them towards a brighter future is the man they selected with the second overall pick in last year’s draft, Lonzo Ball. Ball is an unbelievably crafty passer who has a basketball IQ comparable to the great Magic Johnson — the same man who drafted him.
Lonzo will take the reigns for the Lakers this upcoming season and his game will surely be dissected and critiqued until we know his social security number and favorite hibachi restaurant. One area of his game constantly being ridiculed is the odd form of his jump shot.
I’m here to argue that Ball’s shot is magnificent. A pure work of art. If a piece of art is worth (nearly) a thousand words, Ball’s jump-shot must be worth millions of dollars.
Let’s look at the way Lonzo shoots. He swings the ball from his right hip to the left, brings the ball up into his shooting motion on the left side of his body, and then flicks the ball from the left side of his head. He does this all despite being right-handed.
He technically leads the ball with his right hand even though he shoots from the opposite side. It’s a unique shot that would be even more heavily criticized if it didn’t go in. But it does, and it’s beautiful.
Ball’s shot is unconventional, but he’s mastered the technique and his 41.2 shooting percentage from three during his college career proves it. He isn’t the first NBA player we’ve seen with an unusual jump shot (and he won’t be the last), but his form truly is a sight to behold. His shot is always one fluid motion that flows around his body almost in the shape of a “J,” and his release point is right where it should be, eye-level.
Shooting from the left side of the body while leading with his right hand allows him to add extra power from his left hand. This gives him more control over how much strength he needs to fire up a shot. Although, it does impact his ability to shoot the ball in a straight line. This most likely explains why he can shoot from so far beyond the arc while also shooting such a low free-throw percentage. His high release point and 6-foot-6 stature allow him to get shots off over most defenders at his position. He’s one of the few right-handed players who actually prefer to shoot fading left.
Ball’s shot is so bizarre that one can’t help but to gaze in awe at it’s path to the basket. This type of shot is what made Kevin Martin a respectable player. Martin was an excellent pro and was a knock-down shooter for the majority of his career. Martin also used a similar technique to the one that Ball employs, although he shot more towards the middle of his body compared to Ball.
One of the biggest challenges Ball will face on the court (and from the fans) will be whether or not his shot will translate to the NBA. Shooting over 41 percent from three in college can lead us to believe he can shoot further back, but those extra three feet can feel like forever. We’ve seen players such as Kevin Martin and Shawn Marion survive and thrive (well, Marion survived more than thrived when it came to his long-range) shooting from the NBA’s three with unicorn-like forms, and Ball should be no exception.
In Summer League, we received an incredibly tiny taste as to how good Ball can be. The sample size is small, but he was doing everything on offense; from passing to driving to shooting. He shot only 10-42 from deep during his six summer games with the Lakers, but — as shown in the clips above and below — when he has time to set himself, he can absolutely knock it down.
Ball’s most noticeable strength isn’t his jump shot, but rather his through-the-roof IQ level and his potential as a premiere floor general. This is what makes his jump shot so dangerous. His ability to penetrate the lane and pick apart entire defenses is what the opposition should be worried about the most. Teams will have to respect him in the pick-and-roll, and at that point, defenders will have to pick their poison. Teams will likely go under any screen where he is the ball handler, which they should. He’s so much of a creative passing threat that he can pull points out of thin air when it looks like there is nothing there. Going over a screen would be foolish from the defender’s perspective. When the defender goes under, Ball will have a clean look at the basket. Given Ball’s height and release point, no point guard (and few shooting guards) will be able to give Ball’s shot a clean contest.
Lonzo Ball doesn’t have to shoot over 40 percent from three for him to utilize the deep ball effectively. He’s a smart and talented enough player that he will contribute in other areas, and his three-pointer might be something he keeps in his back pocket. He doesn’t have the most conventional jump shot, but its uniqueness is what draws the attention. You don’t have to understand art to appreciate it, and you don’t have to understand why Ball shoots the way he does to appreciate it for what it truly is. Art.