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 Stop worrying about Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball was on national TV on Thursday, and instead of leaving viewers speaking in tongues he stayed rather invisible, insomuch as Lonzo Ball can ever drift outside the spotlight.

He took two shots in 28 minutes, missing both, and had just four assists in a game in which the Lakers scored in the triple digits. Ball created nine of 110 Lakers points, or eight percent. This is not the Lonzo Ball we were sold.

This Lonzo Ball, though, is not the Lonzo Ball we shall receive. Players are not who they are after eight NBA games, especially not at age 20. Lonzo especially will be slower to put up consistent numbers because of the style he plays. He wasn’t a huge scorer in college — under 15 points per game — and doesn’t project to be a 20-point guy in the NBA.

Tossing up a Fabregé looks especially bad in the context of this rookie class, which is quite good. Eleven rookies are currently averaging at least 10 points per game, including Ball’s Summer League co-star Kyle Kuzma. Ben Simmons has been legitimately awesome — he might actually be the rare All-Star rookie, given the East’s lack of marquee names — and is sprinting away with Rookie of the Year. Lonzo is not a scorer, and his shooting has been dreadful as he searches for ways to get himself clean looks on a team that lacks much passing overall. The context of this rookie class makes Lonzo look comparatively worse.

It’s worth remembering how other pass-first, deferential point guards looked early on.

Jason Kidd scored 10 or fewer points in six of his first seven NBA games despite playing big minutes. He scored 10 or fewer points in more than half of his games as rookie while starting every night and averaging 34 minutes per game. He shot 38 percent from the floor. And he was 18 months older than Lonzo is.

One reason not to worry about Lonzo Ball: Jason Kidd.

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Kidd became an All-Star the following season, and he’ll be in the Hall of Fame in a year.

Steve Nash could always shoot, but he couldn’t get on the floor too much as a 22-year-old rookie. When he did, Nash was pretty invisible. Even after being sent to Dallas and becoming a full-time starter in 1998-99, his numbers were soft: just 8 points and 5.5 assists per game in 32 minutes while shooting 36 percent from the floor. He was 24. Lonzo just turned 20.

Nash eventually won two MVPs.

Ricky Rubio came over from Spain at age 21. He averaged just over 10 points per game as a rookie, shooting 35 percent from the floor. He only scored 20 points or more once as a rook (albeit in an injury- and lockout-shortened season). Rubio has never been an All-Star and perhaps never will reach that status. But he’s been a solid, well-paid NBA starter, and looks like he’ll help lead the Jazz to the playoffs this season.

Toronto Raptors v Los Angeles LakersToronto Raptors v Los Angeles LakersPhoto by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

We don’t know where on the spectrum of Rubio to Kidd Lonzo will eventually land. That’s just the point. We don’t know how good Lonzo Ball will be at this point. You know the old sports adage that you can’t win a game in the first half but you can lose one? The reverse is true for NBA rookies. You can tell who is going to be a star, but you can’t tell who is going to be a bust.

That’s especially true eight games into the season. Ben Simmons is going to be a monster. Lonzo Ball? We’ll see. Nothing’s even close to off the table yet.


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