Over the past few months, there have been several reports that LeBron James is leaning towards signing with Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers. According to Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck, “the general belief around the league is that, if he does leave, he’ll land with the Lakers.” Although these rumors are picking up more steam each day, Magic Johnson would’ve to trade Lonzo Ball; to turn the rumor from a dream into reality.
Throughout the past seven seasons, teams who obtained the services of Lebron have incorporated an offensive system; that is meant to showcase his ability to pass the ball and get to the basket. As a result, he usually walks the ball up until the three-point line and evaluates how the defenders are positioned. For instance, if a defender is playing off of a three-point shooter, he is supposed to pass the ball to the wide-open shooter. On the other hand, if all the defenders are staying close to their man he is expected to evaluate the size of his defender. If the defender is smaller than him, he should post up in the mid to low block and back him down until he can to a spot where he can shoot a jumper. But if his defender is the same size as him he should use his speed and strength to get around him to attack the basket. However, there will be some instances where the defense will collapse on him, and he should pass the ball to the perimeter for the wide open three. Furthermore, on occasion, the team will break out some different sets within their playbook to prevent from becoming a predictable offense. For example, the team may have LeBron act like he is going to post up at the free throw line and have him pass the ball to a teammate doing a backdoor cut to the basket.
Due to this, the Lakers would have to surround LeBron with players who can catch and shoot or know how to move without the ball. Unfortunately, both of these skill sets nullify Lonzo Ball’s best attribute; Ball has been described as a player who possesses excellent court vision and passing ability. According to DraftExpress, “Ball showed he has the vision, timing, accuracy, and overall foundation to eventually make every read necessary at the NBA level… and locate shooters”. Due to this, he needs to be on a team where he would be the primary ball handler; and is allowed to analyze the defense to determine what is the right pass. For instance, the traditional pick and roll offense would be an ideal system for him because he can bring the ball up to the three-point line and ask for a screen. Once the pick was set Ball can pay attention to his defender to determine the next course of action, for instance, if the defender went under the screen, Ball can go over it and take the wide open shot. On the other hand, if the defender went over the screen, Ball can go over it as well and drive towards the basket where he can score or pass the ball to the player next to him or to the perimeter depending on whether he was double teamed or not.
As you can see, both of these players need to have the ball in their hands for a significant amount of time to be effective. Due to this, they would need at least one season to figure out where everyone is supposed to be on the court and to develop chemistry. For instance, there would be many possessions in the early portions of the first season, where one player will bring the ball up the floor and hold it for the majority of the shot clock. Meanwhile, the other player is standing behind the three-point line acting as a spot-up shooter. This is because the duo will need multiple games to develop timing as to when they should move without the ball and where to end up. Unfortunately, neither LeBron James or Lonzo Ball can be productive in the spot-up shooter role; because they have a below average shooting percentage from behind the arc. According to Basketball-Reference, LeBron has a career three-point shooting percentage of 34.2 percent, while Lonzo is shooting 23.1 percent. Consequently, opposing teams will leave the shooter wide open and use the extra defender to provide help defense.
Therefore it would behoove Magic Johnson to trade Lonzo Ball for some more shooters to stretch out the defense thus giving LeBron more room to maneuver.