There are so many storylines leading into the upcoming NBA season it’s ridiculous. From LeBron and D-Wade in Cleveland, to Melo and Paul George teaming with 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook and doing the "Superfriends" thing down in Oklahoma City, to whether or not James Harden and Chris Paul are ready to help the Houston Rockets contend against the Golden State Warriors.
Prominent basketball insiders are all frothy-mouthed over many question marks hovering over the league as we gear up for the season opener on October 17.
Amid that pantheon of basketball intrigue sits a story that’s getting very few headlines as of yet. Out in Los Angeles, rookie Lonzo Ball is getting crazy headlines. In limited preseason action, he is averaging a little over six points per game to go along with six assists and four and a half boards in two preseason games. Though he didn’t play in Utah or Orlando, Ball represented in the Las Vegas Summer League, wildin’ to the tune of 9.3 assists per game.
Lonzo Ball - Preseason Debut Highlights - 5 Pts, 7 Rebs, 8 Asts vs Timberwolves | 2017 NBA Preseason
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Though his janky ankle has been something of a concern, basketball pundits have been talking about his court vision and leadership before he even got into the league. In addition, his rebounding and athleticism are recognized as strengths as well. Magic Johnson has been all in on Ball from Jump Street, gushing about the California kid's talents. Therefore, Magic's reputation as a talent evaluator is at stake if Lonzo doesn’t deliver the goods.
But it wasn’t that long ago when Lakers Nation was anticipating a breakout from another young man playing the very same position as Ball. His name is D’Angelo Russell, drafted with the 2nd pick in the 2015 NBA draft. Like Ball, Russell showed he belonged in the NBA right away, averaging 11 points during the 2015 NBA Summer League. That dipped to eight points per game during the 2015 NBA preseason.
Due to missteps regarding his maturity and locker room decorum, Russell is now a member of the Brooklyn Nets. However, there was always some concern that those who compared his skill set to Penny Hardaway and Brandon Roy were way off. The court vision scouts raved over appeared to be hyperbole. D’Angelo averaged a disappointing 3.3 assists per game his rookie year, but upped that total to 4.8 assists per game last year, to go along with a very respectable 15.6 points per game.
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If it weren’t for his violation against Nick Young aka Swaggy P, perhaps things would be different in Los Angeles. But, as things stand, Russell and Lonzo Ball will inevitably be judged against one another. Right now, Russell is the better player, but the over the next five years we will find out who is the better point guard. Once upon a time, being the point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers meant you had one of the most prestigious jobs in professional sports. So, the former "Great Lakers Hope" will of course be compared to the current one.
The Future. Lonzo Ball vs D'Angelo Russell #LakersNation #Lakers #brooklynnets #NBA #NBA2K18 #Nets #Epic @Lakers @BrooklynNets @Dloading
Thus far during the NBA preseason, Russell is showing that he is very difficult to guard off the dribble. He averaged nearly 16 points per game on 13.8 shots per game last season. With only Russell and perhaps second-year wing player Caris LeVert possessing the ability to consistently create shots for themselves, Russell’s shot count will skyrocket. I don’t believe it’s much of a stretch to say he’ll average over 20 points per game this season. Off the dribble and behind the line, Russell is able to exploit interesting angles with his lefty dominant scoring ability.
While out in Los Angeles, it is my wish that Lonzo Ball becomes everything he’s supposed to be and more. If he isn’t, borderline Lakers fans will infect the faithful and blame him, Magic and LaVar Ball for bumbling the situation. In the interests of competition and fairness, I hope they both ball out. But I’d advise folks reserve comparison between the two players for at least a couple months.