Since losing Lonzo Ball to injury back on January 19th against the Rockets, the Lakers have dealt with a number of injuries, specifically to their young core. However, arguably no player’s absence has had a greater impact on the Lakers overall play as a team.
Despite seeing his points, rebounds, and assists per game all take a step back this year, Lonzo had been showing increased efficiency from the field. Also considering that the Lakers brought in a ball dominant walking 25/7/7 stat line in LeBron James, it makes sense that Lonzo’s surface level production would drop.
Keep in mind that LeBron returned from his groin injury in early February, so the stats we will be looking at (February Laker Team Splits) actually account for the Lakers having their star player back as well as a healthy Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram. By being able to look at the team’s production on the year pre and post-Lonzo, we can put together a fairly accurate representation of how his lineup presence impacts the team.
Lonzo Ball Injury Defensive Impact
The most obvious and glaring stat that jumps off the page is the Lakers team defensive rating since Ball left the lineup at the end of January. With Lonzo, the Lakers posted a 112.5 rating in October, a 103.4 in November, 106.7 in December, and 107.6 in January. However, taking a look at February, we see that number spike up all the way to 116.4.
Defensively, Lonzo brings a ferocious intensity and is arguably one of the best on-ball defenders in the NBA. With excellent size at 6’6″, a long wingspan, and surprising lateral quickness, Ball is adept at staying in front of his man. Beyond simply forcing tough shots for his opponent, Ball has incredibly quick hands and is a nightmare jumping passing lanes. His relentless pressure on opposing point guards forces them into bad decisions and helps to take offenses out of their element.
Without Ball in the lineup, the Lakers are at least still able to run out Rondo (a veteran defensive wizard) but get picked apart when Rondo needs rest. Even though Rondo is one of the best defensive players of his generation, he doesn’t provide the same relentless on-ball pressure that Lonzo brings to the table.
Lonzo Ball Injury Offensive Impact
One of the biggest detriments to Lonzo’s absence on the offensive end has been the rebounding presence of Ball. Although he doesn’t boast an extraordinary number of offensive boards, he is one of the best defensive rebounding guards in the league and is fantastic at pushing the pace following a rebound and catching the opposing defense on their heels. Despite a decreased role offensively this year, Ball showed improved shooting and looked increasingly comfortable playing alongside LeBron James.
While Ball’s defensive impact in the lineup is undoubtedly more impactful, his offensive skill set shouldn’t be undervalued despite putting up worse points, assists, and rebounds compared to his rookie year.
All in all, it is safe to say that the Lakers miss Lonzo’s presence on both sides of the basketball. While the offensive numbers look fairly similar, the defensive metrics truly showcase how valuable of a player he is to the Lakers.