Here is Lonzo Ball's biggest NBA challenge


Here is Lonzo Ball's biggest NBA challenge

Living up to the hype is a tall task. UCLA’s Lonzo Ball walks into a room to a warmed up crowd. His father, LaVar Ball, has already spouted superlatives to anyone and everyone that will listen. It’s not often you come across a college basketball player with his own town crier. 
Underneath the Big Baller Brand and the overpriced shoes is a 19-year-old point guard with limitless potential. At some point, the player is going to have to hand his father one of his prized, “Stay in Yo Lane” t-shirts and kindly ask him to give him some space. 
Ball is the best pure point guard in the 2017 NBA Draft, but there is plenty of room for improvement. He needs to work on his body. His perimeter shot is unorthodox to say the least. But the lead guard out of Chino Hills, California is a magician with the ball and has bonafide star potential.
Great size for the position at 6-foot-6, 190-pounds, Ball looks right over the top of opposing guards. He can sling a pass with either hand and he even plays off the ball on occasion. He looks for the outlet pass on almost every possession and he never stops surveying the court. 
While he often has the ball in his hands, he doesn’t over dribble. He’s not an all controlling guard like Rajon Rondo. At UCLA, he often took a pass from a teammate and moved it without a single bounce. Following the pass, he repositions himself on the court and looks for the pass back, often orchestrating the offense with the ball never touching the floor. 
Ball isn’t just an elite passer. He shot the lights out at the NCAA level, knocking down 73.2 percent from 2-point range and 41.2 percent from behind the arc. It’s hard to imagine him coming close to those numbers at the NBA level with the speed and length of the opposition, but he’s more than just an assist man. 
He is also an excellent rebounder for his position, grabbing 6.0 rebounds in 35.1 minutes per game. He tracks the ball in the air and is in constant motion. He doesn’t mind contact or mixing it up with the trees, although he needs to add weight and strength if he is going to continue this trend at the next level. 
On the defensive end, Ball plays the passing lanes and collapses on perimeter shooters. He has quick hands, posting 1.8 steals per game in his lone season in college. He falls asleep on occasion and he will need to get stronger to compete with NBA guards, but the basics are there. He won’t be a one-on-one stopper, but he should be fine as a team defender. 
In the locker room, Ball was clearly one of the leaders at UCLA, despite his standing as a freshman. His teammates spoke glowingly about him, as did head coach Steve Alford. He isn’t vocal, but his ability to run the show was evident. 
Body language and physique need work. His default stance is a concave chest with hands on hips. He is wiry, but still has the frame to add plenty of weight while retaining his flexibility. 
Ball isn’t overly athletic and his foot speed will be an issue against quick guards. He has defensive potential, but it is based on his instincts and high basketball IQ more than his physical tools. 

Although it goes in at a remarkable clip, Ball’s shot is odd. He brings the ball low and fires from the left side of his face. It’s Kevin Martin-esque, but without the trickiness. Whether he’ll have the space and time to get his shot off at the NBA level is a huge question mark. 
He also isn’t particularly creative as a scorer. Ball relies heavily on the transition game to get his stats. In the half court, he prefers the pass over the shot in pick-and-roll opportunities. His long range shot goes in and he scores well at the rim, but he lacks a mid-range game. 

While most basketball execs are saying that they don’t see an issue with LaVar Ball, there has to be a concern that the family brand is a bad fit for certain NBA cities. If Lonzo isn’t getting the opportunity to shine, it’s hard to imagine his father not popping up on televisions around the country to give coaching advice. 

Ball draws comparisons to plenty of players. He needs to do more to earn the Magic Johnson or Jason Kidd parallels, but a better shooting Ricky Rubio is a good starting point. He should have no problem running an NBA team and he has the ability to make the players around him better. 

The Kings would jump all over Ball if he fell to the fifth overall selection, but that isn’t likely to happen. He won’t work out for the Boston Celtics, who hold the top overall pick. If the Lakers don’t select him at No. 2, his prefered location, Philly would have to give him a hard look at three.


Buddy Hield is evolving, playing the best basketball of his career

Buddy Hield is evolving, playing the best basketball of his career

Take your tank emojis and throw them out the window. The Sacramento Kings are young, inexperienced and every once in a while, they throw up a complete dud. They are also scrappy and talented and improving with every game.

Saturday evening in Utah, they gave one of the hottest teams in the NBA 48 minutes of fight. In fact, they’ve been going to toe-to-toe with some of the game’s best and holding their own for a while now.

After playing Friday night at Golden State, the Kings made the late night flight to Utah to play on the second night of a back-to-back. With the quick turnaround, Dave Joerger turned to a starting lineup void of veterans. Garrett Temple and Kosta Koufos each saw time off the bench, but the first team was comprised of three rookies, a second-year player and third-year big Willie Cauley-Stein.

The future was on full display and the group had every opportunity to come away with their third straight victory. In the end, it wasn’t enough. 

The Jazz made free throws and got stops in the final 60 seconds to pull out a 103-97 win over the Kings. It was another learning experience for Sacramento in a season filled with learning experiences.

As the season winds down, the goal is to find silver linings in each contest. Despite playing their fifth game in seven nights, the Kings fought through the exhaustion against a team that has won nine straight and 21 of their previous 23 games. 

De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic are the backcourt of the present and the future in Sacramento. They’ve stolen the headlines with clutch shots over the last few games, but there is another young King putting in some of his best work.

Buddy Hield has come alive for Sacramento. The second-year shooting guard out of Oklahoma is playing the best basketball of his career down the stretch for the Kings and it goes well beyond his ability to knock down a jumper.

For the third straight game, Hield posted 20 points or more. He finished the night with a team-high 23 on 9-of-15 shooting from the field and 5-of-8 from behind the arc. That is what Buddy Buckets is paid to do - score baskets. But over the last few contests, Hield is finding ways to make his teammates better. 

In 34 of his 68 games coming into Saturday evening’s contest, Hield had dished out one assist or less, including 17 games without handing out a single dime. That’s not going to work in today’s NBA. 

His assist percentage of 11.6 is seventh lowest on the team, behind players like Cauley-Stein and veteran big man Zach Randolph and it’s the lowest amongst the Kings’ guards by far. 

While it’s a small sample size, Hield appears to be making strides in this area. He has been noticeably more generous with the ball, handing out 16 assists in his last three games. He’s led the Kings in assists in the last two games and the second unit is feeding off his team play. 

Sharing is caring in the NBA. With Hield acting as a distributor, his teammates are reciprocating. He’s getting open looks from the perimeter and over his last three games, he’s knocked down 12-of-25 from behind the arc. 

Led by Hield, the Kings’ bench has outscored the team’s last three opponents second unit by an incredible 163-54. The performance of the bench mob has helped Sacramento pick up wins over playoff teams in the Miami Heat and the Golden State Warriors and they kept the Kings in the game against Utah all the way down the stretch. 

The Kings’ young core is developing. They are showing massive signs of improvement at almost every position. The team is playing hard and they’re developing an identity. They are even picking up a few wins along the way. 

After upsetting Warriors, Kings battle schedule with fifth game in seven days


After upsetting Warriors, Kings battle schedule with fifth game in seven days

No break. After a surprising win Friday night on the road over the Warriors, the Kings hopped a flight to Utah where they’ll face the Jazz on the second night of a back-to-back Saturday evening. 

Buddy Hield came out firing off the Kings bench against Golden State, scoring 22 points on 5-of-10 shooting from long range. The shooting guard added seven rebounds and seven assists in one of his more complete games of the season.

Utah is in a fight for playoff position. They are currently tied with the Spurs for the seventh spot in the Western Conference chase, just a half game behind the Pelicans for the six seed. The Jazz have won eight straight and 20 of their last 22 games. 


Jazz by 15.5


Kings vs. The Pick-and-Roll -- Utah is one of the better pick-and-roll teams in the league. Rookie Donovan Mitchell is explosive and patient at the guard position and Rudy Gobert is a monster rolling to the rack. The Jazz have shooters all around the perimeter waiting for the kick out. This is a very good team playing at an elite level right now.


Kings: 23-47, fourth place in Pacific

Jazz: 39-30, fourth place in Northwest


Kings: SG/SF Iman Shumpert (plantar fasciitis) out, F Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out for the season.

Jazz: PG Ricky Rubio (knee) probable, C Tony Bradley (concussion) questionable, PG Raul Neto (wrist) out, SF Thabo Sefolosha (knee) out.


Rookie Watch -- Mitchell has been spectacular this season for Jazz. The Kings will combat the high-flying rookie with a pair of first-year guards of their own in Fox and Bogdanovic. It’s not often that a player comes into the league and makes an impact on a franchise like Mitchell has in his first NBA season.

The Gobstopper -- Gobert is a monster in the post. He plays the pick-and-roll to perfection with Mitchell and he is an absolute force on the defensive end. Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos will have to make his work on both ends of the court if the Kings have a chance of upsetting the Jazz. 

Put up a Fight -- This is the fifth game in seven nights for the Kings. It’s also a brutal back-to-back, with less than 24 hours between games. The key to this game is to escape with the team’s health intact, but it would be nice if they could make a strong showing in a difficult situation.


The Jazz hold a 2-0 advantage in the season series and they’ve won four straight over the Kings. Utah leads the all-time series 104-82 and holds a 81-49 advantage during the Sacramento-era.