Where does Los Angeles Lakers point guard, Lonzo Ball, rank among the other guards in the league on the defensive end.
Here are Lonzo Ball’s month by month stats via www.nba.com (I’m only ranking Lonzo against players who’ve played at least 20 minutes a game).
October: The Lakers played 8 games and went 3-5. Lonzo Ball had a 113.1 Defensive Rating throughout October which ranked 89th among all guards in the NBA.
November: The Lakers played 14 games and went 10-4. Lonzo Ball had a 104.1 Defensive Rating throughout November which ranked 32nd among all guards in the NBA.
December: The Lakers have played 5 games so far and have gone 4-1. Lonzo Ball has 101.9 Defensive Rating which ranks 35th so far in December. Ball’s ranking has gone down, because there are many guards in the NBA playing good defense, but his Defensive Rating is actually better than it was in November and October.
Why has Lonzo Ball gotten better month to month? There are three main reasons why.
1.) The most important reason why Lonzo’s played better defense as the season’s gone on is because he’s gotten healthier. At the beginning of the season he was still coming back from offseason knee surgery and he was clearly a step slow during the first 10 to 15 games of the season. Right now, in December, he’s looking fast and explosive. Last game against the Heat he had a couple of really athletic looking dunks.
2.) An equally important reason why Lonzo’s defensive rating has gone down (The lower the defensive rating the better) is because Tyson Chandler joined the team. There’s been enough written about Chandler’s effect on the team, so I’m not going to go into detail about his impact, but I will say that his interior defense has helped every Lakers perimeter player’s Defensive Rating and the team’s overall defensive rating tremendously. It’s amazing that a player who’s averaging 21 minutes a game can make such a difference, but he really cleans up a lot of mistakes at the rim.
3.) One other reason why Lonzo struggled on defense at the beginning of the season is because he was guarding better point guards. Before Chandler came over to the Lakers, Lonzo had to guard James Harden, Jamaal Murray, Kyle Lowry, and Damian Lillard twice. Those point guards can make any player look bad, especially if they are just coming back from knee surgery.
It’s clear that month by month Lonzo has played better defense, but as I’ve watched, the most recent Lakers games it’s obvious that he’s really been helping the team win just from his defense. Over the last 10 games he’s really locked up opposing starting point guards:
Game 18: Ricky Rubio scored 7 points on 3-12 shooting
Game 19: D.J. Augustin scored 12 points on 5-9 shooting
Game 20: Jamaal Murray scored 20 points on 8-18 shooting
Game 21: Darren Collison scored 9 points on 3-12 shooting
Game 22: Dennis Smith Jr. scored 13 points on 5-14 shooting
Game 23: E. Okobo scored 3 points on 1-9 shooting (Booker is the Suns de facto starting PG, but he got injured during this game, so Okobo played 30 minutes)
Game 24: Bryan Forbes scored 2 points on 1-7 shooting
Game 25: Bryan Forbes scored 11 points on 4-8 shooting
Game 26: Michael Conley scored 12 points on 4-12 shooting
Game 27: Goran Dragic scored 7 points on 3-9 shooting
Every advanced stat shows that’s Lonzo Ball is continually improving and with the exception of Jamaal Murray, over the last ten games, he hasn’t allowed another team’s starting point guard to score more than 13 points, which is exceptional in today’s NBA. Lonzo also passes the eye-test.
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He always seems to be in the right place at the right time especially during clutch situations. Late in the game I love seeing Lonzo on the court, because he continually makes huge defensive plays when the Lakers need them most. He constantly gets strips when big’s try to post him up on the block, or he comes down with huge rebounds, or he simply D’s up his man during the last few minutes of close games.
One final note: Lonzo’s defensive has really improved, but over the last 10 games, he’s not even close to having the best Defensive Rating on the Lakers. I was shocked when I saw who (minimum 20 minutes played per game) had the best Defensive Rating on the Lakers over the last ten games: It’s Brandon Ingram.
Ingram has the 5th best Defensive Rating in the NBA (yes you read that correctly, in the NBA) over the last 10 games. Chandler is ranked 6th in the NBA, Kyle Kuzma is ranked 18th, LeBron is ranked 20th, Lonzo is ranked 23rd, and Josh Hart is ranked 24th.
The Lakers have 6 players ranked in the top 25 in Defensive Efficiency over the last 10 games. You don’t have to tell me that ten games is a small sample size: I know. With that said, if the Lakers keep it up, they could end up finishing the season as the 2nd seed in the West. In this writer’s opinion, Lonzo is the Lakers most important defender, because he’s responsible for shutting down the other team’s point guard, so I hope he continues his monthly trend of getting better on D.