Here’s why Luke Walton thinks Lonzo Ball can become a great scorer

Lonzo Ball made five of 11 shots for 10 points to go with eight assists, eight rebounds, four blocks and three steals Thursday night against Ben Simmons and the 76ers.
(Chris Szagola / Associated Press)

Scoring hasn’t been Lonzo Ball’s forte at the start of his rookie season, but when Lakers Coach Luke Walton was asked if he thinks Ball can be a great scorer in the NBA, he answered affirmatively.

“I do,” Walton said Saturday. “He has such a great feel for the game. You saw it [Thursday] night the way he was getting to the rim and pushing it in transition, he just understands angles and he’s got the speed as he becomes stronger and is able to finish more consistently around the rim. He’s got such a good knack for getting those shots. You add that with the ability that I think he’s going to be a fine NBA three-point shooter as well. It just, it makes for the ability to be a very good scorer.”

Against the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday, Ball had one of his better nights getting to the rim. He made five of 11 shots for 10 points to go with eight assists, eight rebounds, four blocks and three steals.

On Saturday at Charlotte, however, he had just five points.

Ball ranks just outside the top 10 rookies in points scored with 215, but he is shooting only 32% from the field and 24% from three-point range. At times, he has struggled with outside shooting and with scoring at the basket.


That Ball isn’t a prolific scorer isn’t especially concerning to the Lakers. His pass-first mentality and understanding of the game have produced the best assist-to-turnover ratio (7 to 2.6) of any rookie who has played at least 500 minutes this season.

“He’ll always want to pass first, which will also lead to him having scoring opportunities because defenders are going to be more worried about guarding their own man,” Walton said. “But he’ll be able to really put a lot of pressure on defenses.”

Ingram comes home

Although Kinston, N.C., is nearly a four-hour drive away, that doesn’t stop people from Brandon Ingram’s hometown from making the trek when he plays in Charlotte.

Ingram said after the Lakers’ shootaround Saturday that he expected 300 people from Kinston in the crowd.

“It’s amazing for me,” Ingram said. “To feel the support they’ve been giving me over the years, it’s continued support. I just want to thank them.”

Ingram scored 18 points with six rebounds in Saturday’s 110-99 win. The previous time Ingram played in Charlotte, the Lakers lost and Ingram scored four points in 28 minutes.


His role is much different in his second NBA season. Ingram is averaging more than 16 points and has scored in double figures 21 times in 25 games.

“I’m very excited to come out here and show that I’m a different basketball player and of course ultimately come out and get a win,” Ingram said.

Subbing for the coach

Charlotte coach and former Lakers assistant Steve Clifford is out indefinitely with an undisclosed medical condition and assistant Stephen Silas still is seeking his first win after three games as the Hornets’ interim coach.

It’s a position familiar to Walton, who served as the Golden State Warriors’ interim coach when Steve Kerr needed to step away.

“When I was in Golden State, we talked every day on the phone,” Walton said of Kerr. “I’d fill him in on how practice went. He’d watch games, we’d talk on the way home: ‘Do you have any suggestions on what you saw?’ It was an everyday thing with us but that’s just case by case.

“You find out a lot about the added responsibilities … when you slide over one chair. It definitely takes a little bit of getting used to. At least for me it did.”


Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli