Well, well, well. Another Miami Heat possible acquisition, another point guard. While the three different Heat needs are basically all over the board, it gives us some diversity to talk about certain options. But as I will continue to harp on, the other two needs just won’t work unless you fulfill the point guard position.
Unrestricted free agents like Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley are clear options, but why not talk about it in a more complicated fashion? Lonzo Ball will be a restricted free agent this off-season, and decisions will have to be made.
As I’ve talked about with players like CJ McCollum in the past, new coaches like to take the franchise player and try to build around him only. That leaves second and third options in a weird spot, which could either be used as a trade chip or just walk away.
The New Orleans Pelicans are going to have to immediately please Zion Williamson following recent reports, and the way to please him is to win. So, if they end up moving on from Ball, could the Miami Heat enter the discussion?
I believe so, but it’s going to come down to timing this off-season. As I usually do, let’s just jump right into his overall game, and evaluate the ways that he can patch up some of Miami’s weaknesses…
Oh, A Point Guard
If you’ve been watching Lonzo Ball for some time, you’d know that the clip above isn’t anything new. It was seen in AAU basketball, high school, college, and now the NBA. He’s a gifted passer, but more importantly, he’s a fast paced passer.
What that means is that he’s instinctive. Decision making is a key element to many young player’s games, especially most of the youthful Heat players on the current roster. The thing about that attribute is that it can always be improved, but it’s obvious that you either have it or you don’t.
Well, Ball has just that, and the Miami Heat need just that. Transition play-making aside, which I’ll dive into down the line, they need a guy who can set up half-court sets for guys like Bam Adebayo to truly thrive.
It’s not just about his passing opening guys up, but what that skill leads to. In a very odd New Orleans environment, including another point guard in the back-court and plenty of isolations for Brandon Ingram or post touches for Williamson, he had a bunch of off the ball reps. And that’s the one thing that prepared him for this type of offense.
Yes, Adebayo and others need a trusted facilitator to take the keys, but creating a free-flowing offensive rhythm is more than that. Those off-ball reps in New Orleans allowed him to be a screener in many actions, either slipping them for triples or getting guys moving downhill.
Not only does Adebayo need that guy to get him downhill, but being a threat when slipping screens eliminates the delayed recovery. Luckily for Ball, he’s become a threat in that area….
Entering the NBA draft, everybody had an opinion about Lonzo Ball’s crooked looking jumper. Would it work at the next level? Would he eventually tweak it or is it too late? And the answer to that last question was apparent recently.
As time progressed, the jumper began to look more and more fluid, which then leads us into the effectiveness of it. Last season, he was still trying to figure it out a bit, and shot 37% from three on 6 attempts.
Then we saw both numbers increase this past season, jumping up to 39% from deep on 8 attempts a game. And from the Heat’s perspective, I believe that’s what makes him so much more intriguing at this stage.
He’s still growing as a player and a shooter, since the pull-up triple territory definitely needs another numbers booth. But nobody expected his spot-up shooting to look so pure this soon, so I guess anything is possible. When comparing him to some of the Heat’s guards, I believe they share a mutual thing relating to the mental side of the game.
We’ve noticed Tyler Herro thriving with confidence and rhythm when a couple of shots fall early, and Ball looks to be that same way when looking at him under a microscope. Discussing physical growth and dedication to improve is one thing, but being willing to jump up to 8 three-point attempts a game following a previous play-style is clearly another thing. That type of willingness is something else Miami should be taking note of as their exact build.
How Do Things Look Inside the Arc?
When shifting into the other two parts of the half-court offense, the narrative changes a bit. Some of the offensive issues are shown when he’s put in these one-on-one or downhill situations, which is clearly something the Heat also lack.
He thrives in certain PnR sets, but not for the same reasons that many other players that I’ve discussed do. He doesn’t dominate with a great amount of separation or a go-to floater/mid-range pull-up. He pressures the rim with his gifted passing ability that the defense is awaiting.
It’s not that he’s incapable of surveying the mid-range for good looking buckets, since plenty of flashes came up like the one above. The beloved snake dribble and right to left step-back equals Lonzo Ball’s PnR peak scoring abilities. If they could get that consistently, this discussion changes.
I don’t want you to think everything is all good with this type of acquisition, even though I’m highlighting a lot of strengths. Miami would be putting a lot into this type of addition, so they will have to be absolutely confident that it makes sense for the team’s short-term and long-term success.
Will the inside the arc stuff be the deterrent for Miami’s interest? I don’t believe so, but the cost may do that for them instead. Once again, the timing of all this will be the true tell, since the Heat won’t be risking this off-season all together for Lonzo Ball. If things line up though at the right time, it’s definitely a possibility.
Some Fast-Break Control
Speaking of high school and college flashes, nothing has changed about Ball’s willingness to run the floor freely. As I touched on in my latest piece answering some off-season questions, transition buckets are an interesting way to view things.
Usually pure youth lineups are the team’s that dominate the fast-break, like the Charlotte Hornets, but with a “position-less” unit, it feels like that area should be harped on more. And after the latest playoff series with a general lack of half-court offense, opening up the floor wouldn’t be the worst thing.
In a lot of ways, the point guard this team ends up getting will tell you how things will operate offensively. The offense would look much different with Ball in it compared to Lowry or Conley, leaving this whole topic up in the air. But in the event that Ball does find himself in Miami, I believe we see an offensive shift.
As I touched on earlier, this type of move would be a pretty big risk for the Heat, so they must alter certain things to make it work. Ball is the type of player that can adjust rather quickly, and he would fit an Erik Spoelstra type of scheme. Why is that? Although Ball is linked to an AAU or high school play-style, Coach Spo is basically the same way, just in a much more complex way.
2-2-1 presses to 2-3 zones to defensive gems free lancing. He’s basically the ideal coach for a guy like Lonzo Ball, but how does he look on that end of the floor?
Point of Attack Defense Slotting In
To answer that question that I just proposed, he is known to create havoc on the defensive end. Unlike a lot of other defensive guys that I dove into so far, Ball isn’t good at just one specific spot of a defense, which is why I say that Coach Spoelstra would love that type of gem.
Active hands, quick feet, and other physical adjectives don’t do him justice, since his IQ is what makes him so impactful. Looking at the clip above, you’d notice at the beginning of the play that four Pelican defenders are guarding three Warriors players.
How did they not capitalize with Draymond Green surveying the floor? Well, that’s because of the small elements of Lonzo Ball’s game.
He was the one guarding Green on this play, which led to him dipping all the way down for tags, daring him to shoot the three. It leads to a bunch of switching and recovering, leaving Ball guarding Andrew Wiggins as Green drove to the basket.
If you watch the play slowly, you’d notice that Ball reacts as soon as Green goes into his spin. The thing about that is he knows the following step is usually the easy kick-out in motion. He jumps out onto Wiggins, putting his arm up in the air, without looking, to deflect the pass. The steal is obtained and into transition offense they go.
The phrase one-dimensional comes up a lot in all of these pieces, but Ball could be able to cure some of that with his diverse and growing game on both ends. To be honest, if you were to ask me if this acquisition is super likely, I would probably lean no due to the unrestricted free agents appearing to be the favorites, but anything can happen in an NBA off-season.
If some things go in a different direction over the next month or so, we may be having a different discussion about the new starting point guard of the Miami Heat, and I’d bet Lonzo Ball’s name has swarmed around the front office at times.
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