The Lonzo Ball Era is Set to Tip-Off in Laker Land. What Kind of Statistics can we Expect from his Rookie Campaign?

June 28, 2017

By: Danny Kohan

After being selected by the Los Angeles Lakers with the second overall pick in the NBA Draft, D’Angelo Russell Brandon Ingram Lonzo Ball is being proclaimed the savior of La La Land.

Laker fans have suffered these past 28 years (Dog years, but feels like human) at the bottom of the NBA standings. But now, the father of L.A.’s prodigal son, Lavar Ball, is speaking playoffs into existence for the Lakers next season.

Playoffs?!? Yes, Playoffs.

Apparently, a new age is upon us and our very own Magic Curry-Westbrook Kidd will be running the show. Now, I don’t think even Lavar is expecting a Magic Johnson type rookie campaign from his son (you know NBA title, Finals MVP), but many ARE expecting three letters that Magic never accomplished…R.O.Y. (Rookie of the Year). In fact, Las Vegas oddsmakers currently have Ball as a 5-2 favorite to win the award.

Both Lonzo’s statistics and a jump in the Lakers season win total will determine if he does in fact come away with the prize. Below is a look at the last twenty-seven #2 picks in NBA history (since 1990) and the points/rebounds/assists/shooting percentage they had their rookie year (all stats ending in 0.5 or higher were rounded up). I have broken down their performance into four tiers.

While there are a multitude of factors that go into a player’s statistics (including minutes played, the paticular team’s style of play, even the league’s style and pace of play at the time, etc.), basic statistics give us a rough baseline for player comparison. The statistics listed below of course do not tell us the whole story, they don’t show the impact a Gary Payton had on the defensive end for example, and even the most advanced statistics cannot define the impact Jason Kidd’s leadership had on a historically putrid Dallas Mavericks franchise.

Still, it is these basic statistics, along with the improvement in a team’s win-loss record, that will determine the R.O.Y. winner and whether a player’s inaugural campaign lived up to the hype in the eyes of NBA fans.

What kind of statistics will Lonzo Ball pile up in the 2017-2018 season? In what tier will he land in?


Tier #1-     “Thank the Lord, We May Have Found Ourselves a Franchise Player”

Elite Rookie Year

Kevin Durant            20 pts / 4 rbs / 2 ast   43% FG  R.O.Y.           (19 yrs old)

Alonzo Mourning    21 pts / 10 rbs / 1 ast   51% FG                            (22 yrs old)

Steve Francis             18 pts / 5 rbs / 7 ast    45% FG  Co-R.O.Y.     (22 yrs old)

Emeka Okafor            15 pts / 11 rbs / 1 ast   45% FG   R.O.Y.          (22 yrs old)

Jason Kidd                  12 pts / 5 rbs / 8 ast    39% FG   Co-R.O.Y.    (21 yrs old)

Keith Van Horn        20 pts / 7 rbs / 2 ast     43% FG                           (22 yrs old)


A great statistical rookie year is of course a great sign of things to come. Kevin Durant and Jason Kidd became M.V.P. level players (Kidd should have won in 2002) and Alonzo Mourning and Steve Francis were both multiple time all-stars. However, even after a promising rookie season, you could still end up like Emeka Okafor and Keith Van Horn, just an above average starter, nothing more.

Van Horn and Okafor both entered the league at age 22, Okafor after three years of college basketball and Van Horn after four years respectively. The true freak of the group is Kevin Durant, who (like Lonzo Ball) entered the league at age 19 after only one year of college basketball and even though his skinny frame didn’t allow him to lift a single rep of 185 lbs on the bench press at the 2007 NBA Combine and even though he looked like the alien from Signs, was still able to make an immediate impact putting up twenty points per game.

Speaking of Signs, say what you want about M. Night Shyamalan, but that scene where we first see the alien still gives me the chills. If M. Night were an NBA player I would say his career most parralels Tyreke Evans. Incredible first year for a young first-time player/director of a major motion picture. M. Night writing and directing The Sixth Sense nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay Oscars, and in my book the best suspense thriller of all-time, at age 29. Tyreke, at age 20, after just one year of college, putting up 20 pts/ 5 reb / 6 ast 46% FG and winning rookie of the year.

Both then got progressively worse as their careers went on, to the point where their names in front of a trailer/opening day roster went from inspiring hope amongst fans to creating a sense of abject fear and an expectation of complete and total failure. You could talk me into some Derrick Rose parallels, since no Tyreke season truly hit the same high as The Sixth Sense, while Rose’s MVP season did, but remember that came in Rose’s third season, not his first. Plus, M. Night can’t explain it all away on a blown out knee.


Tier #2-       “Alright, Alright, Alright” (McConaughey Intensity)

Perfectly Solid Rookie Year

Mike Bibby               13 pts / 3 rbs / 7 ast   43% FG     (20 yrs old)

Marcus Camby        15 pts / 6 rbs / 2 ast   48% FG     (22 yrs old)

Jabari Parker          12 pts / 6 rbs / 2 ast   49% FG     (19 yrs old)

Antonio McDyes     13 pts / 8 rbs / 1 ast   49% FG     (21 yrs old)

Victor Oladipo         14 pts / 4 rbs / 4 ast   42% FG     (21 yrs old)

Michael Beasley      14 pts / 5 rbs / 1 ast    47% FG      (20 yrs old)

D’Angelo Russell    13 pts / 3 rbs / 3 ast    41% FG      (19 yrs old)


Mike Bibby and Marcus Camby became borderline All-Star type players and Jabari Parker was averaging 20 points per game last season before going down with a torn ACL for the second time in his three-year NBA career. Hopefully, Jabari’s career does not have the same trajectory as Antonio McDyes, who was destined to enjoy the same type of Camby/Bibby level production if it weren’t for injuries.

Michael Beasley was a bust and Victor Oladipo looked like he was going to have a solid, but not spectacular career with a chance to reach that borderline all-star level until teaming with Russell Westbrook this past season. Westbrook averaged a triple double and won MVP, but he also dominated the ball and left poor Victor to be more spectator than teammate.

Then there’s D’Angelo. Oh, D’Angelo.

After doing this exercise going into Russell’s rookie season, based on other #2 point guard picks, his college statistics, his disapointing summer league stats (12 pts/ 5 reb/ 3 ast 38% FG) and the opportunity he was expected to have on a young Lakers squad, I predicted 13 pts / 4 rbs / 5 ast on 42% FG for D’Angelo’s rookie campaign. Despite having to defer to the Kobe Bryant retirement tour and being firmly entrenched in coach Byron Scott’s dog house for much of the year, he put up numbers very close to just that. His assists numbers were down for a prospect touted to have rare vision, but his overall numbers fell somewhere between fellow #2 point guards Mike Bibby and Jay Williams, not terrible for a 19 year old.


Tier #3-   “Shit, We May Have Fucked This Up”

Disappointing Rookie Year

LaMarcus Aldridge          9 pts / 5 rbs / 0 ast   50% FG         (21 yrs old)

Gary Payton                         7 pts / 3 rbs / 6 ast   45% FG         (22 yrs old)

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist   9 pts / 6 rbs / 2 ast   46%  FG        (19 yrs old)

Shawn Bradley                    10 pts / 6 rbs / 2 ast   41% FG        (21 yrs old)

Brandon Ingram                9 pts / 4 rbs / 2 ast   40% FG        (19 yrs old)

Jay Williams                         10 pts / 5 rbs / 3 ast   40% FG      (21 yrs old)

Tyson Chandler                   6 pts / 5 rbs / 1 ast   50% FG        (19 yrs old)

Marvin Williams                 9 pts / 5 rbs / 1 ast   44% FG        (19 yrs old)

Derrick Williams                9 pts / 5 rbs / 1 ast   41% FG        (20 yrs old)

Evan Turner                          7 pts / 4 rbs / 2 ast   43% FG       (22 yrs old)

Kenny Anderson                 7 pts / 2 rbs / 3 ast   39% FG       (21 yrs old)

Stromile Swift                      5 pts / 4 rbs / 0 ast   45% FG       (21 yrs old)


This is why Laker fans shouldn’t overreact if Lonzo struggles in year one. Obviously, they will, but they shouldn’t. Despite poor first year numbers, many around the league (including the Lakers) are still high on Brandon Ingram, as they refused to include him in a DeMarcus Cousins deal at last year’s trade deadline and are now refusing to include him in any deal for Paul George.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Gary Payton became great Hall of Fame level players despite their pedestrian first year numbers and Tyson Chandler and Kenny Anderson were borderline all-star types for a few years there. Then again, for how high they were picked, the rest were busts. Not the greatest of signs for Brandon Ingram.


Tier #4-    “Oh, ya, we’re Definitely Fucked”

Rookie Year from Hell

Hasheem Thabeet   3 pts / 4 rbs / 0 ast   59% FG  (22 yrs old)

Darko Milicic             1 pts / 1 rbs / 0 ast   26% FG   (18 yrs old)

If Lonzo goes full Darko Thabeet….never mind, I don’t even want to consider this. That could probably only happen if Lonzo were a seven foot foreign project anyway, which clearly he is not.


If we simply examine the first year stats of point guards drafted at the #2 slot, we get:

Steve Francis         18 pts / 5 rbs / 7 ast   45% FG  Co-R.O.Y.     (22 yrs old)

Jason Kidd              12 pts / 5 rbs / 8 ast   39% FG  Co-R.O.Y.    (21 yrs old)

Mike Bibby               13 pts / 3 rbs / 7 ast   43% FG                          (20 yrs old)

D’Angelo Russell   13 pts / 3 rbs / 3 ast   41% FG                           (19 yrs old)

Gary Payton              7 pts / 3 rbs / 6 ast   45% FG                           (22 yrs old)

Jay Williams           10 pts / 5 rbs / 3 ast   40% FG                           (21 yrs old)

Kenny Anderson    7 pts / 2 rbs / 3 ast   39% FG                            (21 yrs old)


Only one player under the age of 21 made my Tier #1, a 19 year old Kevin Durant, and I do not expect Lonzo to do the same. I see him having a perfectly solid rookie season and falling somewhere within the top of Tier #2, with numbers very close to Mike Bibby’s inagural campaign. The only thing that could change that would be if Lonzo has a Jason Kidd type effect on his team, an effect that goes way beyond the numbers.

Jason Kidd, the player Lonzo is most often compared to, was co-rookie of the year in the 1994-1995 season (with Grant Hill) despite shooting an abismal 39% and averaging just 12 points. He did average 8 assists per game, but overall his rookie campaign numbers don’t blow you away. Then why was he co-rookie of the year? Because he lead the league in triple doubles (a stat that Westbrook’s MVP just demonstrated we are all still enamored with) and most importantly he improved the Mavericks record from a league worst 13-69 to 36-46, the largest improvement in the NBA that season.

Kidd’s dynamic passing and strong leadership skills, along with his stellar play on the defensive end, immediately transformed a Mavericks franchise that was at the time a laughingstock around the League. That’s exactly what Laker fans are hoping from Lonzo Ball and it’s what Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka banked on so heavily by dealing D’Angelo Russell to free up the ball for Ball.

They are betting on his intangibles more than anything, they are betting that he can lead, that he can improve the team from last year’s 26-56 into a team approaching the .500 mark. That his passing skills will transform the Lakers, that his presence will make everyone on the roster better.

So what’s my final verdict on Lonzo Ball’s rookie stats? Well, lets take one last look at the guy he will be compared to most by Lakers fans going forward, D’Angelo Russell.


D’Angelo Russell’s college stats:  19 pts / 6 rbs / 5 ast  45% FG

Lonzo Ball’s college stats:               15 pts/ 6 rbs / 8 ast   55% FG

NBA rookie point guards in paticular tend to struggle from the field, but Lonzo’s college field goal percentage is a very encouraging sign. 55% from the field is very high and may be evidence that concerns over his ugly shooting form are overblown. We can expect him to have more assists than D’Angelo, but he may have slightly less points in his first season, as he wasn’t as prolific a scorer in college.


D’Angelo Russell rookie year statistics:         13 pts / 3 rbs / 3 ast  41% FG   (19 yrs old)

My Prediction for Lonzo Ball Rookie Year:   12 pts /4 rbs /6 ast    43% FG  (19 yrs old)

I expect Ball to have better overall first year numbers than Russell and have similar numbers to Jason Kidd’s rookie campaign (12 pts / 5 rbs / 8 ast  39% FG) with slightly less assists and a higher FG%. For Lonzo to truly live up to those Jason Kidd career comparisons, however, he will need to add size to his thin frame (Kidd weighed 20 more pounds despite being two inches shorter which helped him consistently bulldoze his way into the paint and manhandle other point guards), make great strides on the defensive end (Kidd a 9X all-defensive team selection) where Ball often looked disinterested at UCLA and develop into an uber elite level playmaker who instantly makes everyone around him better.

The number Laker fans and the organization will care about most and what will determine if it is a Tier #1 R.O.Y. season for Ball will be the Lakers final win-loss record.

With no incentive to tank (no first round pick next year) and after another year of experience for the Baby Lakers, the team should increase their win total in the coming year, especially obviously if they can acquire Paul George at some point this season in a trade. However, I project the 76’ers to make an even bigger jump in the lowly Eastern Conference with a (hopefully) healthy Joel Embiid and the addition of #1 pick Markelle Fultz. Even if he ends up on a minutes restriction similar to Embiid last year, my prediction for rookie of the year is…

My Prediction for Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmons   14 pts/ 7 reb / 4 ast  47% FG  (20 yrs old)


What’s your prediction for Lonzo Ball’s rookie stats? Who do you think will win rookie of the year?

Leave a comment below or send me your prediction on Twitter @DannyKohan


Author: Danny Kohan

Twitter: @DannyKohan

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