Ball Vision

Even though his assist numbers are down from 7.2 to 4.8  per game this season, Lonzo Ball has his passing vision on display this season. Granted the decline in averages has a lot to do with Lebron James and Rajon Rondo joining, with Brandon Ingram having a more involved role as a ball handler.  Below are some pinpoint passes Lonzo has made this season.

Now, some of these passes look mundane and are not very flashy. But anyone who has played basketball before knows how hard some of these passes are to make, especially considering the speed and talent of NBA players. There are not any fancy behind the back alley-oop passes, but all of them hit the mark entirely and led to a score.

Over the top to Kuzma in traffic:

This was an excellent pass over the top, but Kyle Kuzma deserves 50 percent of the credit too for snagging the ball between three defenders and going up strong to finish.

Lonzo Pass Gif2

Demar DeRozan turned his head entirely, which set up the play. We can see there is a large hole to make the pass, with Dante Cunningham as the only help available backside. Lonzo makes the super pass, and if the defense hadn’t made a steal attempt on the pass, might not have produced a score.

Lonzo to Kuzma Over the top

To a cutting Kuzma from offensive rebound: 

Lonzo snags the offensive rebound and hits a cutting Kyle Kuzma for the layup with all five Dallas Mavericks mugging him.

Lonzo pass 11 Gif

We can see below that Ball has already issued the ball before Kyle gets into the paint. This would have to do with Lonzo having nowhere to go after jumping on the pass, but also seeing the play before it happened.

Lonzo to Kuzma offensive board

Touch pass to Lebron:

Lonzo ducks down the lane and hits Lebron James on a elegant touch pass for the score before the Denver Nuggets can react.

Lonzo pass 5 Gif

The powerful part of this pass is how quickly Lonzo touched it off to Lebron between three defenders while on the move. Running at full speed, down the paint, enclosed by Nuggets is a lot harder than it looks initially.

Lonzo Touch pass to Lebron.png

Scoop pocket pass to McGee short corner: 

This pass was utterly gorgeous. As Lonzo gets into the lane, he sees a small pocket between Alex Len and Kent Bazemore to squeeze a pass through.

Lonzo Pass 15 Gif

The margin of deviation on this pass is slim to none. Both Atlanta Hawk defenders are in pretty good position, and there is no other pass that Lonzo could have made to get this pass into McGee. The bounce pass is off the table and over the top would more than likely get tipped.

Underhand scoop to McGee.png

Overhand bounce pass in transition to Lebron:

Another astonishingly difficult throw to make on the move, an overhand bounce pass in transition at short range, hitting Lebron in gait.

Lonzo Pass Gif 14

Overhand passes are very complex because of the spin required to put on the ball to bounce it back up. This amplifies the pressure when the pass is in transition, full speed with defenders all around. On top of that, the short distance of the pass means a large amount of spin was required to get that kick back up.

Overhand bounce pass to Lebron.png

Crosscourt zip pass to cutting Ingram:

Another hard transition pass in stride that leads to an easy basket.

Lonzo Pass Gif 13

First off we can see Ingram giving Lonzo a heads up by lifting his hand, letting him know ” gimme the ball bitch “. Jimmy Butler is helping, while a trailing Andrew Wiggins is also in the picture to assist on the Laker fast break. As Lonzo catches the pass, his eyes are up already, planning to zip the pass through the tiny window of opportunity he has

To a cutting Ingram in transition.png

 

James orchestrating pick and roll

Lebron James has always had the size and vision, even coming in as a rookie, combine that with the willingness to share and you get one hell of a pick and roll player. With his shot somewhat improving since the 2004 rookie year, Lebron has become almost unguardable while running the pick and roll.

If you switch he isolates and demolishes whoever is tries to guard him 1 on 1. If you trap, then he has the size to see over double teams, the vision to hit an open man on a dime, and the willingness to do so time and time again. Below are a few examples of how Lebron James has been using the pick and roll this year with his new squad.

Example #1:  Lebron bullies the switch.

Lebron pick and roll Gif4

This pick and roll starts with Damian Lillard initially wanting to switch back, but Al-Farouq Aminu gets caught on Lonzo Ball and stays. This creates an easy mismatch for Lebron, as he just starts to back down Lillard in the post.

We can see Lebron surveying the defense, with a double team from Aminu on the horizon for King James. Lonzo fades to the corner, giving the defense more space to recover on the pass. The window Lebron has to hit is tiny, having to go over Jusuf Nurcic and JaVale McGee, while far away enough that C.J. McCollum cannot intercept it.

While the pass does not directly lead to a basket, the ” Hockey Assist” ends with Ingram attacking an off-balance defense to get a sturdy basket.

Example  #2: A ” Le Fuck You ” three on the switch

Lebron Pick and Roll Gif3

This time the Kings switch Lebron, and he decides to drop his field goal percentage with an ill-advised contested three. Everyone watching knows Lebron is going to shoot when he backs up after the switch, getting his rhythm to jack up the shot. Surely Luke Walton would instead Lebron attack with a slower defender on him, but with all Lebron’s greatest, you do get shots like this from him every now and then.

Example #3: Using the pick as a decoy to attack

This time Lebron uses the pick as a decoy, setting up Taurean Prince like he is going to use the pick, but then he doesn’t.

Lebron Pick and Roll Gif 2

Already Prince has his momentum leaning towards the impending screen by JaVale McGee, and with the baseline wide open, Lebron engages in a smoooooth crossover to get into the paint.  While he does miss and travel at the same time, this demonstrates Lebron’s ability to see a play before it happens.

Example #4: Defender going under the screen 

This time the Atlanta Hawks defender goes under the screen while switching at the same time. This gives Alex Len a lot of space to cover in an attempt to contest the shot, but barely being 30 percent shooter from downtown on the season, this wasn’t a bad move by the defense.

Either scenario ends with a mismatch on the perimeter, so why not make Lebron shoot a semi-contested three instead of putting pressure on the defense via  drive to the basket.

Lebron Pick and Roll gif1

Brandon Ingram’s midrange arsenal

Brandon Ingram has had a subpar start to the season so far. Scoring is down 1 point from last season, assists down, rebounds down and field goal percentage precisely the same as 2017-2018. New teammate Lebron James might have something to do that with, but a lot of Ingram’s shots just aren’t going in, even with a solid shot selection.  Below are some examples of Ingram getting good shots out of his midrange positioning, even if some of them don’t go in.

Ingram post fadeaway:

Ingram gif 1

Here Ingram takes advantage of the size he has on De’Aaron Fox by taking him down into the post. Although Ingram uses four dribbles to get within seven feet of the basket and is able to rise up over Fox using his length. Sacramento got cheeky and offered Fox zero help, so Ingram ended up with a splendid look at the rim.

Brandon is able to fade just a bit and take the shot over his right shoulder. Fox had little interest in contesting the ball, so it ended up being a wide open look, Ingram just missed it short.

Ingram Step Back Jumper:

Ingram jumper 2

This time Brandon Ingram is on the move, with De’Aaron on his hip. Before he reaching Cauley-Stein in the paint, Ingram takes a Harden-esque step-back-to-his-right mind range shot. Brandon takes the step back, gathers his feet well, and rises up with a fadeaway. Ingram hasn’t shrunk height wise yet in this game, so he still has the size advantage over Fox.

This was another clean look Brandon Ingram has had this season, that did not even miss that bad, just shots not going in that are very makeable.

Ingram attacking the rim:

Ingram Scoring 3

Here Ingram attacks out of a post-face-up isolation on the wing. After one jab step, Brandon makes his move on a second jab step with a slight hesitation sprinkled on top. Ingram attacks the left foot of his defender, which is at a higher position than his right, making it seem like a half-ass attempt to force Ingram baseline.

With Brandon attacking the ” higher ” foot, this forces his defender to turn his body around trying to recover. Ingram’s lack of hardiness allows the defender to recover using his superior physicality, but Brandon takes a long second step to gain extra space. The end result is Ingram drawing a foul.

Ingram contested midrange:

Ingram Gif4

This picks up at the end of the shot clock about halfway through the first. Ends up being a broken play, forcing Ingram to take a contested mid-range at the end of the clock. The play looks like it was made to include a double screen for Ingram to run off.

For starters, Lonzo Ball sets the laziest god damn pick imaginable, gently caressing Willie Cauley-Stein before going to daydream on the wing. Tyson Chandler just says ” fuck it ” and doesn’t set a pick, all while Brandon Ingram leaves too early, and makes a wide curl to the ball.

All these things lead to Ingram catching it on the wing, one failed pump fake and a missed shot, all while flailing around like Woody from Toy Story.

Ingram pump fake and shot:

Ingram Scoring 4

Brandon Ingram gets the ball off an inbounds pass, and initially gets the defender to semi bite on a pump fake.  Attacks the paint with two dribbles to his right, then throws in another pump fake. The defender does a good job staying down on the second fake. Brandon gathers himself, squares to the basket and fades away just enough to get the shot off.

This was a well-contested shot made, and the defense did everything right. An example of Ingram using his height and length to get the shot off in a tight spot.

Ingram catch and shoot:

Ingram gif 5

Brandon comes off the screen with his hands in position ready to shoot. Catches the pass from Rajon Rondo, squares up to the basket rises up and nails the basket. Chandler gets away with an illegal screen which helped free up Ingram. Defense does an excellent job recovering, but not enough to irritate BI.

 

All of the above shots are makeable shots, mid-range shots. The only issue is whether these are shots that will eventually go in for Ingram, or he will always be a 35 percent shooter from the 3-16 feet range.  Brandon is getting a lot of open looks at the basket, and could very well end up 22+ points per game scorer if he can start making a few more of these a game.

 

Lakers using the A-Set offense

Lakers using A-Set offense to utilize Lebron

With Lebron James, there are many different sets that you can use him in, and the Lakers have been using him a lot in the ” A-Set ” offense as of late. Lakers have been using mostly one of Rajon Rondo, Lonzo Ball, and Brandon Ingram to initiate the offense.

The other two wings on the floor usually start or end up at in the corner at some point. The four and five are each at an elbow of the high post, Lebron at the four with JaVale McGee at the 5. From there the Lakers can use Lebron in pick and roll combinations, or use him as a decoy.

Because of the gravity Lebron draws while on the court, he soaks up a lot of attention wherever he is on the floor. If Lebron was a terrible finisher, you could just stay with him at all times and let him make contested shots at the rim to beat you. If Lebron was a subpar passer, you could double him and force him to make a pass over two defenders. Unfortunately for defenses, Lebron is a great finisher and amazing passer.

While not all lead to a score, below are six examples of the Lakers using  ” A-set ” the past couple games.

Using Lebron as pick and roll ball handler- Here Ingram initiates the offense by dropping the ball to Lebron at the high post. McGee comes over to set a screen on Lebron’s right, allowing him to attack using his strong hand.

Coming off the pick, Lebron is able to turn the corner on Jimmy Butler. Karl-Anthony Towns was in good position to contest the shot but  Lebron goes right up for the layup.

Lakers Set 2

Lebron passing out of the high post: This one is a simple example because the basket comes off a poor gamble by the defense. James gets the entry pass from Lonzo at the high post, Josh Okogie comes blindside to try and take advantage of Lebron having his back turned. Gamble fails and Lebron zips it to Ingram for the layup.

Lebron Gif # Final

Using Ingram in a pick and roll: Lakers start in the Horns formation again, running Ingram across the front of Lebron and Tyson Chandler, getting a pass on the right wing. From there, Chandler comes over and sets a screen for Ingram. The screen is used, and Brandon gets a nice midrange shot to go in.

Laker Set 7

Going through the reads: Lonzo passes to Ingram on the wing instead of starting at the high post. McGee flashes to the three-point line to get the pass.

After passing to the wing, Lonzo sprints through the lane, running into a Kyle Kuzma/Lebron double screen. Minnesota Timberwolves do a decent job covering Ball as he goes through the screens, although McGee doesn’t wait long enough to get a pass to Lonzo.

When to Lonzo was not there, the secondary play was to go back to Ingram. McGee follows his pass, giving Ingram a screen to use. Brandon loses the ball for a split second, just long enough for Andrew Wiggins to recover off the screen. From here the play breaks down into an Ingram isolation, while also resulting in a bad contested shot.

Laker Gif 9

Using Lebron off the ball: Rondo drops the entry pass to Mcgee in Horns on the left elbow, then immediately goes set a back screen for Lebron. Lowry does a good job hanging around in the lane for a split second, casting doubt for McGee that the cut will be there.

If JaVale had waited a split second longer, Lebron was wide open. However, McGee decides to attack off the dribble, turning the ball over.

Lakers Set 11

Lebron passing out of the high post again: Lonzo dumps the pass to Lebron on the left elbow, the cuts up the middle through James and McGee. Ingram is camping out in the right corner, which is where Lonzo went to set a screen. Brandon uses the screen well and pins Danny Green behind him, but Lebron makes a sloppy behind the back pass at Ingram

Laker Set 10

Lebron James shot over the years

Since his rockstar-like rookie season, up to his current stint in Tinseltown, Lebron James has never been known for much of a jump shot guy. King James was known for his freakish athletic ability, size, and playmaking abilities. There might not ever be a time where Lebron joins the three-point contest, but he has put in enough work overtime to make his jumper respectable.

While exceptions do exist, there are four general fundamentals to a solid form on your  jump shot:

  1. Shooting elbow aimed at the basket– The basketball hoop is where you are targeting, so it only makes sense to align the shooting arm with the basket.
  2. Feet and Shoulders squared with the basket– Aiming your body where you are shooting is essentially steering the car straight on a one way. Turning will cause the vehicle to move elsewhere. Sometimes you might make it where you need to go, but it is not consistent enough to rely on.
  3. The hand not shooting is only there to guide the ball–  The offside hand is there to guide the ball, not give you an extra boost in strength. Especially with younger kids jacking up Steph Curry three-pointers, the left hand is used to supplement for the distance. Using this hand too much can alter the rotation of spin, a la Joakim Noah’s weird ass free throw shot.
  4. Snap the wrist and follow through– Snapping the wrist on follow through creates backspin, which helps in the result your slowing down if it hits the rim. A ” dead ” ball bouncing on the rim has no give to it and will bounce around like a rock. Backspin on the ball gives you more room for error, as the ball is softer on the surface of the rim.
  5. Do not fade or lean on the shot– Leaning or fading throws your balance off, which leads to your feet or shoulders becoming unsquared with the hoop.

2004 Lebron:

The first example is taking from the 2004 NBA All-Star game, Lebron’s first of many appearances in the game.

As we can see from the shot below, Lebron has his right elbow sticking way too far out, with the ball going to the right side and somewhat behind his head. Almost in a slingshot motion.

Taking a look at his left hand, we can also see that he uses this hand to push the ball a tad bit. This would give him a little extra strength behind the shot; this makes sense as Lebron is still adjusting to the NBA three line.

2013 Lebron:

The next Lebron shot comes years later in 2013, where Lebron ices the NBA Finals with a jumper over Kawhi Leonard.

Compared to the shot above from 2004, the form looks entirely different. Lebron did not fling the ball to the right of his head, and the guiding hand isn’t helping him on the release.

Right before Lebron rises to shoot, we can also see him bring his right foot center, which causes him to square up with the basket. On his first gather, LeBron had his right foot facing the baseline, which would have thrown off his body alignment about the hoop.

Lebron does add a little fade to the shot, clearing just enough space where Leonard can’t bother his attempt.

2017 & 2018 Lebron:

The Final two Lebron shots are not too different, compared to his 2004 shot at least. On both shots, we see Lebron has his shoulders and feet squared to the hoop. Lebron now brings the ball above his forehead, while keeping his elbow directed at the basket.

The main difference between the shots, his is 2018 from has a quicker release than his 2017 shot.  On the Cleveland release, look how Lebron has a slight hitch at the release, almost making him release the ball on the way down.

This is fundamentally changing his form from ” Two motions ”  to ” One Motion.” The One motion shot is what Steph Curry uses, which is why it looks like he is straight heaving the rock.

Two Motion shots have what looks like a hitch, but its really ” cocking ” the ball before release. Michael Jordan is an excellent example of this, as he would cock the wrist above his head, then enter his release to snapping the wrist.

On both these shots, Lebron Jame is doing an excellent job of snapping his wrist to generate backspin. And while both shots are very similar, the 2018 shot has a quicker release.

Shooting only 29 percent from downtown so far this season, Lebron’s shot is still a work in progress. Currently  16 years into his career, there is just so much more that can be done to improve these numbers. Better shot selection maybe, cut back on the ” LeFuck you ” threes or pull up fadeaway threes Lebron sometimes does.

 

 

Lebron’s shot not falling, but everything else has been

Lebron is struggling with this three ball this season, but doing fine with everything else. 

The one knock on Lebron James that has followed him around his whole career has been his jump shot. Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs took advantage of this while sweeping the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2007 NBA Finals, and the Dallas Mavericks did something similar in the 2011 Finals.

Over time, Lebron’s jump shot has become more and more reliable, making him impossible to guard. During his rookie campaign,  King James shot 31 percent on any shot that was not directly at the rim. Fast forward to the 2017-2018 season, and Lebron was able to raise these numbers to 39 percent for shots, not at the basket.

Los Angeles Lakers have had an up and down season so far, filled with enough drama to give the Minnesota Timberwolves and Jimmy Butler saga a run for their money. The Lakers strengths have been on display, but the weaknesses are glaring as well. One of those bright spots for the Lakers has been Lebron’s shooting from the field.

Sure the King has only made 10 of 41 three-point attempts for a 24 percent average, but right now he is shooting 71 percent on shots from the free throw line to three-point line. Overall shooting 43 percent from any shot not directly at the rim, so even with his awful shot from downtown, Lebron is hitting shots from pretty much everywhere else on the floor.

With suspect shooters surrounding him, Lebron will need to start hitting the long ball at a better clip to help out his teammates. James has a history of tweaking the form on his shot so we could hear more news about this again in the future.

Until then, Lebron will continue to use his midrange game to keep defenses at bay, while also using his brute strength to get to the hoop at will. If there is one thing we have learned over the years, more times than not, it is not a good idea to doubt the King.

Lakers give fans spooky Halloween with near loss

Lakers played well out the gate but almost choked it away late.

The Lebron James era for Los Angeles Lakers fans is going about as well as expected for anybody who had realistic expectations for this ragtag team.  Coming out the gate, the Lakers looked like they were on a mission to get their asses off the court quick and go trick or treating, jumping out to a 38-21 lead at the end of the first quarter against the Dallas Mavericks.

Staples Center was rocking, the fast break was beautiful, and every player looked to be having the time of their damn lives. The second quarter was a different story, with the  Mavericks chipping away, and cutting the once 17 points lead down to 10 at halftime. M.U.D was somewhat responsible for the slippage, as they came into the game with shitty effort on both ends.

James led the Lakers with 29 points, as all the starters scored in double digits. The third quarter saw the Lake show push their 10 point halftime lead up to 16, and all seemed right with the world. But nope, the damn bench blew their second 15+ point lead of the game, making things way more interesting in the end than they needed to be.

If it were not for a dumbass foul by Wesley ” Contract Year ” Mathews with two seconds left, we might have had another Lakers overtime game. Lebron did his best to keep the game interesting by missing the first free throw after being fouled by Mathews but made the second to give the Lakers a one-point lead with two seconds left. A J.J. Barea heave at the buzzer came up short, and the Lakers come away with a win, even though they deserved to lose this shit.

Closing out games has been a real pain in the ass for Los Angeles so far this season, losing every game by less than 10 points, with at least a chance to win every single one. Chances are this aspect improves as chemistry builds, but their fans are running out of excuses for a Lebron James led team to be this bad down the stretch.

JaVale McGee really showed up DeAndre Jordan this game, clocking in 16 points, 15 rebounds, and five blocksLonzo Ball played solid as well, giving the Lakers 12 points and seven assists, with Kyle Kuzma chipping in 18 points of his own.

Coach Luke Walton cannot be pleased about the victory, although it is always a plus to win a game in the cannibalistic Western Conference.  Lakers head to Portland on Saturday to try and avenge their opening night loss to the Portland Trailblazers.