Over the course of the Golden State Warriors' historic 73-9 campaign and into their potential Finals victory, a plethora of former NBA greats came out criticizing the team's perimeter-oriented offense and looking past their success. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Charles Barkley and Walt Frazier are some of the ex All-Stars that have either critiqued the current NBA, doubted jump shooting teams or just state that the Warriors are just not good.
Realistically, much of that criticism is due to those ex-players simply not being used to how the game of basketball is changing. Even before the Warriors starting to dominate the world, the NBA moved from that iso-heavy ball in the 2000's into the up-tempo, perimeter-oriented game that you see today. That transition and the continued dominance of Stephen Curry has changed how the game is played from the jam-packed arenas to your local blacktop court. Perhaps the most significant example of that is seen in Chino Hills, California.
In the suburb of Los Angeles, Chino Hills High School dominated the amateur basketball world in 2015-16, as they finished with an undefeated 35-0 record. Perhaps more impressive than that undefeated season is just how fantastic their offense was. Putting up 122 points per 40 minutes, the team seemed destined to blow out the opposition whenever they stepped onto a court. Chino Hills' dominance was led by the brotherly trip of LaMelo, LiAngelo and Lonzo Ball. While LaMelo and LiAngelo were terrific contributors, the team wouldn't have had that huge success if it wasn't for Lonzo Ball.
The 2016 Naismith Prep Player of the Year, Ball was the leader of that Chino Hills squad. Even when he's going against some of the best teams in the country, the attention of the entire arena is solely dedicated to Ball, because he does things previously thought unfathomable for such a young player.
That concentration quickly turns into admiration whenever Ball throws his trademark outlet pass. Ball looks like the second-coming of Tom Brady with the way he's able to sling the ball through the full length of the court and have it fall nicely in the hands of a teammate. That's shown in this play, as Lonzo Ball can throw a pass across the entire court that lands in the waiting arms of the running LaMelo Ball.
Those awe-inspiring passes are effortless for Lonzo, as he's been slinging outlet passes since he was a third-grader playing against eighth-grade squads. In a recent interview with The Ringer, Lonzo's father LaVar said the following:
"All you're trying to do is get a good shot," LaVar said. "I can't help it if we get it in the first two or three seconds. Because you're going to pass the ball around six or seven times and get the same shot we got in the corner off the first pass."
While he's perfected the art of running a fast-paced offense with one flick of the wrist, Ball is definitely effective when the team decides to run an actual half-court offense. That incredible facilitating ability is evident in those half-court sets, as the 6'4 Ball uses his frame to see over the court and make frames. He's extremely comfortable with working inside the pick-and-roll, as he's able to quickly work around the screens and make the necessary read. Once that happens, he can either dish it to the rolling screener or drive and kick it out to a perimeter player.
Outside of his tremendous work as a facilitator, Ball has continuously progressed as a perimeter shooter. During his senior season with Chino Hills, Ball shot 36% from beyond the arc, which is solid considering his 6.4 three-point attempts per game. His shot is a little janky, as he starts his approach with the ball around his ear but he still finishes with a high and quick release.
For a player on such a high-tempo squad, Ball actually works hard on the defensive end. Ball displays on-ball instincts as he's willing to keep up with cutters or stick to perimeter-minded opponents. Where Ball really shines is his work as a ball-hawk as he averaged an unbelievable 5.1 steals per game.
As Ball makes the transition over to the college game where he'll be playing for Steve Alford and the UCLA Bruins. That transition will be one of the most interesting story lines next year as Alford will change his whole game plan to fit Ball's unique playing style. In that Ringer piece, LaVar Ball stated:
"Lonzo will be used the exact same way he's used now," LaVar said. "That's what's going to shock everybody. He's going to change the whole dynamic of the team over there. Everybody has to adjust to him. Because Alford knows I'm not giving him a player to change. He's been watching my boys for a long time. He knows exactly what they do."
Although that drastic change might be considered too much for Lonzo, considering the likelihood of him being a one-and-done prospect, it makes sense considering that both Liangelo and LaMelo will become Bruins in the next upcoming seasons. The play of UCLA may not mesh well for most basketball purists, it's a necessary change because Ball is such an elite basketball prospect. So while there's going to be a ton of skeptics surrounding Lonzo Ball and the UCLA Bruins, he has the makings to become one of the most exciting players in the game of basketball.