If he’s still on the board, should the Sixers pull the trigger on drafting UCLA’s Lonzo Ball?


As we know, the 76ers will select 3rd overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, and there will be several promising young prospects on the board when it comes time to make their selection. One of the more intriguing prospects the Sixers might have a chance to draft is UCLA’s Lonzo Ball.

Lonzo Ball is a high-IQ point guard who took the UCLA Bruins to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament last season. Ball averaged 14.6 points, 6 rebounds and 7.6 assists in his freshman year. It would be a shock if he isn’t picked in at least the top three in the upcoming draft.

Ball stands at 6’6” and has a 6’8” wingspan. His superior playmaking ability and court vision make him stand out against other point guards in the draft. While he has been a capable shooter in college, there are concerns regarding whether or not his awkward shooting form can translate into the NBA. He doesn’t seem to take advantage of his size on defense and is somewhat limited physically. Overall, he has the potential to be a high-caliber player in the league. Ball is often compared to 10-time all-star Jason Kidd, who dazzled the NBA with his transcending passing ability.

Ball had been considered a virtual lock to go second to the Los Angeles Lakers, however, recently a few reports have come out indicating that the Lakers may not be a lock to take Ball after all.  So, the question becomes, if Ball falls to the 76ers, how will he fit in the team’s system and more importantly, how will he mesh among the core of young players?

Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric combine to form what appears to be the core players for the franchise moving forward. Adding a talent like Ball would be huge for the team and if all four youngsters can live up to their potential, they could have a so-called “Big Four” on their hands.

Embiid is a skilled center who will put up big numbers in the post or can hit from the outside. Not only is he a tremendous offensive beast but he can be the Sixers’ defensive anchor for years to come. He put up 2.4 block in 31 games which placed him in second in blocks in the league behind Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert. Dario Saric is a jack-of -all-trades kind of player. He averaged 12.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists in his rookie season. He is an above average passer for his position and could possibly develop the ability to take over games as shown in his outstanding stretch of games after Joel Embiid’s knee injury in late January.

Simmons is a physical point forward who can change the game with his amazing passing ability, but Simmons needs to have the ball in his hands in order to be effective, much like Ball. So how exactly do a ball dominant point guard and point forward work in unison on the court at the same time?

Well, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James and Kyrie Irving have made it work. Both players are most useful when the ball is in their hands yet they have both been impactful when on the court together. They worked so well together that they won the 2016 NBA Championship.

The biggest factor in a possible Ball-Simmons-Saric-Embiid lineup is Ball’s jump shot. He shot 55.1 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from three-point land at UCLA. He made several deep threes and showed that he wasn’t afraid to take contested threes. What is a cause for concern when it comes to Ball’s shooting ability is his actual jumper. He doesn’t have very sound mechanics and there is question if it will translate over to the NBA. His 67.3 percent shooting from the free throw line, a below average free throw percentage, could be trying to tell us something.

If Ball’s shooting ability translates over from college, he will be a much better fit with the team. Simmons doesn’t have a jumper yet and Saric is too inconsistent from deep. If Ball can hit the three-ball, opposing players will be forced to guard him on the perimeter which will give Simmons, Saric and Embiid more room to operate. However, if his shooting doesn’t transfer over, then the defending team’s players will collapse the paint, negating Simmon’s drive and kick ability along with clogging the paint for Saric and Embiid.

Potentially, the Sixers could be absolutely amazing when playing in transition. With Ball and Simmons being able to make almost any pass at anytime on the court and Saric being such an unselfish player, the 76ers’ fast breaks could be an absolute blast to watch.

Embiid could also definitely benefit from having a player like Ball on the team. He will be able to deliver the pass to him in the post – at the right time and in the right place – something that Embiid’s teammates from last year weren’t always capable of doing.

In terms of Brett Brown’s run-n-gun style of play, Ball shouldn’t have a problem fitting right in. With him and Simmons running the break and Embiid and Saric grabbing rebounds, there will be no lack of fast break points. His defense, something that Brown highly covets, could be a problem though.

His work ethic will also be something that is called into question. How hard will Ball work if he doesn’t get to play for his hometown Lakers – which he has been openly campaigning for? How will LaVar Ball impact Lonzo? Jerry Colangelo, special advisor to the 76ers, has said that the people around Lonzo Ball could pose a challenge. He was most likely referring to Ball’s father, LaVar Ball. He’s drawn criticism to both he and his son from the media and fans thanks to his outlandish comments and remarks regarding his son and other players in the league. These are all questions that will have to be dealt with if Ball falls to the Sixers with the 3rd pick.

Overall, it seems that he shouldn’t have a difficult time fitting in with the young team in terms of compatibility. It looks like his shooting ability will be the deciding factor. At the end of the day, if he does end up falling past top two in the draft, the Sixers should not hesitate to draft him. Lonzo Ball is not the kind of player that comes around often. With him on the team, the Sixers could build themselves a solid core around Ball, Simmons, Saric and Embiid and with the right supporting cast and proper development, they could be a perennial contender for years to come.

Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports