Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball entered this season bearing an enormous load of pressure. Every top NBA selection these days lives under a microscope—a result of the game’s explosion in popularity—but Ball’s situation was more extreme than usual.
His outspoken father, LaVar, hyped up his son and made him one of the most well-known NBA players before he even laced ’em up for the Lakers. LaVar said Ball, who was drafted at 19 after one promising year at UCLA, was already better than two-time MVP Stephen Curry and could one day surpass Michael Jordan.
Talk about great expectations.
Ball has had a decent rookie year in L.A., where LaVar had long predicted his son would play. The rookie has posted averages of 10.2 PPG, 7.1 APG, and 7.1 RPG, with a Player Efficiency Rating (a standardized measure of a player’s production per minute) of 12.18. He has struggled with his much-maligned jumper, shooting 30.3 percent from distance, and has occasionally disappeared for stretches.
Still, if you were starting a franchise today, you’d be happy to have Ball as your point guard. Early signs indicate he’s probably not a future All-Star, and almost definitely not a future MVP, but he is a solid young player who is still developing and should start in this league for a long time.
Nonetheless, a handful of other rookies have quietly outplayed Ball this season.
Ball was picked No. 2 in the 2017 draft. Other guards who were selected later in the first round—like N.C. State’s Dennis Smith Jr. (No. 9 to the Mavericks), Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell (No. 13 to Utah), and Villanova’s Josh Hart (No. 30 to the Lakers)—have blossomed, as have a number of swingmen and bigs who look like they could be vital franchise pieces moving forward.
Here is our list of the 10 NBA rookies who have outplayed Lonzo Ball this season.