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NBA Draft 2017: Lonzo Ball, the Bust

Lonzo Ball has the potential to be the most over-hyped player of my generation.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Cincinnati v UCLA Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Lonzo Ball is a point guard that played his freshman year of college basketball at UCLA. His college stats were pretty decent - 14.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per game. He stands 6’6” and 190 pounds. And now Ball has now declared for the NBA draft and is widely expected to go as high as the second overall pick. The Los Angeles Lakers hold that selection.

I’m here to say that Lonzo Ball is not worth the hype, is average at best, and is likely to be a huge bust.

Let’s start by reviewing the path that has brought Lonzo Ball to this point.

He had a pretty successful team path to the NBA. His only season with UCLA ended in a loss in the Sweet-16 round of the NCAA tournament to Kentucky. (That game was in our very own Memphis, Tennessee.) He was nominated for the Naismith Player of the Year award, which was ultimately given to Frank Mason III of Kansas. He also received All-American honors, and Bleacher Report named him the college basketball freshman of the year.

So, obviously, Lonzo can ball (see what I did there?).

But even still, I don’t believe Ball is worth the hype. And here’s why: the media attention he’s given makes him seem better than he is. (I guess I’m contributing to that right now.)

First, his shooting form has been criticized. It’s unorthodox to say the least, but his shot puts the ball through the net. He shot 55% overall and 41% from 3-point land. Say what you want, but if the shot goes in, there isn’t much argument to change it...until you get to the NBA, where defenses close out faster and rotations close space quicker. Will he be able to maintain such high percentages as competition improves?

His stats are very solid for a college player. He led the nation in assists, and rebounded better than anyone could have predicted. His strengths are in handling the ball and passing, and with his length and quickness, getting to the rim comes easily for him. He has good height for an NBA guard, but he will have to put on weight to be able to compete physically. The toll of the NBA season may not be kind to his frame.

Because he played at UCLA, an NCAA powerhouse in basically every sport located in one of the biggest cities in the world, naturally there’s more exposure to the outside media. Any and everything that Lonzo Ball did well, the world knew about it, mostly because of his dad and his smart use of the mass media. Contributing to that was the fact that UCLA sucked the previous season, so anything in a positive direction for the program was over-celebrated.

He was a good college player, but let’s say he played at my alma mater, Butler University. Butler is a small school with a reputation for playing hard with lower-tier players to win games. The media outside of the state of Indiana doesn’t care what Butler does. Need an example? Name the four teams that played in the same bracket as UCLA in Memphis. North Carolina. Kentucky. UCLA. And…(did you know?) Butler.

UCLA v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

I’m not criticizing the media for doing its job, but you have to take their coverage of a college basketball player with a grain of salt. Lonzo Ball was a good college player, but we think so highly of him as a pro prospect mostly because of the exposure he automatically received via his location and his charismatic father.

I don’t see Lonzo as the type of player that can compete legitimately at the NBA level. He’s simply too thin to compete with the type of player that he would be guarding at the next level. His handle and shooting can save him some possibly, and both will improve at the next level, but he has to put on weight.

With all the hype he’s received, he’ll be expected to have a Karl-Anthony Towns type of impact on whatever team selects him by many. That just isn’t fair to this player, a victim of a hype machine that he didn’t necessarily ask for.

Think about what impact he is going to have immediately in the NBA. He could possibly be a good point guard several years from now, but that isn’t going to solve the Lakers’ problems. Or the 76ers’. Or the Kings’. (Each team has had talks of getting Lonzo Ball one way or another.) As a point guard he will need good players around him to affect the game, and none of the aforementioned teams have players that would make him worth all the hype. None of those teams have the pieces that would make him above average in first few years.

Ball surely has the potential to be a solid NBA player. He has the natural talent to be worth a little bit of money on a good team. I would love to have him as a back-up point guard to Mike Conley. But consider all the hype around him right now. His dad, or promoter, whatever you want to call him, has built a brand around him. He has the highest priced basketball shoe in the country without ever playing an NBA game. He may be “coming home” to play for the Lakers.

All this hype is a ton of pressure on a 19-year-old kid that still has so much to prove. If he is average like I expect him be, that will make him a bust. He will have to be exceptional, a perennial all-star, NBA champion, maybe an MVP, to live up to hype that is surrounding him right now.

When I say he will be a bust, I don’t mean that he will be non-existent or unproductive. I mean he won’t live up to the hype or expectation that has been put on him.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Kent State and UCLA Bruins Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

I actually want the best for him. I love when the NBA has the potential of adding superstars to the long list of them already. As an NBA fan, I look forward to watching the future of the league growing. But Lonzo Ball is not the future. In five years there will be Bleacher Report articles about how Lonzo Ball went from hyped to mediocre. The “Big Baller Brand” will have folded into “Big Bust Ball” and the conversation will have shifted to the next “superstar” to come out of college.

Lonzo Ball’s immediate future will be determined on June 22 at the NBA draft. Stay tuned.