Why the New York Knicks should trade for Lonzo Ball

New York Knicks, Lonzo Ball
Mar 4, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball (2) reacts after scoring during the second quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

When you think of Lonzo Ball, you think of his father and his antics. Comparing Lonzo to Steph Curry, saying he could beat MJ in a 1-on-1. This has turned off a lot of NBA fans from Lonzo Ball as a player, but in 2021, he’s become an amazing point guard. He’s shooting great from deep on 7.8 attempts and is overall a passive guard who plays defense and would be perfect for the New York Knicks. Tom Thibodeau wants a defensively sound guard at the PG spot, and Lonzo is quite the defender. At 6’6, he’s able to outmatch a lot of PGs length-wise while providing 38.7% shooting from 3. His efficiency across the board has gone up, and in Thibodeau’s defensive system, Lonzo Ball could elevate into an elite defender. If the Knicks want to make a move this deadline, Lonzo Ball is the right move to make.

Improved Efficiency

Lonzo Ball from 2017-2018 was one of the worst offensive point guards in basketball. His nauseating shooting splits and an inability to elevate as a shooter drew the label of “bust” to Ball. His stat line in those 2 years in his percentage was as bad as it gets:

38% FG%
31.5% 3P%
43.7% FT%
46.3% TS%

In 2019 this terrible stretch continued, with his first 21 games producing a 33.1% 3P% and 56% FT%, yikes. After that, though, something clicked in his shot, and he was suddenly a deep threat for the Pelicans. While his FT% was still putrid at 56.9%, he was able to shoot 39.5% from 3 on 6.5 attempts a game, and this shooting prowess only got better this year. So far, statistically, he’s been pretty solid across the board in his percentages

42.8% FG%
38.7% 3P%
77.5% FT%
56.3% TS%

Lonzo Ball is now…an efficient PG who’s an amazing shooter from deep and can be the perfect offensive piece for this offense, who desperately needs that consistent deep threat who can playmaker to pair with Randle and Barrett.

Massive Improvement Over Elfird Payton

Let’s first compare their statistics, and when you look at the numbers, Ball is very clearly better than Payton:

Lonzo Ball:
56.3% TS%
1.3 Offensive Win Shares
0.6 Defensive Win Shares
.083 Win Shares per 48

Elfrid Payton:
49.1% TS%
-0.2 Offensive Win Shares
1.0 Defensive Win Shares
.041 Win Shares per 48
-2.47 LEBRON

Yes, a lot of these numbers are advanced metrics, but they help with total value as Payton is a defensive-oriented guard, and yet despite that, he’s still vastly inferior to Lonzo Ball, who’s nearly as good of a defender and a far superior offensive player.

For their playstyles, Lonzo Ball is a no-brainer for the Knicks. Payton oftentimes slows down the pace of the offense. They both shoot a similar amount of times per game, but Lonzo’s attempts are mostly from deep, specializing in straightaway and corner threes. This means most of his scoring comes naturally in the flow of the offense, rather than him attacking the basket. Payton has started to excel at attacking the basket in recent weeks, however, this playstyle hinders an offense that has a slasher in RJ Barrett and someone who’s aggressive in Julius Randle. They also don’t have a stretch big, meaning Reggie Bullock often times is their only perimeter player in the starting lineup. With Lonzo Ball, he becomes the primary ball-handler and someone who’s going to make passes to aggressive scorers while his off-the-ball movement limits traffic in the paint when RJ makes a dash towards the basket.

Could Lonzo Ball Be Part Of the Future For the Knicks?

Lonzo Ball is currently 23 years old. He’s only half a year older than Obi Toppin and less thane 2 years older than Immanuel Quickley. He’s someone you can have at the point guard spot for a very long time, and while he isn’t a superstar, he is the perfect fit for this current roster. The spacing, passing, and even his ability to rebound at a proficient rate make him the total offensive package at PG for a team that centers around Randle and Barrett. His defensive abilities are also very sound, being someone who has the size to guard the 1 or 2 at a high level. He’d excel in Thib’s defensive scheme, and I think he’d simply allow this offense to run much smoother. The lineup and rotation with Lonzo Ball would look like this:

Lonzo Ball PG
RJ Barrett SG
Reggie Bullock SF
Julius Randle PF
Mitchell Robinson C

Immanuel Quickley PG
Derrick Rose SG
Alec Burks SF
Obi Toppin PF
Nerlens Noel C

That is one damn fine roster, a team that can probably win a playoff series and maybe attract some bigger stars to want to play for the Knicks.

Making a Deal for Lonzo Ball

The Knicks can take on some salary, but ideally, you try to match salaries, and in this case, the Knicks and Pelicans do:

Knicks receive: Lonzo Ball PG
Pelicans receive: Frank Ntilkina PG, Kevin Knox SF, and a 2021 2nd Round Pick

This would give the Pelicans a younger PG than Ball in Ntilkina (especially since he’s played well lately), a decent shooter in Knox who’s only 21, and a 2nd round pick as well. For Lonzo Ball, I feel like that’s pretty fair. The Pelicans get two young project players, and the Knicks get their answer at PG, but what about Elfird Payton’s playing time? Simple: you trade him. Lonzo Ball is a much better player for this team.