We’re about 12 games into the College Basketball Season, which means that it is about time for the way too early prospect comparison for the upcoming NBA Draft. Regarded early as the a sure lottery pick and potential first overall pick, Lonzo Ball of UCLA has lived up to the hype thus far. Rated as the 4th best prospect in the nation out of high school, Ball is used to the spotlight and with early wins over Michigan, Texas A&M and a very impressive road win at Kentucky, Ball is as good as advertised. But is he a prospect that we have seen before? Or better yet, a mix of two prospects from the past?
Ball, from California, stayed in his home state to play his collegiate ball. There is another Hall of Fame point guard who chose to do the same thing, and Magic Johnson has been on the record comparing Ball to this player in particular. That player’s name? Jason Kidd. Now, I get it. Ball has played 10 games at the collegiate level. How can we compare him to Jason Kidd? In our world where we are always searching for the next superstar, in our world where 11 year olds are getting scholarship offers, it definitely is not too soon to make these comparisons. Especially when you see the similarities.
Let’s start with the numbers. At Cal-Berkley Jason Kidd averaged 15 points, 8.5 assists, and 6 boards per game in 59 games. He also shot 67.7 % from the free throw line. So far, Ball is averaging 14.8 points, 8.6 assists and 5.2 boards per game with 66.7% from the line. Eerily similar, and not as far fetched as you originally thought, huh?
Where Ball is far superior to Kidd is his FG% (56% to 46% respectively) and 3PT % (45% to 33%). Once again small sample size, but Ball is definitely a better shooter than Jason Kidd. Ball also is slightly bigger than Kidd and a much better athlete, standing two inches taller at 6’6” and with springs for legs. This is where my second comparison comes in. Ball reminds me of a tremendous athlete who stood 6’7”: Penny Hardaway. Hardaway was once known compared to Magic coming out of college. Now, Hardaway averaged more points and rebounds with less assists than the near mirror image numbers that Ball and Kidd have, but Lonzo Ball is every bit as much of the athlete that Penny Hardaway was, and could have been. Hell, even Nike was on board with how much of an athlete was, signing him to a shoe deal and having success with his shoe line. One of the NBA’s biggest mysteries, is what Hardaway and Shaq could have done in Orlando had Penny not gotten hurt.
If you don’t believe me on the athleticism comparisons, check this out:
And Lonzo Ball:
If you want the comparisons to get really out of hand, look at “the process” the 76ers have had going on for the last 4 years. Joel Embiid, as of right now looks like he is going to be healthy, and thus far this season on a minutes restriction is averaging 18 points, 8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. Ben Simmons hasn’t even made his debut yet, and there is no timetable for his return. Can you imagine a team with Ball, Simmons and Embiid? We may be looking at a Minnesota vs Philadelphia NBA Finals sooner than we ever would have expected.
Now I am not dumb enough to anoint Lonzo Ball as a Hall of Famer right now, and who knows what he’ll turn into. But it is fun to compare isn’t it?