Longtime NBA scout explains how Lonzo Ball would fit with Knicks

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Ian Begley
·4 min read
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Lonzo Ball white warmup shirt
Lonzo Ball white warmup shirt

On Friday night, Kristaps Porzingis will step on the MSG court as a visitor for the second time when the Mavericks face the Knicks.

The Porzingis trade has been debated again and again over the past two-plus years. And the debate will probably continue for the next five years.

No matter what happens on Friday night, it’s still too early to declare a winner and loser in the trade.

But the Knicks, by and large, seem to be on a solid path two years and two months after the trade.

Tom Thibodeau’s group is in the middle of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference entering the final six weeks of the season.

Whether they make the playoffs or not, the Knicks will look to fill several gaps in their roster in the 2021 offseason. Somewhere near the top of the list is point guard.

As noted last month, people familiar with the Pelicans-Knicks trade talks about Lonzo Ball expect the Knicks to have renewed interest in Ball in the offseason. As noted on The Putback, Ball isn’t the only point guard on the Knicks’ radar entering the offseason. And, prior to the trade deadline, there wasn’t a consensus in the organization about whether Ball is the best fit as the Knicks’ point guard for the next four seasons.

The Knicks also have to decide whether Ball is a strong complement to Julius Randle, who is viewed as a pillar of the club’s future.

Plenty can change between now and free agency in August. But the idea of signing Ball to an offer sheet in the 2021 offseason certainly has support within the Knick organization.

New York will have plenty of cap space to make a competitive offer to Ball. ESPN’s Bobby Marks told The New York Post last month that he doubted New Orleans would match an offer to Ball that was above $18 million per year.

With that in mind, here is what Michael Vandegarde – a longtime NBA scout and college coach, now involved in CoachTube -- a virtual platform for basketball clinics and many other sports – said on The Putback when asked about Ball’s game and his fit with the Knicks.

“The transformation from what he was to what he is now (is remarkable). His shooting stroke has changed, his release has changed. His three-point percentage has gone way up, his free throw percentage has gone way up and I’m actually pretty amazed at his transformation.

“There’s very few guys that have been able to do what he’s done. And it’s gotten better year after year after year. His first year as a rookie, his effective field goal percentage, he was one of the 10 or 15 worst players in the league. Now he’s one of the top 15 players in the league. And he’s still young, he’s still growing.

“I think as he matures a little bit more he’s going to become an even better player. But everything comes down to his shooting; he’s a good defender, he’s got size and length. He’s obviously a great passer. If he can shoot the ball like he has been and continue the trajectory of shooting it better and better, he’s got a chance to be an All-Star player. I think he fits exactly what the Knicks are looking for.”

Does Vandegarde believe Ball’s improved shooting is sustainable?

“I do, I do. With his change of release and his change of his motion, it’s dramatically improved. And that was the biggest thing coming out of college that everyone had a question about: is he going to be able to make shots over players? And is he going to be able to make shots from the three-point line? And it’s dramatically improved.

“This isn’t a one-year blip from what I’ve seen from the stats. It’s gotten progressively better year in and year out and his form’s gotten better year in and year out. And his form’s gotten better year in and year out. And he’s still a young player. And I think he’s still going to be a league average shooter, if not higher. And he’s demonstrated that this year by being top 65 in effective field goal percentage, which, two years ago you would have never believed (could happen).”