After a slow start to the season, the pairing of Zion Williamson and Lonzo Ball has begun to excel together, particularly offensively. For the month of February heading into Saturday’s game against the Spurs, Ball and Williamson have an offensive rating of 128.6 and a net rating of 8.4, both marks ranking near the top for 2-man lineups on the Pelicans.
Following Thursday’s game against the Bucks in which Ball and Williamson combined for 54 points and 22-of-40 shooting, both spoke on what has clicked for them offensively this season as a pairing.
“Z’s a great player,” Ball said. “He makes my game easy, whether it’s in the pick and roll or getting out in transition and catching lobs. He can finish in a lot of different ways and my job is to just get him the ball.
“Me and Lonzo, our games complement each other’s so well that there are times me and Lonzo are just playing basketball out there,” Williamson added. “Whether it’s passing and chasing, me setting the screen, him coming to set the screen for me, we complement each other so well then at the same time when we’re out there, we give each other confidence, telling each other to shoot and that we trust each other to make the right decision within the situation. I think we just complement each other well. We give each other confidence.”
Williamson and Ball’s chemistry on-court manifested itself in long-distance alley-oops last season. However, with the Pelicans slowing the pace down this season, the full-court lobs have been fewer and further between.
Instead, Ball’s improvement as a 3-point shooter and Williamson’s increased usage as a ballhandler has opened up other aspects of their two-man game. Dribble handoffs, pick and rolls with both serving as either the handler or the screener.
With Brandon Ingram having established himself as an All-Star and consistent top-level performer, the trio has emerged as the cornerstones of the Pelicans. In February, the 3-man lineup of Ingram, Ball and Williamson played 281 minutes together and finished with an offensive rating of 126.4. No team in the NBA had a 3-man lineup with a better offensive rating in February with a minimum of 250 minutes played together.
If Ball and Williamson can continue building their relationship on the court alongside Ingram, the Pelicans could have their core of the future.