Summer league is well underway, and both Lonzo Ball and Dennis Smith Jr. have only just tasted what the NBA will be like for them. They have each only played two professional games in their young careers, but hey, it’s July and sports news is hard to come by so I am going to compare these two players.
As I mentioned in my NBA draft grades: “Personally, I believe that Dennis Smith Jr. and his Russell Westbrook-esque explosiveness will lead to him being in the conversation for best PG to come out of this draft class.” The ninth overall pick has been absolutely lighting it up so far in Las Vegas. Smith Jr. has averaged 19.5 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game, and 5.0 assists per game. Not only is Dennis Smith Jr. in the conversation to be the best point guard out of draft, I think that, so far, he IS the best point guard from the draft. He can shoot (13 of 26 after two games), rebound, and has good vision on offense. Defensively, he is no slouch either averaging 2 steals and 0.5 blocks per game. If Smith can do these things in the regular season, he will win Rookie of the Year, and at just 19 years old, would look to become the next face of the Dallas Mavericks.
For as much as Dennis Smith Jr. is succeeding so far, it seems that Lonzo Ball is struggling. Sure, he had a triple double against the Celtics in which he posted 11 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists, but when one takes into account he is shooting an abysmal 7-of-28 from the field (including 2-of-16 from three point range) it is hard to argue that Lonzo has been better than Smith Jr. Lonzo Ball has GREAT vision. Don’t get me wrong, I see his ceiling being something like Rajon Rondo (when he played for the Celtics), but that is a bit of a mixed bag. Even today, Rondo is still not known for his shooting despite working on it for years. I think Lonzo will average a double-double in his career, but like Rondo, the stat line will look similar to the 11 points and 11 assists that Ball posted against the Celtics. Ball is currently averaging 8 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 8 assists per game. He is also doing well defensively with 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.
Here is the complete statistical breakdown of each player. (Statistics are from NBA.com)
|Smith Jr., Dennis||DAL||2||26.0||19.5||13||26||50.0||7.5||5.0||2.00||0.50|
As I have stated in the past, I think that Dennis Smith Jr. will be in the conversation for the best point guard out of the draft. Even though he is only averaging, five assists per game, I still think he is a better point guard than Ball. Today’s game in centered around guards that can score the ball. Ball is still going to be good, but the double-edged sword with his game is that it relies on teammates that can score the ball, and I have serious doubts about the Lakers (even the starters) and their abilities to be able to keep knocking down shots that Ball feeds them. Rondo racked up the assist numbers he did because he had Pierce, Garnett, and Allen to pass to. Ball has Ingram, Randle, and Lopez, so Ball will have to really work to find his teammates open looks. On the other hand, Smith Jr. is also a proven passer, but at the end of the day, the ball still has to go in the basket. He has excelled at doing just that. I think that these two players and the way they can be analyzed boils down to the way they play: flash vs. substance. Everyone is always going assume Ball is better because they will see his highlight tape and all of his flashy dime dropping, but at the end of the day, I would much rather have a guy who can put his head down and score the ball with regularity while also being a competent passer and decent rebounder.
Who do you think is/ will be better? Let me know in the comment section below or continue the conversation over in our Discuss section.