Should the Toronto Raptors pursue Lonzo Ball?

In what should be a surprise to, well, no one: there are a lot Kyle Lowry rumours!

It feels like each week a new team is either interested in Lowry or he’s interested in a new team.

Despite the title of the website, I have no insider info on Lowry’s situation but it feels like he won’t be back with the Raptors next season.

Thus, there is a hole to fill in the starting lineup!

One such name to fill that open spot is pending restricted free agent guard Lonzo Ball of the New Orleans Pelicans.

Lowry has been connected to the Pelicans recently as well, so the teams could make something happen in a swap, but that’s not the point.

The two main questions are: how would Ball fit with the Raptors? And should they pursue him?

I will try my very best to answer both!

The Fit

While there is an open spot in the starting lineup, I’m skeptical if Ball’s game would be a fit with the rest of the starting five.

For all of his improvements as a three point shooter, Ball still has some very big holes in his scoring profile.

He’s shot over 37 percent on over seven attempts from three point range the last two seasons, but that’s about the only positive from a scoring perspective for Ball.

He is not a pull up shooter whatsoever, shooting under 32 percent the last two seasons on pull up threes and took around two per game. That does mean he’s very strong on catch-and-shoot threes (around 39 percent on over five attempts), but the limited pull up shooting game is less than ideal.

However, his overall improvement as a shooter is a testament to his work put in on improving his shooting form.

Ball remains a very poor free throw shooter, especially so for a guard. Despite getting his free throw percentage up to 78 percent this past season, that was still in the 32nd percentile among guards per Cleaning the Glass.

It was also an over 20 percent jump compared to his previous season’s 56 percent. There’s no track record of Ball being a near 80 percent free throw shooter prior to this season, so it’s fair to wonder if he’ll be able to repeat it.

Ball also does not get to the line nearly enough. His foul rate dipped below 10 percent this season and he has just one season with a shooting foul rate that wasn’t in the bottom 10 percentile — his rookie season.

While this may feel extremely negative, this is who Ball is. His best season, from an efficiency standpoint, was this year and his 55.1 percent true shooting was still two percent below league average.

He can’t create for himself. His midrange game is nonexistent, he’s appeared to top out as an average finisher at the rim (despite his six-foot-six, 190 pound frame), and he does not get to the free throw line.

But you aren’t acquiring Ball to score.

What you’re acquiring him for are his elite passing skills and his defensive abilities.

I could write about his assist rates, but have a look for yourself.

Defensively, he posts tremendous block and steal rates for his position, he’s an excellent rebounder for a guard (where he actually uses his large frame!) and that’s where you see his value.

Ball’s teams have always been better with him on the floor, but this past season was his best. The Pelicans were plus-5.5 points per 100 possessions better with Ball on the floor.

Typically that is caused by his effect on a team’s defence. In his four years, his team’s have always been better defensively with him on the floor but worse offensively.

This year, the Pelicans allowed 1.1 points per 100 possessions fewer with Ball on the floor (the lowest mark of his career), but were plus-4.4 points per 100 better with him on the floor offensively (by far his highest).

He was a sorely needed floor spacer on a Pelicans team that has very little of it.

But is this a skillset the Raptors should add?

The Verdict

Overall, I don’t think Ball is someone who the Raptors sorely need.

He is a terrific passer, sure, but Lonzo Ball team’s are traditionally worse in the half court with him on the floor.

The only reason they the numbers were better this past season was that he was one of only two players who shot above 35 percent from three on any type of real volume.

The Raptors don’t have a spacing problem. They have a self-creation problem.

The only way this works is if you’re fully committing to a rebuild, going to move on from Fred VanVleet, and want to pair Ball with Jalen Suggs.

Otherwise, if they decide to draft a player like Jonathan Kuminga or Scottie Barnes, the fit gets even more wonky since both players also have concerns as self creators.

Ball is going to really help which ever team acquires him, but that team shouldn’t be the Raptors.

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