LeBron James is known across the NBA as one of the most selfless stars the league has to offer. Throughout his career, teammates have applauded him for his ability to play to their strengths, mitigate their weaknesses, and simply make them better basketball players overall.
That should be music to the ears of Los Angeles Lakers youngsters Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Brandon Ingram. While all three players have shown more than enough flashes for fans to be confident in their progression, there is little doubt that James’ decision to sign with the Lakers this July will help those three talented youngsters reach their full potential.
So, how will James’ presence in Los Angeles impact Ball, Kuzma, and Ingram? Continue reading to find out.
There were a lot of expectations thrusted onto Ball’s shoulders when he was selected by the Lakers with the second overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Thanks to a stunning season at UCLA and his headline-catching father, Ball was rarely not in the national news during his rookie campaign.
While he showed flashes on both sides of the court and managed to average 10.2 points, 7.2 assists, and 6.9 rebounds per game, many fans and experts considered his first season in the NBA to be a disappointment.
Whether or not Ball was treated fairly by the press is up for the debate. What is not up for debate is that James will help the young point guard in more ways than one. Perhaps the most immediate impact James will have on Ball will be the four-time MVP’s ability to dominate headlines, giving the second-year player much less to worry about when it comes to the media.
In fact, Rachel Nichols of ESPN considered that very same aspect on ESPN’s “The Jump.”
“Remember, LeBron and Lonzo met at midcourt after the game and touched off all that speculation about them playing together this season? Back then, everybody predicted that if LeBron actually did come to the Lakers, it would be even more of a circus around Lonzo,” Nichols said. “But for now, LeBron is commanding so much attention that Lonzo can just chill and develop, making whatever noise he wants without having to worry about the whole world listening. That is a real gift LeBron has given him.”
James’ ability to take the spotlight off of Ball is incredibly valuable, but that isn’t all James will offer his new teammate. Though James is a small forward first, he is known for being able to play any and all positions on the court. That includes point guard. For the 6-foot-6 Ball, learning from the 6-foot-8 James about how he can best use his height and length to become a better distributor of the ball could be invaluable.
Though Kuzma is listed as a power forward, he shares many of the characteristics as James as a player. Kuzma is a fluid and smooth offensive weapon who uses his footwork and aggressiveness to get to the basket. He also displayed his ability as a rebounder and his underestimated talents as a passer and playmaker in his rookie season.
Kuzma finished last season with 16.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. He also proved that he could be a good, but not great shooting big man by shooting 36.6 percent from beyond the arc. Those numbers are solid, but Kuzma often showed the ability to do so much more. That included an explosive performance against the Houston Rockets in December, when he finished the night with 38 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.
There are just a few players with the ability and versatility to record that kind of stat line and one of those players is undoubtedly James.
There’s little doubt that James will be able to help Kuzma access his true potential on the offensive side of the ball so that he can have and have many more nights with similarly impressive stat lines.
When it comes to the players on this list, Ingram is perhaps the most gifted when it comes to sheer God-given talent. In fact, many had projected 2018-19 to be a breakout season for Ingram even before James signed with Los Angeles.
The potential for that now seems even more likely. Just ask Lakers legend and current president of basketball operations Magic Johnson.
“Listen, I want to put LeBron with him (Ingram), in August, every day,” Johnson told ESPN in an interview shortly after James signed with the Lakers.
“September, then training camp, and then also in practice, on the bus, on the planes. Listen, these young guys didn’t really have a veteran to really teach them when we drafted them.
“So now they have not only the best player in the world but a world champion. And this guy, LeBron, man, he’s in such top shape today. And this is July.
“So that’ll help them understand how to train, how to also eat right, on and on and on. I think the guy who LeBron is going to have the biggest impact on is Brandon Ingram.
“Because he has the size and length to be really special.”
If that isn’t enough of a convincer, consider the players James has most wanted to play with throughout his career. Among that list includes Chris Bosh and Kevin Love. While both players were a bit taller than Ingram, the first-round pick makes up for his 6-f00t-9 height by boasting a jaw-dropping 7-foot-3 wingspan.
Ingram took a huge leap in production last season compared to his first year in the NBA, going from averaging just 9.4 points per game in 2016-17 to averaging 16.1 points per game last season. With James on the court, Ingram will not only see driving lanes to the basket open up like never before, he will also get the opportunity to receive dimes from one of the most prolific passers in the NBA.
However you look at it, Ingram will get a real opportunity to take his game to the next level now that he will be sharing the court with King James.