With LeBron James sidelined with a groin injury since Christmas, the Los Angeles Lakers have needed more from their younger stars, especially second-year point guard Lonzo Ball.
Ball, who has struggled to shoot consistently since joining the NBA as the 2017 second overall pick, has improved to 40.7 percent from the field after hitting just 36 percent of his shots as a rookie. He's not a good shooter, but he's made some progress.
Where Ball needs to massively improve is at the free-throw line, where his shooting has made Shaquille O'Neal look like Steph Curry.
Through five games played in 2019, Ball has really slumped, hitting just two of 11 attempts (18.2 percent), even eliciting boos at Staples Center. It's surprising that teams haven't looked to intentionally foul Ball, like O'Neal before him when it was called "Hack-a-Shaq."
He's dropped to just 41.3 percent on the season. Ball seems to just slump his shoulders of late, looking completely drained. It may be a good thing he only attempts 1.1 per game, although coach Luke Walton doesn't necessarily agree.
"In practice, he'll sit there and make 25, 30 out of 35. He sits there, and he'll hit them," Walton said. "Some people only go [to the line] twice a game or once every other game, and then that's tough to get into a real rhythm at the line. With him, I think the more he gets there, the more comfortable he'll become."
What can Walton and his staff do to help Ball improve at the line?
"It's hard to really tweak things during the season," Walton said. "It's different for everybody. Some people go through mental blocks."
That's the problem. Ball didn't get any time to work on his shooting over the last offseason, recovering from a knee injury. More than any Laker, and maybe more than anyone else in the NBA, Ball needs a long, productive offseason with a player-development coach to work on his fundamentals.
That's not to say his odd shooting form needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. Habits are hard to break, and Ball will probably never have a traditional shot. But he needs to put in significant reps on footwork, balance and timing.
"He's been shooting like that for his whole life. If he starts trying to significantly change his form, it'll probably lead to an injury," one video analyst said.