The 2020 NBA Draft is rapidly approaching, and LaMelo Ball remains as mystifying a prospect as ever. With some mock draft boards having him as high as first, while other reports have his stock falling rapidly, it is difficult to accurately peg the younger Ball brother.
With no college resume and a limited pro experience overseas, correctly ranking LaMelo requires careful analysis and a bit of luck.
The former Chino Hills product is clearly an excellent passer, much like his older brother Lonzo. Possessing both excellent court vision and the ability to zip timely passes to teammates will make him an asset at the point guard position. Though still listed at 6’7”, Ball is likely closer to 6’8” and may not be done growing.
He may not be quite as speedy as Lonzo but is still reasonably fleet-footed for his height, and unquestionably has above average [though not elite] lateral quickness. This combination of height, speed and quickness makes him an excellent candidate for playing multiple positions on both ends of the floor. An increasing must in an NBA with blurrier lines between positions.
Ball will likely not play power forward or center due to his thin frame but can easily play positions 1 through 3 for most teams. Defensively, Ball tends to be a liability, often losing track of his man or not locking in. With the right coaching he can potentially be groomed into becoming a good weak side defender, disrupting actions with his length and speed. LaMelo will likely never be anything resembling an active, lockdown defender though.
Offensively, as already mentioned, LaMelo is unquestionably a great passer. Despite gaining attention for hitting some absurdly deep 3 point shots in game while in high school, he is a notoriously inconsistent shooter and would have to make significant strides in this department to be considered a shooting threat. Unlike Lonzo however, his form is not irregular, an optimistic sign that this is an area he can realistically improve in.
Without the ball in his hand, LaMelo tends to ball watch. He makes little effort to set screens, cut to the basket or otherwise participate in an offense when he is not handling the ball.
LaMelo Ball clearly has a host of natural gifts. Whether those gifts, with a somewhat questionable work ethic, is enough to thrive in the NBA remains to be seen. His lack of experience against high-level competition should damper any General Manager from getting too high on his upside. Conversely, with the 2020 NBA Draft not necessarily being the deepest, he is certainly worth gambling on with a lottery pick.
Anything higher than the 3rd pick should be cautioned against, both James Wiseman and Anthony Edwards are much safer prospects with both win now and long-term growth potential. Arguments can even be made for drafting Deni Avdija ahead of LaMelo Ball.
Despite LaVar Ball’s protestations to the contrary, LaMelo Ball will be best served coming into a basketball situation that is not immediately demanding of him. Coming off the bench and eventually growing into a larger role will best serve Ball’s long-term interests as an NBA prospect.
All told, despite some key differences between LaMelo and Lonzo Ball, they may be more similar than expected as NBA players. Both had high expectations hoisted on their shoulders at a young age and likely will end their careers as slightly above average players with niche skillsets.
Clint is an avid fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, and contributed to various sports publications prior to his work with Upside Hoops.