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High-Profile, Well-Traveled Point Guard Eyes the Top of the Lottery
If, on the following morning, you talk to a casual basketball fan who may not have watched the 2020 NBA Draft the previous night, the first question they’ll probably ask is: “Who took LaMelo Ball?”
Other prospects have more red meat on their resume than the long, lean combo-guard. Even his former Chino Hills teammate Onyeka Okongwu, after a single season at USC, has more tangible tape than Ball. But no player has a higher profile or, possibly, a higher upside.
The fact that he didn’t play college ball before declaring for the 2020 Draft doesn’t mean he’s been idle.
Ball started with the now-famous Chino Hills team that went 35-0 and won the California state title with three Ball brothers and Okongwu – also slated to be a high Lottery pick – in the same starting lineup. Since then, Ball has trotted the globe, playing in far-off locales like Australia, Lithuania and Geneva (Ohio, that is, spending his senior season at SPIRE Institute).
At every stop, the silky smooth 6-8 guard showed why he’s projected as the best of this sibling troika – a unique blend of size, skills and smarts.
Only 19 years old, it feels like he and his family have been in the spotlight forever. At 13, LaMelo committed to UCLA. He’s played ball thousands of miles from home, has an older brother in the Association, already has had a signature shoe and a TV show. If nothing else, he’ll be completely unfazed by the NBA fast lane.
Whether he goes with the top overall pick in less than a week is still in question. But many feel that Ball is the most talented overall player in the incoming class, and he won’t have to wait long once Adam Silver tips the evening off.
STRENGTHS Ball has almost the entire package when it comes to the point guard checklist, but it all starts with his size. He’s a lithe 6-8 with long arms and a wiry frame that he’s already beginning to pack muscle onto. As his body matures and he gains experience, he could be effective at three positions on both ends of the floor.
With that kind of size at the point, Ball can see over most defenders – and combined his instinctive feel for the game, he’s turned himself into an elite playmaker. He’s an outstanding ballhandler with a excellent change of direction. He gets to wherever he wants to go on the floor. He reads the floor as well as any lead guard in this year’s Draft.
Ball rebounds the ball very well for his position and uses his length and anticipation to jam passing lanes and create a one-man break.
Offensively, Ball is a threat from anywhere on the floor. He’s lightning-quick in transition and a dynamic slasher in the halfcourt – and an explosive finisher at the rim when he gets there.
At this stage, Ball isn’t a proven long-range shooter and there have been questions about his mechanics and shot selection.
Ball doesn’t come into the Draft as ready-made offensive threat like Anthony Edwards, for example. But scouts see him as a walking triple-double at the next level, a do-it-all, franchise-altering-type talent.
WEAKNESSES Like the knocks on his older brother, Lonzo, coming into the pros, LaMelo’s jumper is far from a finished product. His form is also slightly unorthodox and he’s yet to prove he can shoot with real consistency. Adding to that concern is his so-so shooting average from the stripe.
For his size and athleticism, Ball still has a way to go on the defensive end. He’s struggled against smaller, quicker point guards and some scouts have even questioned his lack of physicality and motor on that end. But the combination of his basketball IQ and physical tools also indicate he could be a lockdown guy once he develops in an NBA system.
Ball is a flashy passer, in many ways because he’s been so much better than the competition, and can be turnover-prone. But again, he’ll learn to become more efficient under NBA guidance.
HOW HE'D FIT A player with Ball’s skillset would be a fit with any team, the Cavaliers included.
Cleveland has invested heavily in its backcourt over the past two Drafts and both youngsters are on a very nice trajectory. Ball brings something completely different to the table. He’s not the pure shooter that Darius Garland is or the relentless offensive machine that Collin Sexton is.
But he’s a player that could make those two and everyone else around him better. He’s got all the physical and mental tools to mature into a two-way superstar. His high-profile father seems to have faded into the background, allowing his sons to be their own men.
Now it’s time to prove what kind of man he’ll be at the pro level and which team will give him that shot.