Lonzo Ball (left) and brother LaMelo Ball sit courtside at a summer league game

NBA virtual draft combine: LaMelo Ball downplays future matchups vs. brother

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

The odds are that at some point during the next NBA season, point guard LaMelo Ball will dribble up the floor and find himself matched up against the most familiar of familiar faces – older brother, Lonzo. The hype surrounding the first meeting between Ball brothers probably will circulate for days on social media, with the siblings trying everything in their power to downplay its significance. That process already began Monday, when the 19-year-old LaMelo said of facing 22-year-old Lonzo, “I look at everything the same. It’s just another game.”

The younger Ball is projected to be a high-lottery pick, listed in NBA.com’s consensus mock draft as most likely going to Golden State at No. 2 overall. If he doesn’t go in the top two (Minnesota has the top selection), it’s likely the 6-foot-8 LaMelo will end up on a roster in the opposite conference, because picks 3 through 9 all belong to Eastern Conference squads (Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta, Detroit, New York, Washington). That would still mean two games per regular season between Balls.

Asked for what kind of advice 6-6 Lonzo has given him about the pre-draft process and a career in the NBA, LaMelo declined to give specifics, but replied, “He pretty much said, just be yourself. He pretty much talks to me every day, so it’s a whole lot of stuff. He gives me a lot of little hints.”

Maryland’s Smith forced to make big decisions online

Two-year Maryland Terrapins forward Jalen Smith noted that he’s not daunted by having to conduct pre-draft interviews via Zoom calls instead of in person. After all, he recently made two major decisions himself through the platform.

“Picking my agent was over Zoom,” Smith said. “Picking my financial advisor was over Zoom. So I figured it would trickle down into (this pre-draft) process. It’s been a tough thing, because I like to read people in person – rather than over a camera – but obviously, whatever has to get the job done, I’m up for it.”

The 6-foot-10, 225-pounder is projected after the lottery by most mock drafts, but Bleacher Report’s mock lists him as the 13th overall pick, going to New Orleans. Smith mentioned Kevin Garnett and Memphis big Jaren Jackson Jr. as players he’s tried to emulate in his versatile game.

French guard projects to go in top 10

Born in Florida but having grown up in France, 19-year-old point guard Killian Hayes may be off the board by the time New Orleans picks at No. 13 overall – at least if his agent’s projections are correct.

“My agent tells me I’m (likely to be picked) between 2 and 10, (or) 2 and 8,” Hayes said.

The left-hander spoke multiple times Monday about how some of his biggest NBA influences have been fellow southpaw backcourt players, particularly Manu Ginobili, Goran Dragic and James Harden.

“I always watched highlights of a lot of lefties,” Hayes said.

Asked about a comparison to another lefty point guard – Minnesota’s D’Angelo Russell – Hayes noted that Russell is “one of my favorite players in the league.” Hayes remembered watching Russell highlights on social media from Russell’s high school career at Monteverde Academy in Florida.

NBA.com’s consensus mock draft has Hayes going ninth to Washington.

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