LaMelo Ball will be entering the 2020 NBA Draft after playing overseas for a few years in places like Lithuania and Australia. His last team was part of Australia's NBL with the Illawarra Hawks. He earned around $500,000 while in the league, which was the highest of any player outside RJ Hampton (who earned the same). But, how does Ball stack up against other prospective top NBA draftees like James Wiseman though?
That all depends on who you decide to ask, as they are completely different players with different skill sets.
However, the biggest thing to remember about LaMelo Ball is that some believe he could instantly help a team out. Ball has proven himself to be, like his brother Lonzo, a tremendous passer. However, unlike Lonzo, LaMelo has proven he can score just as well as he passes. He's the taller of his brothers in spite of being only 18 years old, as of this writing.
Standing at 6'7, he is likely going to grow a bit more and could end up being somewhere around 6'9 by the time he's done growing. This gives off slight Penny Hardaway and Magic Johnson vibes, as they played the same position as LaMelo does now, point guard. They were also tall PGs within the 6' 7" - 6' 9" height range.
There have been some who have been chosen to play Point-Forward, such as Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers and Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks. These players essentially operate at Small Forward but act as the primary ball handler and playmaker for their team. While Simmons is 6' 10", Doncic is roughly 6' 7" himself. This has been assumed as a possible role for LaMelo Ball too, but that is only due to the recent success of Point Forwards. But most feel he'll remain in the traditional point guard role.
LAMELO BALL AND THE BALL FAMILY
LaMelo Ball has technically been a professional player since around 16 years old when he and his brother Liangelo (Gelo) Ball went to play overseas. Gelo Ball was actually playing for UCLA at the time when his father, LaVar Ball, told him to leave after what seemed like playing concerns. He and LaMelo went to play overseas around that time.
They gained notoriety because of their brother Lonzo Ball. Now an NBA guard, he was playing at UCLA and due to being from the LA area, LaVar got into the public eye and pushed for his son to be drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers had the #2 overall pick and did need a guard, but LaVar made it tough to like Lonzo.
The craziness of this family in the last few years has been quite notable, and it even led to Facebook adding a show on their Facebook Watch section for them called Ball in the Family.
LaVar tried to consistently push his Big Baller Brand and it became a bit too much. When Lonzo was traded out of Los Angeles and it was clear he was hurting his son more than helping, we did not hear as much from him. Lonzo has since even shown sparks of being a top playmaking guard with the New Orleans Pelicans.
LaMelo originally committed to playing for UCLA like both his brothers before him but ended up going to the NBL. Now that he has proven he can be an asset for other professional leagues, does that mean he can get it done in the NBA? It's hard to be certain.
WILL LAMELO BALL BE DRAFTED?
This is certain, LaMelo Ball will without a doubt be drafted. Many feel he will even be a lottery pick and won't make it out of the Top 5. However, this will all depend on who is in those 5 positions. As of now, we do not know the draft order because of the recent COVID issue pushing back the NBA Draft Lottery.
As a result, LaMelo could very well fall out of the Top 5 if all five of the teams drafting there do not need a playmaking guard or feel that he's not the best available prospect. Let's examine this for a second and see where LaMelo could end up, based on the lottery going just on record alone.
As of the writing of this article the worst fourteen teams in the NBA, in order, are: the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Hornets, Washington Wizards, Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans, and Portland Trail Blazers.
There are a few places that are a good fit for LaMelo Ball here. First is the Timberwolves, who traded away an impressive passer in Ricky Rubio a while back and have yet to find anyone who can equal what he did for them. They brought in Derrick Rose a scoring point guard but isn't the greatest playmaker that makes everyone around him better. Then D'Angelo Russell was traded to the team this past season but has similar skill sets to Rose.
LaMelo being entered into this situation would be an interesting concept. He could clearly play with Russell, who is still with the team. One could move Russell up to Shooting Guard but that takes Malik Beasley out of the starting lineup. You could put Ball at SF to help here but a young upcoming Josh Okogie plays on the wing as well. However, Okogie makes more sense to come off the bench than to start. This could possibly work.
The next two locations he'd fit would be the Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets. However, the Pistons do not technically "need" another guard right now as much as another big man. They also have a need for a small forward. Meanwhile, the Hornets have need for another point guard and are in desperate need for more bucket getters.
BEST AND MOST LIKELY LANDING SPOTS FOR LAMELO BALL
The most ideal spot for LaMelo Ball would be New York for the Knicks. This is a good place to be market-wise and it would obviously give off the same vibes Lonzo brought when he ended up in Los Angeles. However, most of the time a place like this can be terrible for rookies. The difference here is that LaMelo is used to the attention, lights flashing in his face, and media covering his every move.
He has also shown that he can get it done under pressure when playing in the NBL. The question many will have is, how could he fit on a team with guards like R.J. Barrett, Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina, & Dennis Smith, Jr.? There are a few ways this could be done.
First, Barrett makes sense at shooting guard but even more sense at small forward. Ntilikina is a solid defender but still developing on the offensive end. Therefore, Barrett moves up to small forward and Ntilikina remains a bench player. Smith, Jr. could then operate at the SG position. He is a legit offensive threat but surely not a playmaking point guard. Sure, he'll be slightly undersized at SG, but so was Allen Iverson and many others as a combo guard.
We could then look into trading Payton. He's proven to be a good passer but he's incredibly inconsistent as an offensive player at this point in career. While Payton has a lot of upside, LaMelo has the potential to become a better overall player.
With the NBL, LaMelo averaged 17 points-per-game along with nearly 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Keep in mind, he did all of this at both 17 and 18 years old, people! IN A PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE! Imagine what he will be able to do as he continues to mature as a player!
The next best landing spot is the Chicago Bulls. Like New York, eyeballs are all over you in Chicago. However, they are similar to the Hornets with a desperate need for a guard. Yet unlike the Hornets who have a ton of problems, the Bulls mostly just have a flaw at point guard. Coby White was the assumed point guard but was moved to the SG position and played much better here.
Having someone like LaMelo Ball would do wonders. Think about Coby White, Lauri Markkanen, Daniel Gafford, Zach LaVine, and Wendell Carter, Jr. playing with a guy like LaMelo who could get the ball to all of them well, while at the same time, go after his own shot. Plus, he can rebound from the guard slot too. That's a nice added bonus.