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With so much noise surrounding LaMelo Ball, it is hard to tell whether LaMelo is the real deal. While LaMelo Ball has many detractors, primarily those that hate LaVar Ball and the Big Baller Brand, LaMelo Ball has some of the most avid supporters out of any prospect in the draft. It’s without a doubt that LaMelo Ball will enter the 2020 draft as the most polarizing prospect.
However, I am confident that LaMelo will have a productive NBA career. At 6’7’’, LaMelo Ball has the greatest potential out of all the Ball brothers heading into the NBA draft. The question with LaMelo is whether he can adjust to the size and physicality of the NBA and whether he can become more consistent with his jump shot.
LaMelo Ball had a great season with 17 points, 7 assists, and 7.5 rebounds per game. He also showed that he can consistently grab steals and blocks, averaging 1.1 steals and .08 blocks per game. However, he did have shooting struggles, with a mediocre field goal percentage of 37%, a three-point percentage of 24%, and a free-throw percentage of 72%. Lonzo shows a competitive ability to score, grab boards, and dish the ball. However, he struggles mightily on his mid-range, and three-point shot.
Every highlight, all of them (there were a lot) from LaMelo Ball's triple-double against the Cairns Taipans ⤵️
— The NBL (@NBL) November 25, 2019
LaMelo Ball has one of the best traits any point guard can have: fluidity. He’s light on his feet with a quick twitch. He has good body control as he often contorts his body to get past bigger defenders in the paint. He has a light gait as his crossovers look very fluid. Many analysts don’t pay enough attention to these traits. However, some of the most elite basketball players, Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, and Ben Simmons all have an effortless look with the ball in their hands which makes their crossovers more dynamic, their passes smoother, and their drives deadlier. It is clear LaMelo has put in considerable time perfecting his fluidity.
LaMelo Ball shows elite court vision and playmaking ability that will translate well in the NBA. LaMelo Ball would force double teams but knew his teammate’s location on the court. When dishing the ball, LaMelo almost always hits his teammates in stride increasing their chances of scoring. What makes LaMelo dangerous is that defenses can’t predict his passing. LaMelo is such a good finisher at the rim that opposing defenses struggle to accurately cover both his shot and passing lanes.
LaMelo Ball shows the potential to be an elite transition player in the NBA. Like his brother Lonzo, LaMelo has seemingly perfected the full-court basketball throw. Lonzo made a name for himself in on transition plays where he would use his height advantage over other guards to collect the rebound and chuck the ball to the opposite end of the court with deadly accuracy. Expect much of the same with LaMelo. It’s such a great skill to have as a point guard as it constantly keeps the defense on its toes and is one of the easiest methods to secure transition buckets.
I struggle to make a definitive assessment of LaMelo Ball’s shot. Many analysts see a unique shot and quickly brush it to the side as too different from the NBA. However, I don’t care what the shot looks like as long as you are able to stay balanced and have a quick release. With LaMelo’s shot, it is by no means a stereotypical shot. He sweeps his legs outward to where it looks like he’s about to fall down as he takes the shot. This could or could not benefit him on 3 point foul. As far as the release point, he does a fantastic job of releasing the ball at its highest point. Coupled with a smooth wrist motion and quick release, I think those mechanics are spot on. If he can fix his landing to improve his balance and accuracy, he will be a nightmare in the NBA.
His defensive capabilities and effort are concerning. He’s one of the modern-day volume scores and playmakers that just doesn’t care about the defensive side of the ball. He goes too had for steals which he doesn’t have the hands for and struggles to keep his body low to the ground. He has the length to be a great perimeter defender, but he needs to put on size and have an elite defensive-minded coach to force him to put the effort in on that side of the court.
Lastly, I think he needs to improve his mental approach to the game. I question his motor and his basketball IQ. At times, LaMelo would chuck up 25+ foot shots at the beginning of shot clocks or when double-teamed. If he shows some maturity when he gets into the league, I could see him becoming a dynamic player in the NBA.
My dispatch from Wollongong, on the 36ers' win over the Hawks: the sample size is in, so it's time to have *that* LaMelo Ball conversation. Over 5 games, he's shooting 3-of-25 from three-point land. That a problem.https://t.co/ViBgONadGw
— Olgun Uluc (@OlgunUluc) October 21, 2019
Best Team Fit
According to LaVar Ball, the New York Knicks are the best fit for LaMelo’s talents. Father knows best I suppose. All jokes aside, I do not see how LaMelo fits with this team. The Knicks have no real identity, so you could argue that no player fits what they are trying to do. However, I want to see the Knicks go with somebody that can work well with RJ Barrett. I would like to see a point guard that can provide 3pt shooting, create plays, and bring stable defensive energy alongside Barrett. LaMelo only has one of these traits, his playmaking ability. I struggle to see how LaMelo’s lack of a consistent jump shot or defensive presence will mesh with RJ Barrett. Coupled with poor defender Julius Randle, the Knicks would continue to be a bottom feeder on the defensive end.
I think he could fit well with the Timberwolves. The projected starting lineup in 2020 is PG: D’Angelo Russell SG: Malik Beasley SF: Josh Okogie/Jarrett Culver PF: Juan Hernangomez C: Karl-Anthony Towns. In my opinion, LaMelo fits well with the team as a sixth/seventh man on their bench in his first year. He shows the potential to excel on pick and rolls and would be a great fit alongside Towns. The defensive pressure would also be taken off Ball due to Okogie and Culver’s presence. LaMelo Ball and D’Angelo Russell could establish great chemistry as playmaking guards.
However, I don’t think the Timberwolves draft LaMelo. First, I think the Timberwolves are looking for a day-one starter to complement Russell and Towns. I am not sure if LaMelo’s play is refined enough to be that starting day prospect. Also, D’Angelo Russell played alongside 1 ball brother already. I doubt the Timberwolves want to throw him in that situation again.
I think the best overall fit for LaMelo is with the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls organization drafted point guard Coby White in the first round of the 2019 draft. However, White struggled with his consistency and playmaking. White reminds me of a streaky scorer (JR Smith, Jamal Crawford, etc.) best suited to lead bench units. At this time, I am not sure if Coby White has the tools to become a playmaking point guard in the NBA.
With the Bulls, LaMelo has the opportunity to play to his strengths. The Bulls already have scorers in Zach Lavine, Otto Porter Jr., and Lauri Markkanen. Joining the Bulls allows Ball to simply create plays and be an elite facilitator. He can get a pick and roll game going with Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. while being a scorer in bursts until he can correct his shot mechanics. Jim Boylen, while not my first choice of coach, could be beneficial in helping LaMelo gain some maturity on the court.
I don’t have a great player comparison for LaMelo Ball. In all honesty, I think his best comparison is his brother Lonzo Ball. Both brothers have shown an incredible court vision and ability to make plays at any spot on the court. Both brothers also have the length to disrupt passing lanes. Like Lonzo, LaMelo struggles with shot consistency. If indicative of Lonzo’s improvement, I think LaMelo could develop into a quality shooter in the league.
You could also make an argument that LaMelo is similar to Ricky Rubio. Both guards display an elite level of fluidity with the ball in their hands which ultimately makes them better playmakers. However, Ricky Rubio was a much more established defender while Ball is a better shooter. I think LaMelo is a unique type of player that lacks a true comparison.
Many people are high on LaMelo Ball, expecting the guard to land in the top three. I am not one of those people. What scares me about LaMelo Ball is his inconsistency and unrefined shooting ability. Also, he struggles on the defensive side of the floor which, as we have seen in the past, makes him a liability at the guard position in the playoffs (Curry, Thomas). Instead, I have Ball slated between picks 7-10.