6'6 - 180 lbs
This 2020 Draft is loaded with guards.
Whether your team needs a true point, shooting, or combo guard, this class will most likely have what you need. The fight to be highest ranked in June will be close one; as of today Anthony Edwards, Cole Anthony, and LaMelo Ball remain the topics of conversation.
The more we see LaMelo play, the more he solidifies himself as an elite prospect and potential top selection in the 2020 NBA Draft. Since the release of the original report below, he has raised his 3P%, PPG, and APG, most notably his three point shooting. Over his last four games, he has hit 12-of-32 from deep (37.5%). This is incredibly important, as almost every on-ball strength he has as a creator stems from the defense respecting his shot.
On Monday he logged his first triple-double as a pro, with a line of 32 points, 13 assists, and 11 rebounds. (Highlights here):
Aside from his ability to score on multiple levels, what I'm continually impressed with is his vision & ability to make reads on the move. Here he can feel the defender too far behind his left hip & delivers a clean pass to the roller.
Some will debate whether or not this pass was intentional, but I feel that it was. He's made no-look reads to the short roll man & far corner before while driving to his right; while I can't say which teammate he was aiming for, I feel okay about him having quick enough decision making to make the attempt.
He's not an elite athlete, and probably won't ever be.
He counters this with long strides and excellent body control. Here we see an example of his average athleticism on what should be a dunk, followed by a strong drive and an awkward, creative finish at the rim.
His athleticism will continue to be a question mark, so his basketball IQ and decision making will need to stay clean.
Defense: When it comes to LaMelo's defense, searching the internet probably won't help you find much. And there's a reason.
As highlighted in the post below, the tools are there but the effort is not. He certainly needs to pick up the intensity and decision making on this end of the floor.
Check out the clip from Max:
On the surface, this help defense appears to be a positive as he slides over and contests the shot. If you'll replay it, you'll notice the lack of effort is painfully clear as he's standing straight up and lets his man have the corner. He needs to follow his man more closely; an NBA shooter will get away with ease for an uncontested catch-and-shoot opportunity.
Here he badly misreads the flight of the transition pass, and instead of squaring his feet and getting into a stance, he commits a lazy foul.
I'm usually biased to rank defensively-engaged prospects over those who are not. In this case however, even with the defenses lapses, Ball's skill set & vision on offense (including passes like these) is enough to keep him in Top-3 consideration.
LaMelo continues to be polarizing, but more and more people are coming around to the idea of him as a contender for the #1 pick. I've moved him up to #2 on my current Big Board, but am excited to watch the rest of the Illawarra season and see where he ends up.
LaMelo Ball will be one of the most polarizing prospects leading up to the 2020 NBA Draft. We'll likely see him in mock drafts ranked anywhere from 1 to 15, and what's most interesting is that part of the evaluation will be his family dynamics and not just his basketball (which isn't a bad thing). Off court picture aside, the kid has tons of NBA potential.
LaMelo has been filling highlight reels for years and recently become a worldwide basketball celebrity. His development as part of the recent movement toward the NBL will be something to monitor, but all the tools are in place for a push towards the #1 pick next summer.
At 6'6 and plus length, he has great positional size at point guard. You can find reports of him weighing anywhere from 180-190 lbs, so we'll have to see what his frame allows as time moves on. He's an average athlete and isn't very explosive which is something to monitor moving forward. Ball has shown some excellent body control around the rim which impressive, as he contorts his body and limbs to move around defenders really well. His jumping is unconventional and mechanics are funky at times, but he makes it work. The lack of elite bounce and athleticism can be a concern, but so far in the NBL it hasn't hindered his playmaking ability.
Offense: Basketball twitter loves to talk about LaMelo's ability to shoot threes, but is it really as prominent as some think? Highlights and clips prove that he does in fact have an ability to shoot from deep; he has no fear and is confident in pulling from anywhere on the floor.
These particular clips look nice, but a deep dive shows that consistency is a problem.
Through seven NBL starts he's shooting a mere 18.9% from deep (7-37 total).
In Lithuania he shot only 25% on threes (8-32 total).
While both of these are small sample sizes, it's worrisome that shot selection seems to be an issue. Watching him chunk the ball from distance without hesitation tells me that it's simply a part of who he is. It reminds me of an article from the Ringer NBA in which the Ball brothers explain that LaVar has been training them to shoot from long range since they were kids.
Is this a "bad" habit that can be broken? Maybe it pays off and he does in fact turn into a Steph-like shooter with high volume?
Yes, there are some guys in the NBA who take these shots and no one cares, in fact many of us just assume it's going in anyway. Steph, Klay, and Dame can get away with "bad" shots because they're consistent and have earned trust from their respective coaching staff.
This kind of shooting isn't something that develops from heaving 35 footers at home or in games, it's diligent practice and years of perfecting their craft. This is not to say that LaMelo can't get there one day; he just isn't there yet and probably needs to start focusing on smarter, less precarious shots for the time being.
Another discussion among evaluators is the technique. It's unconventional, as he appears to push the ball with two hands quite often and the primary release point is his chest. It's quirky and works for him right now, but I wonder how he'll be able to get if off against solid NBA defenders.
Ultimately, I do believe in his shooting ability, at least greater than the 18% he's shooting from deep right now. His shot selection can be poor so smarter decisions should alleviate a lot of unnecessary misses. Will he ever shoot 40%? Maybe, maybe not, but it'll be effective enough to allow him to make plays with the ball in his hand, which is the main focus right now.
The way his shooting will affect playmaking is in the threat itself.
I'm a big fan of LaMelo's hesitation move, as he gets defenders off balance quickly and then uses his length to get to the rim. While he's not an elite athlete, his first step is quick and strong enough to create space on drives when his man bites or presses him at all.
If he wants this move to remain a part of his arsenal he'll need to hit his threes at a respectable clip.
My favorite part of Ball's game is is innate ability to see the floor and create for his teammates. He displays elite vision and can pass the ball effectively all over the floor in both transition and the half court. At 6'6 he can see over most defenders allowing him to fire passes to the corners, and with his length, he can reach around most of his opponents for dump offs in the paint hitting the roll man in stride. ESPN's Mike Schmitz recently called Ball "...one of the greatest 18 year old passers on the planet."
Ball changes directions & speeds very well and keeps his head up to play unselfish basketball; the ambidexterity, touch, and fluidity make him fun to watch and much more than just a kid filling highlight videos. He appears to have the making of a future floor general and excellent game manager. This vision, accompanied by his plus ball handling and low turnover rate, gives promise that this will translate to the next level.
Defense: Many heavy USG stars use so much energy on offense that the defensive side of the floor doesn't get much attention. LaMelo is no different. The motor and effort aren't always there, but his high IQ certainly makes an impact.
He anticipates really well and uses those long arms to jump into passing lanes. He's shown aggression pressuring inbounds passes and has the tools to be a solid defender against guards in transition.
This is an area in which I worry about his athleticism and strength, because he feels like a player that could really get taken advantage of at the NBA level. Guards with strong first steps can get around him at will so he does become a liability. His isolation and positional defense are some of the only weaknesses in his game; the tools are there though, so if he truly wants to improve in this area, I believe he can.
Swing Skill: 3PT%, Defensive intensity, Off-court factors
Overall: While LaMelo ball may have gained his 5 million Instagram followers due to today's basketball "mixtape culture", he is in fact the real deal with true NBA potential. An elite creator for his age, he's shown incredible vision and the ability to distribute all over the floor. The NBL has done a fantastic job showcasing his talents as he continues to become a household name all over the basketball world.
He's not perfect and certainly has some weaknesses, but his skill set is unique and one of the best in this entire draft. With high-level NBA coaching to fine tune what is family has developed since he was a kid, he can become something truly special.
I'm not on the "#1 pick" train for LaMelo Ball at this point, but he should be in the Top-7 next summer.