Name: LaMelo Ball
Measurables: 6’7”, 190 lbs
College/International Team: Illawarra, NBL Australia
Stats last season: 12 games played, 17.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.6 steals per game; 6.3/16.7 FGs (37.5%), 1.7/6.7 3Ps (25.0%), 2.8/3.9 3Ps (72.3%)
LaMelo Ball is going to make some team’s fans extremely happy next season. His combination of flashy playmaking, long-range shooting, and tendency to push the pace on offense will allow him to fit right into the modern NBA. He’s not a particularly explosive athlete and he’s not the strongest player, but the modern NBA doesn’t require the same physical attributes that it has historically – just look at the recent successes of guys like Trae Young, Steph Curry, and Damian Lillard who are elite playmakers and shooters but not the best athletes in the league. Ball has some of the best handles in the draft and can beat defenders off the dribble in a variety of ways. He’s a perfect fit for the drive-and-kick obsessed NBA.
Ball’s 3-point shooting rate doesn’t suggest that he’s an elite long-range shooter, but his shot selection wasn’t always the best at Ilwara and there’s nothing noticeably wrong with his shooting form. In the NBA, he’ll be surrounded by much better shooting and will undoubtedly boost his percentages across the board. Even if Ball never becomes an elite 3-point marksman, his high-level interior scoring, dribbling, and passing gives him a solid floor offensively. Defensively, his length allows him to be decent on-ball although his lack of strength limits his production on that end of the floor. He needs to work on his lateral quickness and improve on positioning on the defensive end of the floor. Ball does have great anticipation defensively and is good at providing help defense as well as picking off passing lanes to create fast-break opportunities. He’s dominant in transition on offense. Ball is going to be one of the first few players off the board in the NBA draft and he has tremendous long-term upside.
Passing – routinely makes highlight-reel passes and has a sixth sense for finding open teammates anywhere on the floor
Pull-up shooting, comfortable taking contested 3-point shots and has good form
Great rebounder for PG position, averaged 7.6 boards per game last season and is a constant triple-double threat
Advanced dribbling moves and can beat defenders several different ways, his ball-handling is years ahead of his age
Able to play in both half-court offense and in an up-tempo, fast-break offense
Great feel for the game and great intangibles, future leader for his NBA team
Limited play over the past several seasons presents major scouting issues
Not an elite athlete, needs to fill out his frame, can’t lose too much more explosiveness though
An inconsistent shooter from range, should improve over time and has deep pull-up ability but needs to polish form
On-ball defense needs a lot of work
Best Landing Spot
Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are a weird team in that they have two young point guards along with a bunch of overpaid big men in the frontcourt. Their roster construction isn’t like any other team’s, but a player like Ball could help unlock the offensive talent around him. Ball’s passing and shooting would provide much-needed relief for recent first-round picks Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. One of those guards would likely move to the bench, or the team could even run 3-point guard lineups like the Thunder did this season. There wouldn’t be a massive amount of pressure on Ball early in his career.
Worst Landing Spot
New York Knicks. The Knicks have a ton of players who need the ball in their hands to succeed – R.J. Barrett, Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr., Julius Randle, etc. Ball is likely going to carry a significant usage rate early in his career, and while his passing would be a boost to any high-level 3-point shooter, there aren’t any of those in New York. The lack of spacing on that roster is not what Ball needs to help him utilize his best talents. New York is also going to put a ton of pressure on him early to be the face of a franchise that is constantly undergoing turmoil and that type of pressure for a guy who hasn’t even played that much over the past couple of years would not be healthy. Ball wouldn’t reach his potential with the Knicks.
Draft range: likely won’t make it past the number 3 overall pick
Basketball IQ: 8. LaMelo Ball has a great feel for the game and oftentimes utilizes his Basketball IQ on impressive coast-to-coast runs, creating transition points after steals. His lack of awareness at times on defense limits his grade here, though.
Shooting: 8. I’d love to give Ball a greater rating here, but his shooting rate last season was just not impressive. He certainly has loads of upside in terms of shooting, particularly with pull-up jumpers as he’s surrounded by more shooting in the NBA, but he hasn’t quite put it together yet and needs to be more consistent.
Passing: 10. This is where Ball separates himself from the rest of his draft class. His drive-and-kick game is perfect for the modern NBA and he pulls off impressive behind-the-back and no-look passes frequently. His flashy playmaking and constant ability to find the open man is going to make him a very fun player to watch.
Dribbling: 10. Ball’s ball-handling skills are well beyond his years and he can beat defenders with a variety of quick dribble moves. He has a ton of shake-and-bake moves in his arsenal and makes the brutal crossover look routine. He’s also going to be a high-level pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop player right away, particularly if his pull-up shooting becomes more consistent.
Hustle: 7. The lack of hustle on defense is concerning for Ball at times and he doesn’t always fight for loose balls. He does do a great job of pushing the ball in transition and can play in an up-tempo offense, but his lack of aggressive mindset combined with his average athleticism limits his hustle.
Rebounding: 7. Ball’s length and size are off-the-charts for a point guard, although his strength isn’t quite there yet, and he seems to have a great feel for chasing down loose rebounds. He doesn’t always hustle in terms of rebounding and the lack of strength could be an issue, but he should be just fine at rebounding.
Defense: 7. Ball’s lack of defensive awareness has a tendency to hurt his team at times as he lets players get away from him on that end of the floor. He doesn’t have the strength to body up against bigger players or the lateral quickness to keep up with faster ball-handlers. His anticipation and tendency to pick off passes is a big strength here.
Leadership: 8. LaMelo Ball is constantly cool under pressure, coming up with his best play when it matters most. Having played against professional players in Australia will allow him to be a leader for a young team early in his career. His intangibles should make him a guy who NBA players love to play with.
Athleticism: 7. Ball isn’t a special athlete by any means, but he makes up for that with the advanced technical aspects of his game. His game has a lot of finesse and he plays with a cerebral quality that allows him to beat opponents regardless of his limited explosiveness.
Upside: 10. If everything goes well for LaMelo Ball, there’s no reason why he can’t be one of the best guards in the NBA in a few years. His combination of shooting upside, advanced dribbling technique, and second-nature ability to find open teammates give him elite offensive upside. On defense, if he can play smarter and bulk up a bit he should be just fine.
Total rating: 82/100
Lamelo Ball NBA Comparison
LaMelo Ball’s game reminds me a lot of Penny Hardaway, the former NBA point guard who’s calling card was flashy playmaking and the drive-and-kick game. Hardaway did have a couple of seasons with 20+ points per game, though, something Ball could accomplish. Ball’s combination of pull-up 3-point shooting and pick-and-roll ball-handling remind me most of Trae Young in the NBA, and while the two players are very different physically, they both struggle on the defensive end somewhat. There were similar concerns about Young to what Ball will face, but Young has become one of the best offensive players in the NBA. Ball has half a foot on Young which obviously makes them different players, but Ball has the same offensive upside that Young did coming into the draft with the added benefit of extra length which could help him become a plus defender in the future.
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