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THE ENIGMA THAT IS LAMELO BALL

@TheWillBaldwin

LaMelo Ball is quite possibly the most fascinating NBA Draft prospect of all-time. 

To mainstream fans, he’s an overrated basketball Kardashian built for highlights and not much else. However, to basketball scouts and draft enthusiasts who have invested in watching him play, the potential he has for the NBA is undeniable.

You’re going to hear all week about Ball’s weaknesses from the mainstream media who haven’t watched a second of him play and I guess that just comes with the territory of entering the league as a celebrity. I’m here to tell you though when I sat down to watch him play in Australia last season I was blown away. 

It’s no secret I loved Lonzo heading into the 2017 Draft and watching his little brother, I got flashbacks of what made me fall in love. The passing, the craftiness, the joy for the game, it was all there in Australia like it had been for Zo at UCLA.

The only thing is, Melo is better than his older brother was when he entered the NBA. 

Big bro may have Melo beat as an athlete but otherwise, it’s not all that close. Melo is better at reading ball screens, better in the open floor and has a higher potential to grow his touch as a scorer.

His shooting form is nothing to write home about but compared to Zo, it may as well be Steph Curry’s. 

The real question marks for Melo all revolve around one thing for me: his carelessness when it comes to detail.

Few players show the flashes of an incredible ceiling like Ball does. What’s keeping him from a unanimous number one spot though is that there are perplexing gaps in those moments.

He has a penchant for falling asleep off the ball offensively and defensively it’s even worse. His jump shot technique fluctuates virtually every time he releases and his favourite little floater alters all the way from a release that looks like mine to one that looks like Chris Paul.

Ball has moments of generational talent and others where he loses complete focus. Whether that’s his bizarre upbringing, his natural personality or just something he can grow out of remains to be seen. 

Until it is answered though, it will remain Melo’s greatest detractor. 

Yeah, his defence is poor but so is just about every single main-ballhandler’s when they enter the league. Zo’s for example was treacherous and now he’s borderline elite. Defence comes down to desire, mentality and your love for the game and I truly can’t question that in Melo.

Any kid who travels around the world playing in such comically ridiculousus situations like he did while still managing to grow their game shows me something. 

At times he flashes a Penny Hardaway esque-game with some Trae Young and D’Angelo Russell and those are the times I choose to build my report on. His team’s from Lithuania to the JBL to even Australia were the complete opposite of structure. Melo under an NBA team’s roof will be a completely different player and person and many refuse to accept this.

Lack of structure has really defined his teenage years. I’m sure the team that drafts him will have this in mind and work towards building something sustainable around him because his talent is so immense, it simply warrants that kind of organizational effort.

 Despite being incredibly famous few actually know a meaningful thing about Ball and that’s what makes him the most unique prospect in league history. 

His game and in particular his feel for the sport is special and that’s something I’d build around no matter who he is. The truth is if his last name was Smith, he’d be the number one pick going away. 

We hold his last name against him when in many ways it’s helped prepare him more than anyone else. Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and the rest don’t know what it’s like to be a celebrity like an NBA star is. 

I won’t pretend to guess how his career will go, only that he has the ceiling for it to warrant the top selection in this draft. 6’7 generational passers don’t come along often. 

LaMelo Ball’s last name defines him when it should be his game. Don’t let the mainstream fool you, Ball is special and has the talent to be great. 

Scouting Report:

Stats:

SeasonTeamLeague GMPFGFGAFG%3P3PA3P%2P2PA2P%FTFTAFT%ORBDRBTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPFPTS
2019-20IllawarraNBL Australiaau1231.36.316.7.3751.76.7.2504.610.0.4582.83.9.7231.95.77.66.81.60.12.52.617.0

Projection:

  • All-Star main ball-handler

Player Comp:

  • Penny Hardaway- Open floor savant, 6’7 lead ball-handler, the type of talent and size we rarely see
  • D’Angelo Russell- Craft pick and roll player who may not be the greatest athlete but uses size, feel and craft to produce at a high-level
  • Trae Young- Shot selection similarities are undeniable as are their unique passing gifts, biggest difference is Melo is 6’7 but can’t shoot even close to the same level as Trae

Strengths:

  • Generational passer
  • Size and length for position elite
  • Great feel around rim in terms of rebounding, ball seems to find him and he regularly makes the most of it
  • Crafty and creative in a way few players are with the ball in his hands
  • Few players in this draft (if any) have the gifts LaMelo has in the open floor

Weaknesses:

  • Highly questionable shot selection
  • Lackadaisical off-ball offensively and defensively  
  • Feel as an isolation scorer is questionable
  • Inconsistent mechanics in everything from jump shooting, floaters, drives and even defensive stance
  • Struggles to create own shot, often over-dribbling in process

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