Lamelo Ball has been in the eye of every basketball fan for the past four years. From playing with his brothers as a freshman at Chino Hills High School to the Illawarra Hawks in Australia, he has been in a huge spotlight from a young age.
Not only has he embraced the attention, but he’s also improved under it.
Lamelo Ball is the next young star to blossom into a franchise cornerstone. His talent, creativity, and instincts are undeniable. This natural skill set, paired with his unwavering confidence, creates a prospect that no team should pass up.
Lamelo’s combination of ball-handling skills, deep range, and outstanding vision at 6’8 makes him an ideal player to build a franchise around.
Ball is excellent at changing his pace and height while breaking down defenders. He’ll size up a defender with a high combo and suddenly slip by the defender. He isn’t super explosive, but his long strides and reach allow him to squeeze by defenders.
Teams also can’t sag off Lamelo, or he’ll pull-up with no hesitation from three. His shot is unorthodox, but it’s quick and allows him to get into his pull-up instantly. The numbers from three from the past season with the Illawarra Hawks weren’t great, but many of his shots were off the dribble.
Some people may view this as a negative, but it’s a terrific sign of confidence that he didn’t stop shooting even in a setting where veteran players likely frowned upon his shot selection. As long as he shows he is willing to shoot from distance, teams have to respect his range or risk him catching fire.
The argument that his poor shooting will hurt his career as it has with non-shooting playmakers such as Ricky Rubio doesn’t apply to Ball. Unlike Rubio, Ball is more than willing to shoot the rock, which keeps defenses honest.
His shot opens up passing, which he is elite at. He sees the game at an advanced level and is more than willing to make the right play.
A couple of takeaways from this compilation of his passes at Spire Institute:
First, his willingness to pass spread to his teammates. Everyone was running the break on Spire. They would have three or four players running the lanes knowing the Lamelo is looking for them. NBA players are going to love having a fun point guard who dishes the ball.
Second, he already has advanced knowledge of lob throwing. He was putting lobs in the right place even when he was at an awkward angle or defenders crowded him. Lob catching has become a staple of every NBA offense, so this skill is immediately translatable.
His combination of range, handle, and passing is the prototypical superstar in this day and age. Ball is a player a team can run their offense through.
The biggest positive, offensively, is his belief in himself. He has the talent to be the man on an NBA team, and he knows it.
The natural assumption to make is that Ball is a poor defender. Compared to his offense, this part of his game isn’t at the same level, but he has shown flashes on defense.
According to The Stepien scouting report on Lamelo Ball by Spencer Pearlman, “when [Ball] is closer to the action, he’s definitely more active in help.” He has the length at 6’8 to stunt and close out on shooters. Ball can also bother small guards by contesting from behind on pick and rolls and blocking passing angles. For example, the Milwaukee Bucks utilize Eric Bledsoe’s long wingspan to contest the ball handler from behind on pick and rolls.
Ball’s I.Q on offense can be an asset to his defense. If he focuses on the defensive end, he could make up for his lack of strength and lateral movement with anticipation.
While he has the potential to become a positive impact on defense, he lacks effort and I.Q in certain scenarios. On-ball, he has a hard time staying in front of quick, low to the ground guards because of his stiff hips. Mobility work would benefit his on-ball defense.
His transition defense is weak, but this is purely an effort issue. In the half-court, he sometimes is unaware and turns his head from the ball when his man is far from the action.
These issues mainly stem from experience, strength, and effort, all things that should come with time. It’ll be beneficial for Ball to be drafted by a team with a strong defensive focus.
What makes Lamelo Ball special
The initial impression people get from Lamelo is that he cares only about scoring the ball and is a diva based on his father’s behavior. That’s far from the impression that coaches have gotten.
Illawarra Hawks coach, Matt Flinn said in an interview with GQ Australia:
“The first thing I noticed about LaMelo was just how joyful he was. He sleeps, drinks basketball. That’s his whole world and everything he does. There’s a perception about LaMelo from what you see online, but that’s nothing like what you see inside the team group. He enjoys other people succeeding; a lot of people think it’s all about him. It’s not. He’s a really special kid in that way.”
His Drew League coach, Gary Clark, furthered that Ball is a selfless player and a natural leader in an Instagram post after the season.
“He #EARNED unquestioned leadership and a neon green light with everyone in the group. A #team with #LaMeloBall will always have good #chemistry because of the way he sets the tone in the locker room…“
It’s a great sign that he was well regarded by his older teammates. These traits will allow him to immediately make an impact on whatever team that drafts him.
Next, Clark discusses Lamelo’s confidence,
“The kid understands game flow, he embraces “the moment” and he never fails to show up. I’ve never seen a 17 year old with as much #confidence and self-awareness as LaMelo Ball.“
Lastly, Clark talks about the superstar potential Ball has,
“Aside from #basketball…With all of the attention he receives he walks that fine line of supreme confidence and graceful #humility like a true #superstar…“
Ball is going to thrive in pretty much every situation. His skillset is transcendent and has the personality to win over NBA locker rooms. However, there is an ideal situation out there that will allow him to reach his full potential faster.
For his offensive game to flourish, he’s going to need a coach who will allow him to play as himself. Also, for the time being, he should go to a team where he isn’t going to be the primary scorer right off the bat. Defensively, the team needs to have a strong foundation to bring along Ball. When a team is committed on that end, it’s infectious.
The Warriors meet these needs. They play fast with little to no plays, high I.Q. passers, shooters, and lob threats along with a top-notch defense. Steve Kerr lets his team play and believes in them. He would let Ball play as well as guide him through NBA defensive principles.
Luckily, the Warriors have a strong chance to pick Ball. They are one of the three teams with the best number one pick odds.
What is going to determine whether he is a player a team can build around is if his skill set continues to improve, particularly his shooting consistency. Luckily, that’s the easy part. Ball already has the belief he can be a great player, but he isn’t cocky. He is unselfish, humble, and willing to learn.
These traits to go with his talent makes Lamelo Ball the surefire pick in the 2020 draft.