Team: Illawarra Hawks
Age: 18 (Turns 19 in August 2020)
Weight: 181 lbs
Wingspan: None officially listed
LaMelo Ball is one of the best passers in this class. He makes many hard passes look easy. Ball can hit players running in transition that are 60 ft. away from him and put it on the money. He is also solid as a pick and roll passer. One reason for this is because he can pass fluently with both hands. Many point guards in the NBA now can’t do that. So that ability to be ambidextrous makes it harder on a team to predict his tendencies. His passing is fairly natural for him and similar to his brother Lonzo in some ways because he can make passes other people will never be able to see no matter how much film they study. While I wouldn’t put LaMelo in the same category as Lonzo, they see the game in a different way that most can’t understand. As a dribbler, there is a lot to like. Even at 6’8, he has a burst out of combo moves that make him so difficult to guard. LaMelo also can keep his dribble low in traffic and does a very good job of keeping his dribble alive. Ball has a lefty hang dribble that is simple but effective because he understands how to get the defense to commit and then burn them. As a shooter, he has range well beyond the 3 point-line. Then while there isn’t much to love about his mechanics, there is a lot of fluidity in his jump shot. LaMelo is also a very confident person and he feels like he can make every shot he attempts. As a driver, Ball has showcased a floater shot that he will shoot from as far as the free-throw line. While this isn’t the most efficient shot because of analytics, it’s still a good tool to have in the tool bag. Ball has really good body control and can finish in flashy ways around the rim once he gets in the air. On defense, he has natural instincts. These instincts allow him to deflect passes or even block shots. LaMelo is also really athletic in general so when he wants to, he can be a very good defender especially at 6’8. His lateral quickness will be enough to lock down opponents when he wants to. Ball can also rack up rebounds for a point guard as he has a good sense of where the ball’s going to bounce off the rim.
I think his biggest weakness as a passer can be his ego. He’s capable of making all the passes, but I don’t know if he will always make the “right” pass when it’s there. As a shooter, there are many flaws to point out as it has a low release point, inconsistent balance, and his elbow is a little out. He tends to kick his feet forward on the follow-through which can be awkward. LaMelo also will take a lot of dumb shots whether it’s contested, deep, or early in the shot clock, and that hurts his percentages a bit. As a dribbler, he can dribble into tight crowds too often, but that is really the only flaw in that category. Ball’s driving game has a lot of room to grow. Right now, he doesn’t have a variety of moves to finish around the rim. He doesn’t perform euro’s or same hand same foot type of moves so that makes him easier to guard at the rim. This in combination with his jump shot makes him easier to guard on a switch despite being an impressive dribbler. On defense, he doesn’t give the effort most of the time to be at least average on that end of the floor. LaMelo will get back cut, won’t put a hand up, or won’t fight past the screen because he just doesn’t seem to care at. This is a shame considering he could be a good defender if he wanted to. Ball will always go under the screen which can be a negative against really good shooters, but he does have the size to still contest most times. As LaMelo is expected to be drafted with the intention of being a franchise point guard, how he will be as a leader is a real concern for me personally. I think his laziness at times as well as shot selection can definitely rub people the wrong way. LaMelo also raises medical concerns as he had a bone bruise that sat him out for the rest of his international season. We have also seen his brother Lonzo get hit by the injury bug at an alarming rate in his first 3 seasons. This isn’t everything, but it’s something because they’re similarly built and owners aren’t going to have as much patience if he gets hurt in his first two years to hire a new GM and consider him a bust.
LaMelo has elite instincts that help raise his floor, however, his lack of effort at times hurts his stock. Whoever is going to be picking LaMelo is choosing him to be the leader of a multi-billion dollar company. That can be scary to think of. On the same token, there are special qualities he possesses. His ability to push the ball ahead is great in today’s game where athleticism thrives. Another thing is his ball-handling. I think he is uniquely gifted because of his ability to burst out of combination moves. That’s very unique for someone at 6’8. You also have to think of the defensive potential possibility. The Lakers and 76ers are 2 of the best defensive teams especially because they can play tall and overwhelm teams. It’s very possible though LaMelo can become a liability on that end. That’s an area that’s very hard to predict. Whether it’s shot selection, decision making, or effort; those are all areas he can control is the positive. Also, Ball needs to be a capable 3 point shooter. Having a dependable jump shot will create more opportunities for him to penetrate and break down the defense. Now I think it’s possible for him to be a low 30’s% 3 point shooter without tweaking his mechanics. The one thing to love about his shot is the fluidity and how natural it looks for him. If he can consistently get that elbow in while keeping the fluidity, I think he can become a mid 30’s% 3 point shooter. He will never really have a mid-range jumper like his brother just because the foundation of the jump shot, but Ball is 6’8 and has that floater game to keep the defense honest. I can see Ball as an eventual All-Star possibly because of what he has to offer. Like mentioned previously, if I’m a GM, I would have doubts about making him the face of my franchise and backing an essential pick of my career on him. I don’t always love his character nor his attitude on the floor. Overall though, LaMelo has enough special qualities to make a team overlook that and select him somewhere in the top 5.
Article Written by Bradley Patten
Photo Credit to Getty/Anthony Au-Yeung (https://www.complex.com/sports/lamelo-ball-everything-you-need-to-know)