LaMelo Ball has separated himself from the rest of his draft class. The 18-year-old point guard, who spent the 2019-20 season playing professionally in Australia, is clearly the best player available in the 2020 NBA Draft.
LaMelo been on the NBA's radar for what seems like forever. The youngest Ball brother became famous as his older brother Lonzo ascended to become the second pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. But it turns out, LaMelo might be the best of the three Ball brothers, as he's improved every aspect of his game over the past few years.
While Ball's path to the NBA has been anything but traditional, he has managed to round out his game nicely. While a sojourn in Lithuania certainly didn't spur his growth and a stint with the Los Angeles Ballers certainly didn't provide him with age-appropriate competition, the kid has still turned into a really good player. His time with the Illawarra Hawks in Australia showed he's ready for the next step. He was named the NBL's Rookie of the Year for the 2019-20 season after averaging 17.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game.
In a draft class with few "sure-thing" players, Ball has skills we know will translate. His passing ability and basketball IQ are off-the-charts. Like his older brother, LaMelo has incredible instincts on the court. His size (6-foot-8, 190 pounds) will also help him in that regard. His ability to see over defenders and deliver pinpoint passes gives him a leg up on the other guards in his class.
Ball is also fantastic in the open floor. He has oustanding ball-handling skills and a great feel for where and when to dribble. Unlike Lonzo, who is more of a straight-line driver, LaMelo has some shake to him, and can maneuver through and past defenders when getting to the hoop. He has enough athleticism to finish at the rim with strength and enough touch and skill to finish around guys as well.
His size also helps him as a rebounder, while his quick feet could make him a fantastic defender. As with Lonzo, there is a tendency for LaMelo to get lazy defensively. But we've seen Lonzo overcome that instinct in the NBA and develop into a really good defender. LaMelo has that ability in him.
Whether LaMelo is the No. 1 pick will likely hinge on his shooting. He didn't shoot the ball well in Australia, and has unorthodox mechanics. Ball hit only 37.7 percent of his shots from the field during his lone season in Australia, but it's fair to blame a lot of that on shot selection. Like his brother, when he sets his feet and focuses, he can hit jumper and has deep range. It just may take time for him to round out as a shooter.
Ball is a tall, skilled, smart point guard. Guys with that skill set are currently thriving in the modern NBA. He's an incredible passer, with great instincts and can be a gifted scorer. His shooting ability will be the only thing that might hold him back.
Given the future uncertainty as far as workouts, the draft combine and more, teams will likely have to focus on game film more than ever when breaking prospects down. If that's the case, LaMelo Ball should be the top pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.