“Situational Analysis” is a series of articles that seeks to examine the circumstances that most often influence an NBA prospect’s success. Each player will be scored on a scale from 1-10 in four different categories: NBA-specific skill(s), fatal flaw(s), collegiate/overseas/pre-NBA environment, and ideal NBA ecosystem.
LaMelo Ball is an 18-year-old guard from Chino Hills, California, who averaged 17 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 6.8 assists for Illawarra in the National Basketball League in Australia. He is expected to be selected among the top-five picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. NBADraft.net currently has him projected at No. 3.
If there is one thing the Ball brothers have in common, it’s that they really know how to pass.
For all of the out-of-their-control narcissism and boasting that happens as a result of their father’s P.T. Barnum-inspired public relations efforts, Lonzo and LaMelo both play a fabulous, free-flowing style where dynamic hit-aheads and extra passes are keys to their basketball aesthetic.
Ball’s game is ideally suited for today’s pace-and-space era. At 6-7 (and still growing), he is big enough to snatch rebounds in traffic and whirl ahead as his own one-man fast break or sling frozen-rope outlet passes to opportunistic teammates. The comparisons with his brother are inevitable, but perhaps an even more accurate comparison would be with a pre-injury Shaun Livingston, whose rangy physical dimensions and pass-first approach led to him being selected No. 4 overall in 2004.
Ball has also shown an advanced ability to create his own offense. He is equally adept with either hand and he keeps defenders off balance with an array of herky-jerky shoulder fakes and in-and-out dribbles. For a player who had to carry the load on nearly every offensive possession for a lousy team, Ball posted a tremendous assist-to-turnover ratio (6.8/2.5).
His anticipatory instincts on offense also translate to the other side of the ball, where he uses his length and intellect to disrupt passing lanes and switch across multiple positions.
Ball is the rare kind of player who can impact games in a variety of ways, even when his shot isn’t falling. He doesn’t need to lead his team in scoring in order to have a positive impact.
On a scale from 1-10, Ball’s passing and versatility rate at a 9.
When LaVar was training his kids for NBA superstardom, one has to wonder why he didn’t at least consult a shooting coach.
The “If It Ain’t Broke” unorthodox school of shooting is fine and good when we’re discussing all-time marksmen such as Reggie Miller, but the Ball brothers have built-in offensive ceilings due to their inconsistent, off-kilter perimeter shooting.
LaMelo connected on only a quarter of his 3-point attempts in Australia on 6.7 attempts per contest, and his 72% mark at the line isn’t exactly Korver-esque. In order to keep NBA defenses honest, Ball will need to find a way to connect on more 3-pointers. First order of business? Ball needs to raise his release point above his chest and allow his length to be an asset.
He likely won’t step in as any team’s lead ball handler, so he needs to find ways to play off the ball alongside more talented and mature teammates.
Like most teenage NBA prospects, he lacks physical bulk and upper-body strength. But Ball is scrawny even compared with his draft class, which negatively impacts his top-end speed and athleticism.
On a scale from 1 (not a concern) to 10 (serious hindrance), Ball’s shooting form rates at a 7.5.
Let’s take a trip back to 2017. Hurricane LaVar took the pre-draft world by storm prior to Lonzo being selected No. 2 overall. If there was a live microphone within 500 feet of his face, LaVar could be counted on to say something – anything – to generate headlines.
LaVar’s antics won’t take anyone by surprise anymore, but certain media outlets can’t help themselves. And it unfairly, but inevitably, impacts how people feel about LaMelo.
If LaMelo Ball was named LaMelo Jones, how would scouts and fans feel about his NBA potential? Would it matter?
Think of it this way – Ball will not be overwhelmed or starstruck by anything he encounters. Although he is only 18, he has treated basketball as a profession for a very long time. From his stellar high school career to his journey to Australia, Ball has been about his business. How many teenagers can say the same?
On a scale from 1-10, Ball’s NBA preparedness rates at an 8.5.
Ideal NBA Ecosystem
This is not a top-heavy draft, but there is one sleeping giant lurking in the lottery who can take an imperfect prospect and develop him into multi-positional wrecker of worlds: The Golden State Warriors.
Imagine how much fun Ball would be in Steve Kerr’s free-wheeling, share-the-ball philosophy. Imagine Ball snatching a rebound and whipping the ball ahead to Steph Curry or Klay Thompson on the break. Imagine Ball filling those Livingston-esque gaps in the half court and giving the high-IQ Warriors another creative passer.
The possibilities are endless.
Plus, the Warriors are the kind of stable franchise that can shrug off whatever quote-bombs LaVar tries to detonate.
Some of the NBA’s perennial cellar-dwellers could definitely benefit from Ball’s all-around skill level and unselfish mentality, but he could also develop some bad habits if he’s thrust into carrying the stat load for a team that consistently loses 50-plus games. Ball could flourish if he is surrounded by talented finishers, or he could bounce around the league like Evan Turner in search of highly specific circumstances that cater to his strengths (and hide his weaknesses).
On a scale from 1-10, Ball’s ability to fit in with any NBA team’s style is a 6, but his ability to contribute right away to a winner is an 8.5.