A player who needs little to no introduction is the focus of this scouting report, Lamelo Ball.
As a basketball prospect, and as a person, Lamelo has been a public figure for his entire adolescence. Lamelo has been a celebrity for years, from reality shows, infamous WWE Monday Night Raw appearances, clothing brands, signature shoes, and millions of followers across social media. All of this is without even mentioning his life as a basketball player. Since his early teen years, Lamelo has been expected to be, possibly the best, out of all his brothers. His father, Lavar, even sharing this belief on occasion.
Now, the (recently turned) nineteen-year-old is ready to join the NBA, and is widely expected to be a top-three pick. Ball played, what would’ve been his freshman year in the NCAA, in the Australian league, the NBL. LaMelo spent his season in the NBL playing for the Illawarra Hawks, picking up their Rookie of the Year award, beating out other 2020 Draft prospect, RJ Hampton. Prior to this, Ball spent his high school years playing in Chino Hills with players like Onyeka Okungwu (also expected to be a high draft pick in this year’s draft), Lonzo Ball, and LiAngelo Ball. LaMelo, averaging 16.4 points and 3.8 assists, was touted as a five-star prospect in his freshman year by ESPN. Sophomore year, Ball saw an immense jump averaging 26.7 assists and nearly 10 assists per game. His junior year, however, Ball would leave Chino Hills and would dabble in Lavar’s JBA, before going to SPIRE academy in Ohio for his senior year. For Pistons fans, this is where things get particularly interesting.
Ball’s connection with Jermaine Jackson did not stop with SPIRE. Jackson soon became LaMelo’s manager, and LaMelo would spend more and more time in Michigan. Jackson, Detroit native, University of Detroit Mercy alumni, and former Detroit Piston is about as Detroit as it gets. Ball has often been seen at Dakota High School games (where Jackson’s son had played) in Macomb, Michigan in the past, and frequented Lifetime Fitness in Shelby Michigan. Prior to the draft, LaMelo spent time at Oakland Fieldhouse, training there on a daily basis, and holding training camps for youth basketball players across Michigan. LaMelo is no stranger to Michigan, and Detroit specifically. It appears like Detroit may be the preferred landing spot for Melo, his father Lavar also recently sharing this sentiment as well, stating Detroit and New York (Knicks) are where he believes LaMelo should go in the 2020 NBA Draft. Lavar infamously campaigned for his eldest, Lonzo, to be drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2017 NBA Draft, which was successful, ultimately.
Having a player who is seemingly very much on board with being in the city, and joining the team, is very important for any organization, especially for the Detroit Pistons. But, what about his game makes Ball such an intriguing prospect?
Ball is currently listed at 6’8″, which gives him a large advantage over most point guards in the NBA. His physical stature is comparable with Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons and Dallas’ Luka Doncic. Ball’s height and athleticism is not something that is taught, and these intangibles are part of what makes him such a desirable prospect for teams. On the offensive end, Ball’s passing is arguably the best in this year’s draft. He averaged seven assists per game in his season in the NBL, but the amount of assists does not do Ball’s passing ability justice. LaMelo’s court vision is far advanced and has been much more advanced, than his peers. Ball’s ability to read an offense and his ways of getting the ball to his teammates produces highlight after highlight. Often in unorthodox methods, LaMelo’s passes are often flashy, but effective. Ball’s passing, and handles are unlike any other prospect in the draft, and unlike most NBA players. Crafty is an understatement for his game. Ball plays the game, improvising effortlessly with his handles, and how he gets the ball to the rim. His passes are quick, and easily catchable, giving little time for the defense to react solely off how quickly the ball travels from a hesitation dribble to a teammate’s hand. Ball’s scoring is much like the rest of his game offensively, unorthodox but endlessly intriguing. LaMelo’s floaters and runners are his go-to offensively and catch defense’s off-guard. Ball also can finish at the rim incredibly well, and of course, he is indubitably crafty with his ways to the rim. Ball can finish with a spontaneous two-hand dunk off a dribble or bring the ball under the rim for a reverse layup. It’s a talent and a rare one at that.
However, with his unorthodox style, comes mistakes. Ball’s shooting was a cause for concern in his last season with the NBL. In his days at Chino Hill, LaMelo was known for his shooting, and his form was adjusted for his smaller frame as a younger player. Ball shot at a high volume, and from long distance. His shot form has stayed the same since these days as a smaller player. The now 6’8″ LaMelo Ball’s form has not produced effective shooting, especially from three. Most of Ball’s success comes from longer distance, as his form favors shooting from further away. Overall, Ball shot 25% from three last season, going 20/80 on his 3-point attempts. Another major criticism of LaMelo’s game is his defense. Ball isn’t necessarily an incompetent defender, and his size allows him to guard multiple positions effectively. This isn’t to say Ball is a gifted defender either, but he’s not incapable of being a serviceable defender. However, Ball’s effort on defense is his downfall. He oftentimes was blown by and standing around on the defensive end. LaMelo has not had to be held to play defense by his teams in the past, and he struggled with the adjustment in his season with the Hawks. Ball also averaged over two and a half turnovers per game, and this is a result of his improvisational offensive nature. This is expected with this style and often leads to turnovers due to miscommunications or small mistakes.
So, with all this in mind, how does LaMelo Ball fit into the Pistons? Assuming they keep their main pieces around (Christian Wood, Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Luke Kennard, Sekou Doumbouya), Ball will have a surrounding cast that fits his playstyle masterfully. Ball being able to throw downcourt lobs to Christian Wood and Sekou Doumbouya is a perfect match for all involved. Similar to the Pelicans’ dynamic with Lonzo Ball and Zion Williamson, flashy passes and finishes at the rim, leads to exciting basketball. Wood’s best minutes last season were played with Derrick Rose at point, finding him at every opportunity. Having LaMelo also be able to do this would make the Pistons spectacular on the offensive end. On top of this, Derrick Rose mentoring LaMelo, helping him hone his game as the team’s point guard of the future, similar to the relationship Chris Paul had with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander last season with the Thunder.