LaMelo Ball’s path has been circuitous, to say the least. He went from a highly touted high school prospect in California to a kid playing in Lithuania as part of the craziest over-zealous sports parent ploy of all time to maybe (but not really) a top NCAA prospect playing for a prep school in Ohio to, once again, a player who could be selected early next spring.
Got all that?
Ball landed this season in Australia, playing for the Illawara Hawks of the National Basketball League. He was very good in preseason, reigniting the NBA hype around him, but the regular season began last night. Let’s check in:
These are good moves, no doubt. Nobody should be questioning LaMelo’s skill level. But Taylor Braun, the 6-foot-7 small forward seen slipping and sliding here, is not exactly what you’d call an NBA-caliber defender.
Plus he was felled by those notoriously un-grippy advertisement stickers. Maybe LaMelo was just savvy enough to employ them as part of his take, I don’t know. But they, like Magic Johnson, presumably won’t be there when LaMelo gets to the NBA.
The rest of LaMelo’s night was more mixed, which is what you’d expect from a kid who turned 18 less than two months ago who is now playing against grown men in meaningful games in a very good league. Here’s the report from Christian Rivas over at Lonzo Wire:
This single highlight from Ball also doesn’t accurately reflect how Ball played against the Bullets. In 31:46 minutes for the Hawks, Ball scored 12 points on a lowly 6-17 from the field, including 0-5 from behind the 3-point line. He also posted a team-low box plus-minus of -15 despite contributing 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Ball and the Hawks fell to the Bullets in their NBL season opener 90-81. They’ll hope to bounce back against the Perth Wildcats on Oct. 11. The game will be broadcast on ESPN, giving Ball another opportunity to improve his NBA Draft stock.
As long as LaMelo can improve on his shooting and defense, he still figures to be a top prospect heading into the draft. Comparisons to Oscar Robertson were, of course, over the top but he has a well-rounded and mature game — especially for a player who has been whisked from team to team for years now.