The Washington Wizards are likely to have a lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...
2020 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: LaMelo Ball
Team: Illawarra (Australia)
Age: 18 (turns 19 in Aug.)
2019/20 stats: 12 G, 31.3 mpg, 17.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 6.8 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.1 bpg, 37.5 FG% (6.3/16.7), 29.4 3PT% (2.3/7.7), 77.2 FT%
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 3rd, Sports Illustrated 5th, Ringer 2nd, NBADraft.net 3rd, Bleacher Report 3rd
5 things to know:
*Ball is the youngest in the now-famous basketball family. His older brother, Lonzo, plays for the Pelicans and was the second overall pick in the 2017 draft. His other older brother, LiAngelo, plays for the Thunder's G-League team. You also may have heard of his father, LaVar, who has made headlines in recent years for his commentary. Some believe LaMelo will be the best of the Ball brothers.
*While Lonzo starred at UCLA, LaMelo went to Australia to play professional basketball in his one year out of high school to prepare for the NBA. Ball played for Illawarra, a team that also featured former NBA players Josh Boone and Aaron Brooks. Ball put up some strong numbers and had some dominant performances, including a 32-point triple-double, but he only appeared in 12 games and did not shoot efficiently.
*Ball only played in 12 games in the NBL due to a foot injury. It was described as a bone bruise, but it required him to wear a walking boot and it was enough to prematurely end his season. That said, there was likely some extra precaution shown given his NBA future.
*Ball is one of the best play-makers in this class. He's got great size for a point guard and has similar passing ability to his brother, Lonzo, who is one of the more skilled distributors in the NBA. Also like his brother, Ball is a gifted rebounder for his position, the type of player that could flirt with triple-doubles regularly at the next level. The knocks on Ball may also sound familiar: he turns the ball over too much and will likely need to adjust his shooting form at the next level.
*The Wizards did their due diligence on Ball this season, sending multiple people to Australia to scout him in-person as well as hiring a scout based full-time in the area, NBC Sports Washington was told. With Ball and also R.J. Hampton in that region, the NBA scouting map has expanded and the Wizards had good timing with their front office overhaul last summer. They beefed up their international scouting capabilities and were prepared for covering more ground across the globe.
Fit with Wizards: Ball represents the most interesting question mark in this year's draft for the Wizards because he plays the same position and a similar style to John Wall, their highest-paid and most accomplished player. Wall is a five-time All-Star on a supermax contract, but he is also coming off a ruptured Achilles and the Wizards are in a position where they probably need to pick the best player available, no matter who it is.
Ball and Wall, despite holding potential for a cool nickname, likely wouldn't be able to co-exist on the floor at the same time, at least initially. They are both at their best with the ball in their hands and don't have the consistent outside jumper to complement each other.
That doesn't mean the Wizards shouldn't take Ball. If he stands out as the best player on the board, they could take him, start him out as Wall's back-up and then figure it out later. If Wall doesn't return to form and Ball becomes a star, they could move forward with Ball. Or, in a best-case scenario where both are stars on the same team, they could trade one and keep the other.
There is, of course, a worst-case scenario and that is the personalities don't mix. Though Ball's presence could light a fire under Wall, those situations don't always work out as planned. Problems could be caused in the locker room and LaVar has a way of throwing gasoline on fire.
All of that, however, is for the Wizards front office to figure out. What is certain is that Ball will be one of the first players taken in the draft and he could be the best player available when the Wizards are picking.
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