Last year around the draft, while talking with Rob Dauster from NBC Sports College Basketball Talk — a guy tapped into the high school basketball scene and college recruiting — I made a joke about LaMelo Ball. Dauster stopped me cold and said that the reports out of the Spire Institute school in Ohio were promising: Ball was maturing, he’s now 6’6″ with handles, had gotten serious about his game, and was starting to look like a quality NBA-level prospect. He was always potentially the most talented of the Ball brothers, but he seemed to get washed away in the wave of Big Baller Brand hype at a young age.
That wave crashed, Ball chose to take his game to Australia this year, and down under he has blown people away — to the point he is shooting up NBA draft boards into the top five and even three.
ESPN’s Jonathan Givony went to Australia to watch Ball play, and like a lot of scouts he came away impressed. Ball is now third on ESPN’s it’s-far-too-early mock draft, and he got these quotes from scouts.
“If he keeps this up, I don’t see any way he isn’t in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick,” one NBA executive told ESPN. “He completely changed my perception of the type of prospect he is, and all of the background info I gathered here from his coaches and teammates paint a very different story of what I thought about him off the court as well.”
“He plays with incredible pace. He’s never sped up. He’s never rattled by anything that’s thrown at him,” the same scout said. “You’re expecting something magical to happen every time he has the ball. He sees everything. He can make every pass with either hand off a live dribble. His style of play is tailor-made for the NBA game, especially if you surround him with shooting and better finishers.”
There’s a long time between now and the draft next June, other potential high draft picks such as James Wiseman, Cole Anthony, and Anthony Edwards have not yet even taken the court. Teams draft boards are going to shift around a lot in the coming nine months.
That said, expect LaMelo Ball’s name to be near the top of the draft boards.
And yes, that means more LaVar Ball everywhere, too. Sorry.