NBA Draft 2020: LaMelo Ball Making a Case for No. 1 Pick

LaMelo Ball

Getty LaMelo Ball

For the past few years, scouts and NBA front-office types have looked with some skepticism about the prospects of point guard LaMelo Ball on the 2020 draft. First, his brother, Lonzo Ball, has struggled to make an impact in two seasons in the NBA. Second, LiMelo is the son of promotional master LaVar Ball, and anything to which the elder Ball is connected, NBA folks tend to approach with caution.

But scouts and executives have not been able to hide the excitement when it comes to the way the latest Ball has been developing. It’s not just his size, which is enormous for a point guard—Ball figures to be 6-7 or 6-8 by the time the 2020 NBA Draft comes around. It’s also the way his game had developed.

“He’s already an elite passer,” one front-office executive told Heavy.com. “He has great vision, he has great creativity, a lot like his brother that way. He is probably ahead of where his brother was on that. But then you add the size and some of the other skills, and he’s an obviously exciting player. He is a far better shooter than his brother, too. He will be in the mix for the first overall pick.”

Lonzo Ball was drafted No. 2 overall by the Lakers in 2017. LaMelo Ball, who played scant minutes in a pro stint in Lithuania during what would have been his junior year in high school and was with SPIRE Institute in Ohio last year.

He is playing in Australia’s NBL this season, with fellow top NBA prospect R.J. Hampton, and was impressive in a tournament in Tasmania over the weekend.

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LaMelo Ball Already Moving Up Draft Boards

After his weekend display, ESPN moved Ball from No. 24 on its board to No. 3.

Indeed, Ball figures to have competition for the top spot, and his quest for No. 1 in the 2020 draft could be clouded by the fact that he’s playing in Australia. But there is no consensus No. 1 pick and there are some candidates for the spot—Deni Avdija of Israel and Theo Maledon of France—who are in the mix.

The strongest NCAA candidates are big men Isaiah Stewart of Washington and James Wiseman of Memphis, as well as shooting guard Anthony Edwards of Georgia.

Ball will be helped by the fact that he is finally playing credible, organized basketball. Though the NBL is not a major international league, it has been on the rise and its program to entice young NBA prospects has garnered the attention of NBA front offices.

Ultimately, the race for the top pick in 2020 probably will have to wait for the draft lottery in May. The upcoming draft is loaded with point guards and whichever teams lands the pick must have a need at the position to benefit a player like Ball.

But when it comes to point guards, Ball is at the top of the heap. “It’s a talented field,” the exec said. “But he’s got the most potential.”

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