Scout’s bonkers NBA call for NBL star
The NBL may have jagged the NBA's next No. 1 Draft pick.
The fanfare was there for all to see in August when LaMelo Ball, 17 at the time, arrived at Sydney Airport to be greeted by a mob of fans.
Only now is it sinking in just how big a coup his decision to play with the Illawarra Hawks in the NBL this season truly is.
According to the latest draft report from ESPN's draft expert Jonathon Givony, reporting from Hobart following the NBL's pre-season Blitz in Tasmania, the Hawks' home at WIN Entertainment Centre in Wollongong could become one of the hottest locations for NBA scouts across the globe in the next 12 months.
Givony's scouting report lists Ball, the 18-year-old point guard from Chino Hills in California, as a very real contender for the No. 1 overall pick at the 2020 NBA Draft.
NBA scouts have reportedly been blown away by Ball's red-hot arrival at the Hawks and his pre-season displays.
Ball, the younger brother of former No. 2 NBA Draft pick Lonzo Ball - famously traded to the New Orleans Pelicans this year - won't even play his first NBL game for the Hawks until they face Brisbane on October 6.
But the hype is already there.
Givony reports Ball is currently on track to be the No. 3 overall pick next year behind James Wiseman and Anthony Edwards, but scouts were so impressed with his form during the NBL Blitz that they believe he can climb up to the prestigious No. 1 spot.
"If he keeps this up, I don't see any way (LaMelo) isn't in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick," an anonymous NBA team executive told Givony.
"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."
The report claims Ball could shock the NBL this season and win the MVP award as the league's best player - something no teenage rookie has ever done.
Another anonymous NBA scout said: "He plays with incredible pace.
"He's never sped up. He's never rattled by anything that's thrown at him. 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."
Something tells me an explosive rant will be on the way soon by the low keyed silent LaVar BALL : he may get the last laugh on many of his critics as the word is LOUD & CLEAR that his youngest son LaMELO is the REAL DEAL!— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) September 24, 2019
His promising performances with the Hawks are even more impressive considering the personal baggage that threatened to follow him to Australia.
The son of notorious loudmouth sports dad LaVar Ball, LaMelo has reportedly been able to distance himself from his family distractions and found a way to keep him out of his development with the Hawks.
It is a dramatic difference from LaMelo Ball's career in Lithuania where he left the team following a very public falling out between team officials and his father.
LaMelo Ball has been awesome on the court in Australia so far, but just as importantly, the feedback off the court has been extremely positive thus far from Illawara, especially regarding distractions coming from his father Lavar. Full story: https://t.co/zXo79D0u2l pic.twitter.com/vgEd7DrYU6— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) September 24, 2019
NBA teams have done a 180 on LaMelo Ball after seeing him dominate the Australian NBL Blitz this week. It's time to start talking about him as a real candidate for the #1 overall pick https://t.co/zXo79D0u2l— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) September 24, 2019
ESPN reports LaVar has been a distant spectator in Illawarra's training sessions with LaMelo. Hawks coach Matt Flinn said he has barely heard from LaMelo's father.
The Hawks' gamble is clearly paying off so far.
With LaMelo Ball announcing live on ESPN in June that he intended to skip college basketball and sign with the Hawks on an NBL Next Stars contract - few would have predicted the journey would have been this smooth, for the Hawks and the Ball family.
The gamble on NBA Draft prospects is also paying off for the New Zealand Breakers and the Sydney Kings.
According to Givony's NBA Draft forecast for 2020, Breakers signing RJ Hampton is on course to be the No. 6 overall pick next year.
Hampton has already been locked in as the Breakers' starting point guard and will carry the hopes of the team this season.
Sydney's Next Stars signing Josh Green is also forecast to go in the first round at No. 22.
With the New York Knicks again forecast to struggle when the NBA tips-off again on October 22, the iconic franchise is expected to be a leading contender to pick-up Ball in the draft.
Cleveland, Charlotte, Memphis Phoenix are also predicted to struggle this season and compete for the No. 1 pick.