There are hundreds of players filtering in and out of the NBA on a yearly basis but arguably no prospect in the history of the league (maybe aside from the early Wilt Chamberlain or artist formerly known as Lew Alcindor) has generated as much pre-draft buzz as Lamelo Ball. Already quite infamous for a variety of things, whether it be his father’s antics, excitement with Chino Hills, or overseas playing ventures in Lithuania and New Zealand. He’s easily one of the most popular high school prospects of this millennium and (definitely) within the social media era. In a time where folks seem more wary of bust potential than ever before, it seems almost shocking at the amount of fans willing to put all their eggs in the “LaMelo Ball will be a superstar” basket. There have been conflicting reports but if he’s really 6-foot-8, something special couldbe brewing.
The key word is ‘brewing,’ as Ball has given us little to no real statistical evidence in the NBL to support expectations quite this high. In twelve games with Illawarra, he averaged 17 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 6.8 APG, and 1.8 SPG with shooting splits of 38/25/72 in 31.3 minutes. His scoring numbers can almost get tossed aside, considering how incredibly inefficient Ball has been. We have to give him some leeway due to playing in a league with grown men and over a handful of former NBA players. The most favorable takeaway from his per-game numbers is his assists with limited turnovers (2.5 per game), which is pretty impressive at his listed size. The NBA might not have seen a prospect like him before but don’t be fooled by video editing and quick social media clips into believing that Ball is going to be even an average contributor right away. He was given free reign to log a ton of minutes and play through his mistakes but still struggled to shoot an effective percentage from the floor (reached 50% twice), beyond the arc (reached 40% three times), or translate numbers to wins (3-9 record). There are a lot of tools for Ball to work with but only time will tell if he’s even able to assert himself as the best NBA player in his own family.