2020 NBA Draft Prospect Profile: LaMelo Ball is this year’s best prospect


There is not a player at the top of the 2020 NBA Draft class who has red flags that are more obvious and well-defined than that of LaMelo Ball.

He’s a gunner that doesn’t shoot the ball all that well, finishing his two months in Australia shooting 38 percent from the floor and 25 percent from three. His effort level defensively is, at best, wavering. He shot selection is questionable, to put it nicely, and selfish when we’re not being so generous. The path that he took to get to this point — from Chino Hills to Lithuania to the JBL to Spire Academy to Australia — was, in a word, circuitous.

And that’s to say nothing of the concerns that teams will have given who his father is.

We’ll get into all of that.

But before we do, I think it is important to say this up front: There is a strong argument to make that LaMelo, even with all the red flags, may actually have the highest ceiling of any prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft class.

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Could LaMelo Ball be the top pick in the NBA draft? (Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

First and foremost, it needs to be said that LaMelo is no longer that 6-foot-nothin’ kid with braces and a blonde mohawk jacking up 45-footers and cherry-picking to try and score 100 points so he can go viral. He’s now 6-foot-7, and while he has a frame that could clearly use some time in an NBA strength and conditioning program, he is a late-bloomer. He won’t turn 19 until August 22nd. He’s throwing down tip-dunks now, and there’s still plenty of room for him to develop physically.

I think it’s also important to note that LaMelo has never really been coached all that hard. Before he got to Australia, every team LaMelo played for was either controlled by his father or coached by his now-manager. And while he was only with the Illawarra Hawks for a little more than two months, you could see him starting to figure things out.

In the first six games LaMelo played in the NBL, he averaged 12.0 points, 5.7 boards and 5.3 assists while shooting 34 percent from the floor, 15 percent from three and 68 percent from the line. Over the last six games, however, he averaged 22.0 points, 9.2 boards and 8.2 assists with shooting splits of 40/31/75. He closed out the season with back-to-back triples-doubles — including 25 points, 12 boards and 10 assists in his final game, which came against R.J. Hampton’s team — before an ankle injury led to him shutting things down.

Offensively, LaMelo has the potential to be special. He is, simply put, an unbelievable passer, able to make any and all reads out of ball-screens while also being capable of throwing every pass in the book with either hand at whatever angle is necessary to get the ball where it needs to be. He knows how to move a defense with his eyes, creating angles and space to get his teammates dunks, layups and open threes. He’s just as adept at hitting rollers — with both pocket passes and pinpoint lobs even when dribbling at full speed — as he is at reading what a tagger is doing on the weakside of the floor. He’s terrific at firing full-court passes to bigs that get out and run the floor, both in transition and off made baskets. He’s exceptional at anticipating when and where a player is going to come open in transition.


He is a basketball savant, and I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that he will be one of the 10-15 best passers in the league by the end of his rookie season. In recent years, we’ve seen other lead guards with elite passing ability — Trae Young, Ja Morant, Luka Doncic, etc. — have a major impact early in their career.

Now, it’s also important to note that LaMelo really is not anything like any of those players. Young is an elite shooter, LaMelo is not. (More on this in a second.) Morant is an elite athlete, LaMelo is not. Doncic was 19 years old when he won MVP of the Euroleague, the second-best league on the planet, and MVP of the Spanish ACB while LaMelo’s Illawarra team was just 3-9 with him on the roster in the NBL, a much less competitive league. Some of that was not his fault — Aaron Brooks was injured early in the season, and his teammates shot just 32 percent from three in the games LaMelo played in — but LaMelo should not be mentioned in the same breath as any of those three just yet.

There are essentially two reasons for that.

The first is the shooting.

LaMelo shot just 20-for-80 from three during his 12 games in the NBL. Like his brother Lonzo, LaMelo has a weird shooting stroke. His release has seemingly not changed since he was young. It’s a push shot, one where his left hand remains on the ball for far too long. His lower body is never consistent, and he relies on floaters from as far out as 20-feet because, it appears, he cannot actually shoot mid-range jumpers. The fact that he has a bad habit of settling for deep, deep threes way too early in the shot clock certainly contributed to those numbers, but shot selection is why he’s a 25 percent three-point shooter instead of 30 percent. Either way, it’s a concern.

LaMelo is also a mess defensively, and that’s putting it kindly.

He consistently finds himself out of position, failing to rotate from the weakside of the floor and and unaware of when he is supposed to be tagging rollers. He really struggled to keep drivers from getting right to the front of the rim. He’s a gambler, preferring to try and jump a passing lane than to play solid defense even if it leaves his teammates out to try, and while he does have the anticipation and IQ to pick off a few passes, overall it was a net-negative.

But to be frank, all of that is, theoretically, fixable. He can be taught to shoot. He can be taught how to better position himself defensively. If he’s held accountable on the defensive end — like, for example, if he has a coach that will park him on the bench if he gets caught wiping his shoes instead of rotating defensively — I think he has a chance to at least be an average defender. He has the tools.

And that, to me, is what makes LaMelo so intriguing.

The basketball IQ is there. The passing ability is there. The athleticism to get to the rim, the size, the physical tools, it’s all there. For the most part, the things that he struggles with can all be coached up. I hesitate to compare him to Lonzo because they are very different players, but we’ve seen the oldest Ball brother develop into an excellent defender and a 38 percent three-point shooter after getting to the NBA.

LaMelo should be able to follow a similar developmental path.

The risks are always going to be there. If he ends up in an organization that is too close to home or doesn’t have veterans that will hold him accountable if he doesn’t put in the work, it may not end well for him. You have to know that when you draft him.

But you cannot teach his basketball IQ, his passing savvy, his understanding of the game.

And in a draft where there is no one that is a clear-cut NBA superstar, I think that makes LaMelo Ball worth the risk at No. 1 in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.

George Washington adopts new name ‘Revolutionaries’ to replace ‘Colonials’

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WASHINGTON — George Washington University’s sports teams will now be known as the Revolutionaries, the school announced.

Revolutionaries replaces Colonials, which had been GW’s name since 1926. Officials made the decision last year to drop the old name after determining it no longer unified the community.

GW said 8,000 different names were suggested and 47,000 points of feedback made during the 12-month process. Revolutionaries won out over the other final choices of Ambassadors, Blue Fog and Sentinels.

“I am very grateful for the active engagement of our community throughout the development of the new moniker,” president Mark S. Wrighton said. “This process was truly driven by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the result is a moniker that broadly reflects our community – and our distinguished and distinguishable GW spirit.”

George the mascot will stay and a new logo developed soon for the Revolutionaries name that takes effect for the 2023-24 school year. The university is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.