A scout and non-believer talk LaMelo Ball:
3. After watching NBL game footage and digging into stats (the top players NEVER produce as much when playing in other leagues), it seems the level of competition is relatively weak. You told me previously that the Israeli, French, and German leagues (re: Deni and Killian) are better. How do you factor the quality of NBL competition into what you saw from LaMelo both statistically and on tape?
SPENCER: Eh, I mean you factor it in for sure, but it’s not something I’m weighing heavily. LaMelo is skilled with a high IQ – those things tend to translate. If you want to put a negative spin on it, you can say the league wasn’t good and he didn’t put up good box score stats; if you want to put a positive spin on it, which I think is the way to go, you can say his PIPM scores on both ends are positive (showing positive impact) despite the poor shooting numbers; you can point to the improvement when he was handling the ball full-time; you can point to the fact that he was the only perimeter creator when he wasn’t playing with Brooks (requiring full defensive attention); and you can say that he’d have looked better (and had better stats, regular and advanced) with a better team (shoutout to his teammates that missed an insane number of open looks) or even with slightly better shot selection. His tape pops, though, and they’re plays he’s been making for years…only this time as an 18-year-old against grown men. Regardless of how good the league is, pros are still pros…and the NBL has former NBA guys, European vets, and good college players.
(I should also note the Israeli league isn’t *that* much better – I’d say they’re pretty close.)
4. Let’s talk shot selection and concerns about, as other reports have alluded to, “loose play.” We know these aren’t basketball IQ issues, so how do we explain the poor shots and forced plays leading to turnovers? Arrogance/overconfidence? Carelessness? Lack of trust in teammates? A result of the pressure that comes with being a star?
The explanation I keep seeing points to “immaturity,” and most scouts think he’ll grow out of it. My question is, why are you so confident he’ll become a better decision-maker? (I could rattle off plenty of NBA vets – stars included – that still take horrible shots and make bad decisions.) What is it about LaMelo that suggests it’s only temporary, and if it’s not, how much will it hurt his ability to be great?
I think it started with a general lack of coaching. Prior to this year, he was given full and free rein to do whatever he wanted – I’m sure everyone has seen the videos of him pulling up from halfcourt for fun. That carried over into this year a bit, but his selection improved *at least* a little. I think the biggest issue with shot selection this year was he was the only consistent perimeter creator on the team – he had to take some of the shots because there was no other dual threat. When he shared the court with Brooks, we didn’t see the same bad looks that we saw otherwise. I don’t think it’s fair to call that lack of trust in teammates, but I can understand why some would.
My reason for it being temporary, at least to a certain extent (we’ll still see some questionable shots going forward), is because he’ll be playing with better players, running better plays, and coached out of the bad shots. The ISOs that led nowhere killed him this year; remove those and “bad shots” really aren’t being talked about as much. And for the record, the deep above-the-break threes, I’m okay with him taking, assuming percentages hold up or improve.
If he is unable to improve his shot selection, I think he’ll still be a positive impact player on offense by quite a bit — it’ll just be limited because (in a far too simplistic manner of describing this) instead of whipping the ball around for a better look, he’d be settling for a bad one.