A scout and non-believer talk LaMelo Ball:
I want to thank Spencer, both for his time and expertise and for making me feel better. It was nice hearing about Melo’s growth as a player over the past few years. Not all players are capable of the drastic improvement Spencer alluded to, but put a guy with the work ethic and desire to get better with a revamped player development staff and a basketball junkie like Thibs, and the possibilities are tantalizing.
Still, I’m not a believer just yet. Still more skeptical than optimistic. Some of my concerns have nothing to do with him –
- Americans going “international one-and-done” have not had much success. I can’t shake the fear of LaMelo becoming Emmanuel Mudiay, who put up similar numbers in a comparable league back in 2015.
- International point guards in general – American or otherwise – have struggled recently (Luka developed as a wing and for countless reasons doesn’t belong anywhere near this convo).
– and some are based on issues above: I mean, Spencer’s two biggest concerns are the two most important things in the modern NBA! The jumper, while improved, still has a long way to go, and as discussed in my second question: the 2020 point guard is a scorer – he either shoots the sh** out of it, or he explodes past defenders to the bucket at will. LaMelo’s shot is “far from a sure thing,” and he isn’t explosive. How is this not worrisome?
To me, drafting him to become a cornerstone means expecting him to buck multiple trends: you expect him to be the first international one-and-done to become a star; you expect him to be the first non-NCAA point guard since Tony Parker (20 years ago!) to become a star; and you expect him, in a shooter’s league and in what’s become a scorer’s role, to dominate with passing.
Unless your expectations aren’t that high. Maybe in a draft like this, which seems to have far more questions than answers, the next Ricky Rubio is not something I should fear. Maybe entering next season with a passer / ball-handler who can make young scorers better and who, despite his flaws, has an overall positive impact is a great outcome. And then, in a few years, maybe there’s a Lonzo-esque jump in his three-ball, and now you’ve really got something?
I can do maybes all day long. That’s how much uncertainty there is with all these top prospects, not just LaMelo. That’s why people are so down on this draft. It’s not that it’s “bad;” it’s that there’s no sure thing, and people hate being unsure.
They also hate pieces that end without a clear position, so here’s mine:
If we stay put and he somehow falls to 6: Take him. This is where I’ve been swayed. While I’d love someone who can shoot, his overall value + potential is too good to pass up.
If we move into the Top 3: I’m not there yet, and frankly, I’m not there on anyone. Especially at #1. Trade down, please.
“We need LaMelo in NY. Do whatever you gotta do. Trade up-” Let me stop you right there. NO. NO. NO. You don’t give up assets to move up in a draft filled with question marks.
For more elite NBA Draft analysis, follow Spencer on Twitter @skpearlman and check out his work on The Stepien.