Everything You Need To Know About LaMelo Ball

LaMelo Ball is one of the best playmakers in recent years. If he can improve his decision making and effort on both ends, he could end up as the best player in this draft.

The media circus and hype train have followed LaMelo Ball around since he was a 13-year-old with frosted tips cherry-picking in high school games. Since then, Ball has played overseas in Lithuania and Australia, grown to 6'7, and developed a skill set that could make him the first pick in the draft.

The run-and-gun philosophy Ball grew up on is still evident in his game today. He is continuously looking to push the ball ahead and score early in the offense. This mindset frequently leads to highlight plays but also creates some head-scratching decisions.

Ball's creativity and eagerness to set up teammates will quickly endear him to teammates. When his teammates run the floor or cut hard, they get rewarded with easy scoring opportunities. There isn't a pass on the floor that Ball doesn't think he can make, and if there is a sliver of an opening, he's going to attempt it.

This season with Illawarra, Ball averaged 7.9 assists per 36 minutes on a team that shot just 31% from three. For reference, this would have ranked last in the NBA by 2%. Once Ball is surrounded by NBA level shooters, expecting his assist averages to climb closer towards double digits isn't unreasonable.

One of the leading reasons for Ball's impressive assist numbers is how he runs the transition offense. He is excellent at weaving between defenders, using his eyes to move defenders, and setting up teammates for an easy score with a well-timed bounce pass or perfectly weighted pass over the top.

The impressive touch Ball displays on his pass in the below clip is a common occurrence in his games. Ball immediately has his head up looking for his teammates. He identifies his teammate streaking towards the corner and his big man running to fill the lane. The only problem is the defender positioned between the two. Ball delays long enough where the last defender commits to the player in the corner, altogether abandoning the lane. This delay also allows his big man to get closer to the rim, so he doesn't have to put the ball on the floor. Ball then drops a perfectly weighted pass over his teammate's shoulder to set up the easy layup.

Additionally, Ball's height, length, and instincts have helped him develop into a solid rebounder, 8.7 rebounds per 36 minutes. His rebounding allows him to initiate the team's transition offense more quickly as he can grab and go instead of waiting for the outlet pass.

As we can see below, once Ball secures the rebound, he immediately has his head up to analyze the floor. As Ball approaches half-court, he sees his teammate streaking at the top of the video. Ball's eagerness to run in transition has created a two-on-four situation where they shouldn't have any chance of a quick score. To allow his streaking teammate to catch up, Ball slows his dribble and cuts towards the middle of the floor. This move attracts the initial defender, which clears up the lane for the cutter. Ball then uses his eyes to look off the help defender before he drops a perfect no-look bounce pass to the cutter for what should have been an easy layup.

Ball's dazzling playmaking isn't limited to just the transition game. He is more than adept at dissecting defenses in the half-court offense as well. Ball has an impressive handle and passing vision, but his most poignant skill is how he moves defenders with his eyes.

Here we can see how Ball's understanding of how to move defenders with his eyes can set up effortless scoring opportunities. As Ball brings the ball up, he knows that the lane is unoccupied, and his big man is trailing. The defense is late to rotate on the cutting big man, but the real defensive threat is Ball's primary defender. Ball initially freezes his defender with a crossover dribble. This move allows the big man to catch up. Ball could likely still make the pass if he stared down his big man, but by doing so, Ball's defender would have a much easier chance of getting his hands up to deflect the pass. Knowing this, Ball quickly slides the ball from his left to his right hand while staring down his teammate in the corner. Ball then fires a no-look pass to his big man in stride, completely fooling the defender and catching him with his hands down.

Ball is a player who is prone to style over substance. When executed, he creates some of the prettiest highlights you'll see, like the below clip. As Ball dribbles off the screen, he attacks the hard hedge with a wrap dribble. Ball then knows that he wants to get the ball back to the screener, but he needs to dispatch the defender under the rim. To do so, Ball takes an extra dribble and stares down his teammate in the corner. This move freezes the rim defender, convinced he would have to close out to the corner shooter. Ball instead whips a behind the back no-look pass to the screener for an easy dunk.

Mystical playmaking like this is what has captivated imaginations of the type of player Ball can develop into. While one of his biggest offensive concerns is his scoring, he has shown some flash. The touch and creativity Ball has on his passes also translates to his scoring, primarily his floaters. Like we see below, Ball has the skill to execute unorthodox floaters from unusual ranges and his off foot.

While there are flashes of promise with Ball's scoring, it has been a rather dreadful year of shooting for him as he shot just 25% from three on 6.7 attempts per game. Despite his excellent touch, the struggles range from his dismal shot selection to his erratic mechanics to his complete aversion to contact.

The below clip is a great and typical example of a shot Ball has no business taking. Despite not being a good shooter, Ball decides to pull up well behind the three-point line early in the possession. Besides showing no desire to initiate the offense, Ball also shows his sloppy mechanics. At no point does he get his feet set or his shoulders squared to the rim. He also uses his two-handed push shot while falling out of his stance. The result is an ugly miss.

Ball's problematic shot selection is also evident when he attacks the rim. His complete aversion to contact results in him taking much more difficult shots than he needs to. In the below clips, we see how Ball will pull up for awkward floaters, be timid against smaller defenders, and try to make his shot fancier instead of finishing with a simple layup.

Ball's creativity and ingenuity are electric when executed properly. He may be the best playmaker in this draft with his vision, accuracy, and touch. Unfortunately, it doesn't translate to his scoring as he has an alarming shot selection, is startled by contact at the rim, and has erratic shooting mechanics.

Ball's questionable decision making also translates to the defensive end of the floor. There are times where Ball does a great job of reading passing lanes and forcing turnovers as he nearly averaged two steals per 36 minutes. Most of Ball's steals are the product of his enthusiasm to gamble on jumping passing lanes. The issue is that these gambles more frequently put himself and his team's defense in a compromised position.

In the below clip, Ball tries to intercept a pass he has no chance at and shouldn't be going for in the first place. The pass is going back to half-court, so the opponent isn't in a dangerous position. However, by completely whiffing on the steal attempt, Ball takes himself out of the play and his opponent an open lane for a floater.

Again, we can see Ball make a questionable steal attempt. There are times when digging on a post-up (especially from the weakside) can be useful. The problem with this attempt is Ball's misreading of the situation. First, Ball is late to commit to the dig and completely misses with a half-hearted swipe at the ball. Second, Ball is leaving a solid shooter on the wing wide open. Since Ball isn't aware of his own man's abilities, he gambles on a steal that takes him out of position and creates a bailout opportunity for a post-up that was already well guarded.

With Ball's off-ball defense, bad gambles and lack of awareness are common. He will have spurts of effectively jumping passing lanes, but his effort wavers, and his awareness is lacking.

Ball's inconsistent effort and animosity towards contact also announces itself with his on-ball defense. He struggles to fight through screens and doesn't commit to staying in a defensive stance.

In the below clip, Ball shows barely any effort at all. As the opponent sets an idle screen, Ball decides to go way under the screen, positioning himself at the free-throw line. This lack of effort gives his man a wide-open three that Ball doesn't even bother to contest.

Even though Ball is frustrating to watch on defense, there are moments when he locks in and can be a good defender. With Ball's size, he should be able to defend multiple positions. The rare occurrences he locks in, he can force turnovers and cut off drives.

The below clip is an excellent example of Ball defending multiple actions, playing hard, and positioning himself well. Ball initially cuts off his opponent's drive twice by sliding his feet well and absorbing the contact, which forces his man to give up the ball. Ball must now defend the post as his man (who is bigger and stronger) tries to post up. Ball does a great job of fighting through contact, denying the entry pass, and winning the hand fight, which forces the offense to waste time and look elsewhere.

Plays like these are why I get so critical and frustrated with Ball's horrific defensive possessions. When he wants to, he can be a good defender who can guard multiple positions. He has the skill and intelligence to do so; he just needs to be willing to work.

Going forward, LaMelo Ball could be one of the more polarizing prospects in this draft. He is one of the most electric playmakers in recent drafts who can make any pass imaginable. His ceiling would skyrocket to potentially make All-NBA teams if he can improve his decision-making and effort.

Until then, LaMelo Ball projects as just a facilitator. His shot selection and shooting inefficiencies are the biggest concern with his game and the most difficult to correct. In the short term, I hope his defensive troubles are effort and situation-based. He could quickly develop into a quality defender if he can be inspired to compete once he's in the NBA with high-level coaching.

LaMelo Ball isn't a perfect prospect, but he may be the most fun to watch. While some may think his hype is derived from his brother's success and his father's antics, he has earned every bit of it with his impressive playmaking and potential versatility.

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