LaMelo Ball’s decision to shut it down didn’t come as much of a surprise.
“Duh,” an Eastern Conference executive told foxsports.com.au late on Thursday evening, after seeing .
While a foot injury was the oh-so-convenient excuse, there’s a sense that this was in the works before the NBL regular season even started. After one preseason game, he shot up the mock drafts, jumping into a top-five projection for the 2020 NBA Draft. Anyone with even an iota of knowledge about the NBA knew that shutting it down was on the table.
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It was early December when Ball suffered a bone bruise in his left foot, which was supposed to keep him sidelined for four weeks. That four weeks turned into six, and that six quickly transformed into half a dozen more. So, just like that, the NBL’s LaMelo Ball show is over.
There’s been legitimate talk about Ball being the No. 1 overall pick, while others around the NBA see him as the best of the second tier of prospects; maybe a five-to-eight pick.
“Honestly, I think it’s still unclear where he stands in the lottery,” one Western Conference scouts told foxsports.com.au.
“You’d think he’s a lock to be a lottery pick based on his pedigree, and while there were some highs and lows this year, he’s definitely shown how high level a talent he is.”
Another NBA scout said that a weak draft class is beneficial for Ball’s stock.
“He’s a top-five pick, it seems,” the scout said. “Not sure how to read more into it.
“Bad draft class surely doesn’t hurt him.”
There’s no real consensus with Ball. He’s not as enigmatic of a prospect as he was when he first entered the NBL, but there are still more questions than answers. How out-of-the-picture is LaVar Ball really? How much stock do you put into the fact that he wasn’t on a winning team? Would an NBA team give him the keys?
Perhaps the most important question, though, surrounds his shooting; not just the splits, but the function, too.
Over his 12 games in the NBL, Ball averaged 17.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 6.8 assists a game; all indicative of a multifaceted point guard who, at his height, will have success in the NBA. The fact that the 18-year-old shot 37.7 percent from the field, including 25 percent from downtown, is an issue.
NBA teams do take into account his 27.7 percent usage rate, but his shooting form matters. More often than not, he’s off balance, sometimes shoots with both hands, with a low release; and it’s something that could see his stock slip.
“The priority during pre-draft workouts has to be the jumper,” a different Eastern Conference executive told foxsports.com.au. “It hasn’t been good.
“He needs to re-jig the form before he starts working out with teams, if he does any workouts at all. If he can make teams feel more comfortable about that, then he’d be in a great spot.”
Fixing a jump-shot isn’t an uncommon thing, and we don’t need to look too far. Lonzo Ball has completely revamped his form, and he’s seen a bump in his percentages; shooting a career-high 35.5 percent from beyond the arc. There’s confidence among NBA scouts that LaMelo could go through a similar evolution, but it takes acknowledgment first.
The question everyone will be asking is: was Ball’s time in the NBL a success? For him, the answer is a resounding yes. He dominated the offensive end in the fifth or sixth — depending on who you talk to — best league in the world, and he went from an early second-rounder to a projected top-five pick, with the potential to go No. 1 overall.
“The aim of the NBL’s Next Stars program is to help prepare players for the NBA by playing in a professional and highly competitive league,” NBL Commissioner, Jeremy Loeliger, said in a statement on Friday. “LaMelo and the other Next Stars players have benefited from this and he is now ready to embark on a successful career in the NBA.”
How the NBL’s teams benefit, beyond revenue, is something those franchises are discussing internally, while the long-term effects for both Ball and the league are still in question. For now, though, being in the NBL undoubtedly benefited Ball, and has been a plus for the league, at least in the short term.
Olgun Uluc is the Senior Basketball Reporter for Fox Sports Australia. Twitter: