NBL Next Star and Illawarra Hawks guard LaMelo Ball is a legitimate chance to be the number one pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
That isn’t hyperbole or an inaccurate message – it’s the latest feedback from NBA scouts and draft experts after this past weekend’s NBL Blitz in Tasmania.
Just one Blitz game was all NBA teams needed to see Ball’s immense talent, as he recorded 19 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists against Perth Wildcats last Friday. He missed Sunday’s clash with Melbourne United due to injury.
ESPN draft expert Jonathan Givony, who was in Tasmania for the Blitz, released his latest 2020 NBA mock draft on Tuesday morning, with Ball ranked at number three. However, the 18-year-old could rise quickly according to NBA scouts, after 27 team representatives saw him play in Tasmania.
“If he keeps this up, I don’t see any way he isn’t in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick,” one NBA executive told ESPN.
“He completely changed my perception of the type of prospect he is, and all of the background info I gathered here from his coaches and teammates paint a very different story of what I thought about him off the court as well.”
Another scout compared Ball’s game to last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year.
“He reminds me of Luka Doncic,” the scout said.
“Just in terms of his size, his feel and his creativity.
“He plays with incredible pace. He’s never sped up. He’s never rattled by anything that’s thrown at him.
“You’re expecting something magical to happen every time he has the ball. He sees everything. He can make every pass with either hand off a live dribble.
“His style of play is tailor-made for the NBA game, especially if you surround him with shooting and better finishers.”
NBA teams at the Blitz also had a chance to watch RJ Hampton (New Zealand Breakers) and Terry Armstrong (South East Melbourne Phoenix) in action, other draft prospects playing in the NBL under the Next Stars program.
Givony has Hampton at number six in his latest mock draft, while Armstrong slots in at number 48.
According to Givony, NBA teams at the Blitz were “mostly positive in their assessment of Hampton”, with his athleticism on the offensive end a standout attribute.
Breakers Director of Basketball Dan Shamir also expressed how Hampton is adjusting quickly to the professional game.
“RJ is great,” Shamir said.
“I thought it was going to be a process, but he is ready for this level, and I am very satisfied with him so far.”
Givony wrote Armstrong “showed flashes of his talent, with his impressive size, length, athleticism, frame and budding scoring instincts, especially getting downhill in the open floor” and that he “brought good energy”.