LaMelo Ball is perhaps the most famous high school basketball player of all time, but his game remains clouded in a certain degree of mystery. While his peers spent the last two years competing against each other in organized grassroots leagues and showcases like the Nike Hoop Summit, Ball was playing sporadic minutes in Lithuania and headlining in his father’s ill-fated JBA league before hitting the prep school circuit with Ohio’s SPIRE Academy last season.
We know about Ball’s reality show, signature shoe, and five million Instagram followers, but it’s hard to find reliable statistics like three-point percentage or assist-to-turnover rate. That he’s become a projected first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft despite the lack of information speaks to how his rare gifts have been able to cut through the noise surrounding him.
Ball spent the summer amplifying his hype by starring in the Drew League and going toe-to-toe against NBA players in private runs. Now he’s off to Australia, where he’ll play professionally for the Illawarra Hawks this season. NBA scouts will finally get to see him in a structured environment with real, competitive stakes.
What type of player will they find? Ball’s season at SPIRE is loaded with clues. We broke down the tape from his year in Ohio for our first look at LaMelo the point guard, not the celebrity.
LaMelo Ball is a big, creative point guard
Scouting Ball’s game starts with the realization that the awkward 13-year-old we once saw chucking from halfcourt is long gone. Ball has matured into a legitimate 6’6 or 6’7 point guard, which already puts him in elite company for positional size as an 18-year-old well before he reaches the NBA.
Ball’s height amplifies his next outlier quality: his passing ability. It’s not just that Ball can see over the opposing defense. His size also helps him get unique angles to fire passes few point guards his age would ever attempt. Like his older brother Lonzo, the youngest Ball is wired to pass first, score second. Here’s a full minute of passing highlights from SPIRE.
Ball’s vision is the first thing that stands out. He always keeps his eyes up the court and has a keen awareness of where his teammates are going to be. He’s already programmed to find shooters dotting the three-point line. He’s comfortable throwing passes with either hand when he’s on the move. He also plays with a unique sense of creativity that uses overhand and right-handed hooks passes that combine velocity and accuracy. There could have been another entire reel of quality passes Ball threw to teammate who couldn’t corral them.