Lonzo Ball hasn’t yet morphed into the Jason Kidd clone many believed he would become, but his youngest brother, LaMelo, appears to be a far greater prospect than many had pegged him to be.
Following stints playing in Lithuania, the LaVar Ball-created Junior Basketball Association and then at the Spire School, LaMelo, 18, has begun building buzz in Australia as a potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. In ESPN’s latest mock draft, LaMelo is now being listed as a top-three pick, having moved up more than 20 spots, following an impressive performance in the NBL Blitz — the Australian and New Zealand basketball league’s preseason tournament.
Playing in front of 27 NBA scouts, LaMelo put up 19 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists against the Perth Wildcats — the league’s defending champion — while primarily matching up with reigning defensive player of the year Damian Martin.
“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.”
“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.”
LaMelo has exceeded expectations off the court as well, proving to his team, the Illawarra Hawks, that he isn’t a headline-craving, headache-inducing problem, like his father.
“He’s come with absolutely zero baggage,” Illawarra head coach Matt Flinn said. “He’s assimilated into his teammates, and they genuinely like having him around. His willingness to share the ball, his willingness to pass, that’s fun to be around, and that’s fun to play with. I’ve gotten good feedback that this is the happiest people have seen him in a while.
“I haven’t heard from LaVar, so we must be doing something right,” Flinn said, laughing.
The 6-foot-7 wing is reportedly planning to play a minimal role in the “Ball in the Family” Facebook show moving forward. And unlike Lonzo, LaMelo doesn’t appear likely to start his NBA career wearing Big Baller Brand sneakers. The family’s youngest son has worn Nike and Illawarra gear in Australia, and is currently in negotiations for a shoe deal.
“I just need to be myself,” LaMelo told ESPN.com. “People really don’t know the whole background story. They get what they see on camera. Everybody who really just knows me, they already know.”