Recent reports show the Washington Wizards (24-40) were very interested in LaMelo Ball this season, sending multiple people to scout the guard prospect during his NBL campaign. If the odds are favourable and they draft him this summer, how would he fit in DC?
Questions over whether this summer’s draft will be moved continue, but regardless of the actual date, LaMelo Ball remains among the highest prospects.
He made 12 appearances and widely impressed for the Illawara Hawks before a foot injury sidelined him for the rest of the season in January.
Ball averaged 17 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game, attracting attention aplenty for delivering highlights like these:
NBA draft experts have frequently chopped and changed their lists over the past few months with Ball anywhere from number one pick to no.6 in most places.
Elsewhere, NBA draft expert Jonathan Wasserman wrote a BR piece on April 21 where he evaluated the best and worst possible landing spots for LaMelo this summer. Nine teams analysed, none of which included the Wizards.
Battling the lottery odds
Every team has different needs and although odds are not definitive barometers of success, sides that would benefit most from his presence in their roster long-term have lower percentage odds to earn that pick.
Take the aforementioned Wizards, for example. They hired a full-time scout in Australia this past offseason, providing further opportunities to see Ball play.
According to Tankathon, they have a 4.5% chance of earning the number one pick in this year’s lottery.
Last year, the Pelicans had a 6% chance to win the lottery and did exactly that: taking Duke’s Zion Williamson to accelerate their post-Anthony Davis rebuild era in New Orleans.
In addition, they have a 20.3% chance of securing a top-four pick and would likely be prepared to trade expendable assets (future picks, for example), if the order isn’t favourable.
Why the Wizards’ interest makes sense
If they move high enough to take Ball, his arrival sees their roster boosted with another valuable backcourt playmaker.
Bradley Beal was enjoying the best season of his career, averaging career-highs in points (30.5), assists (6.1) and FT% (84.2%) per game before the league’s suspension last month.
Having signed a two-year, $72m extension last summer that comes into play once the 2020-21 season begins.
Fellow All-Star guard John Wall is still recuperating from his Achilles injury, but signed a big extension and will be owed $133m between now and his age-33 season, in 2023.
He hasn’t played since December 2018 and although optimistic about his aspirations to return at an All-Star level, it’s difficult to believe he’d sustain that for more than a season or two.
That’s where Ball comes into the equation: what better way to ease yourself into the rigours of NBA basketball than to play alongside and learning from Beal-Wall everyday?
Wall is a ball-dominant player by nature, so perhaps it’s naive to expect them to work in tandem when neither is consistent at shooting off ball like Klay Thompson or JJ Redick.
However, they would still coexist while Ball plays a respectable number of minutes – like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander did in his rookie year with the Clippers.
Beal has firmly established himself as the franchise’s main man in Wall’s absence, but they boast an ever-growing young core across all positions:
Moritz Wagner (23), Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura (both 22) and Troy Brown Jr. (20).
Dāvis Bertāns (27) meanwhile has almost doubled his points per gane average (15.4) since last summer’s trade from the Spurs.
He was enjoying career-highs in rebounds (4.5), assists (1.7), steals (0.7) and blocks despite starting just four of his 54 games played so far this season and has attracted leaguewide interest thanks to his sharpshooting abilities:
It reiterates the fact you don’t need to start immediately, to make a long-lasting impact on your team.
Strengths and weaknesses
LaMelo has been in the spotlight for a number of years now, since being known as Lonzo’s obnoxious brother – but has since matured into a bonafide prospect itching to get his feet wet once the current crisis is over.
He’s grown physically and become a much more astute passer, able to make plays off the dribble and set up teammates. With good handles, court vision and a fearless nature about his game too, there’s no doubting he would fit perfectly into the Wizards culture.
His shot selection and shooting mechanics remain a work in progress, but there’s no reason why they will not improve with time and experience. You only have to look at Lonzo’s displays in recent months with the Pels, for future confirmation.
His defensive awareness has rightly been called into question too, but he continues to fill out and should use that 6’7 frame to good use when challenged – after all, he’s already adept at rebounding. One thing to remember: he’s still 18 until August! There’s ample time to develop but it’s imperative the right team drafts him, maximising his potential.