Despite initial optimism that he’d return before the end of the season from the foot injury that sidelined him last month, top prospect LaMelo Ball won’t play any more games for the Illawara Hawks, manager and trainer Jermaine Jackson told Olgun Uluc of Fox Sports Australia.
According to Jackson, Ball is now healthy after dealing with a bone bruise in his foot, but would require several weeks of training and rehab before he’s cleared to return to game action. Australia’s National Basketball League concludes its regular season on February 14 and the 5-17 Hawks won’t make the playoffs, so the team isn’t pushing Ball to return.
Many NBA decision-makers didn’t have a chance to evaluate Ball in person during his time in Australia, but weren’t surprised by the decision to shut him down to avoid the risk of further injury, says Jonathan Givony of ESPN.
Ball averaged 17.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 6.8 APG in the 12 games he did play in the NBL, boosting his stock and making himself a contender for the No. 1 overall pick in 2020. However, he struggled with his shot (.377 FG%, .250 3PT%) and there are still concerns related to his “reportedly erratic work ethic,” according to Givony, who did note that some scouts believe the 18-year-old is the most talented prospect in the 2020 draft class.
“(Ball’s) got everything you’d like to see in a point guard because he is so big,” the exec said. “He is probably going to be 6’8″ and that kind of size, that sets you apart. … [But] there are times if you watch him where it looks like he is collecting his own numbers and not helping the team win. For a point guard, you don’t want to see that.”