LaMelo Ball

NBL Prospects Ball, Hampton Drawing Significant Interest

After initially telling NBA teams that they wouldn’t be permitted to scout practices involving top prospects LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton this season due to the league’s no-contact rules, the league office allowed clubs to attend a pair of New Zealand Breakers practices in Memphis this week to get a look at Hampton, according to a pair of reports from Jonathan Givony of ESPN.com.

As Givony details, scouts and executives from NBA teams had hoped to attend a total of five Breakers practices this week in Memphis and Oklahoma City to scout Hampton as part of the New Zealand club’s preseason tour. However, the league prohibited teams from attending sessions on Sunday and Monday morning before opening up Monday night’s practice as well as Tuesday morning’s shootaround. Teams will also be allowed to attend the Breakers’ morning shootaround on Thursday in OKC, Givony adds.

As Givony explains, the NBA’s no-contact rules prohibit teams from having contact with draft-ineligible players outside of a few approved settings, including official games and select college practices. Non-college prospects like Ball and Hampton are still considered draft-ineligible for 2020 at this point since they haven’t officially declared through the league office.

The league’s latest memo related to non-contact rules extensively addressed college and international prospects, but Ball and Hampton technically don’t fall into either category since they’re not attending college and haven’t lived outside the U.S. for three years — they’re essentially in a grey area, leaving the NBA to interpret their status based on the league’s existing rules.

It’s possible the NBA will alter its interpretation of those rules or tweak them slightly to allow teams more freedom to scout Ball and Hampton over the course of the 2019/20 season. Givony points out that 27 NBA scouts attending the NBL Blitz in Tasmania last month and many of those scouts attended practices involving Ball and Hampton, which may lead to fines.

The Breakers practices that were open to NBA execs and scouts this week were heavily populated, according to the NBL, which estimates that over 100 reps from teams were on hand on Monday night to get a look at Hampton. Another top 2020 prospect, James Wiseman, had his pro day at the University of Memphis earlier on Monday, so many scouts and execs attended both events.

Meanwhile, Ball, who is also playing in the NBL as a member of the Illawarra Hawks, is drawing plenty of attention from fans in addition to NBA teams. According to Adam Zagoria of Forbes.com, Ball’s NBL debut became the most-watched game in league history, with one million viewers streaming the game on Facebook in the United States.

Zagoria also wrote in a separate Forbes article that the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Nets, and Raptors are among the teams that have reached out to the Spire Academy in Ohio – where Ball played last season – for information on the young point guard. The Cavaliers have also been evaluating him, sources tell Zagoria.

In ESPN’s latest mock draft, Givony had Wiseman coming off the board at No. 1, followed by Ball at No. 3 and Hampton at No. 6.

LaMelo Ball In Conversation For No. 1 Pick In 2020 NBA Draft

Examine ESPN’s latest mock draft and you’ll find a surprising name near the top of the list. ESPN draft guru Jonathan Givony has LaMelo Ball going No. 3 overall in his latest piece and hears that Ball might end up being in contention for the No. 1 overall pick next summer.

“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 Givony. “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.”

Ball, who is the younger brother of Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, is spending the year playing for the Illawarra Hawks in Australia’s NBL. Many around the Australian league believed the club was taking a big risk bringing in Ball, whose father has been deemed a media distraction in the past. However, it’s been all positive for Ball in Australia and scouts are raving about his game.

“He reminds me of Luka Doncic,” a 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.”

The NBL doesn’t have the kind of talent found in the NCAA, though Ball is playing alongside fellow NBA prospect R.J. Hampton abroad. The league continues to grow and with that, comes an increased level of play.

Washington big man Isaiah Stewart, Memphis center James Wiseman, and Georgia shooting guard Anthony Edwards are among the prospects expected to compete for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft. As for point guards, Ball is currently viewed as the best available.

“It’s a talented field,” an executive tells Sean Deveney of Heavy.com. “But he’s got the most potential.”

And-Ones: All-2020s Team, Tampering, Ball, Fertitta

With a new decade just a few months away, Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated identifies the players most likely to dominate the 2020s, with Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo at the top of the list. Only 24 years old and coming off his first MVP award, Antetokounmpo is an obvious choice. Woo expects him to contend for the award for the rest of his prime years, and notes that he could upend the league when he hits free agency in 2021.

Woo’s other selections are Kawhi Leonard (age 28), Anthony Davis (26), Joel Embiid (25) and Luka Doncic (20). Doncic’s accomplishments at such a young age and his role as the cornerstone of the Mavericks‘ franchise place him ahead of more established stars, Woo adds.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • The NBA’s latest attempt to stop tampering will only be effective if the league follows through on enforcement, states Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Teams are likely to keep testing the limits of the new regulations to see what they can get away with. “Let’s see if they catch someone,” an unidentified league executive said. “Until then, teams will keep pushing the envelope. They didn’t enforce the old rules—why would anyone think they will do more with new ones?”
  • LaMelo Ball is exceeding expectations in the Australian NBL, according to Tommy Beer of Forbes. The youngest brother of Lonzo Ball has a chance to be a top-five pick in the 2020 draft, Beer adds. He is averaging 16.5 points, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game and impressing scouts with his passing as well as scoring.
  • Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta tells Ian Begley of SNY.tv that owners have an underrated role in the success of NBA teams. ” I think the owner has as much influence as any star player because it’s still the culture that you set,” Fertitta said. “And the culture that I’ve set with my team, the Houston Rockets, and to my management team is that we are going to do whatever it takes to put as good a team out there as you can. And we’re gonna try to set ourselves up every year to be one of the top five or six teams in the NBA.”

And-Ones: LaMelo, G League Draft, Gentile, Blair

LaMelo Ball was extremely impressive during the Drew League pro-am in Los Angeles, writes Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated. The younger brother of Lonzo Ball will spend the upcoming season in Australia and has a chance to be one of the top picks in the 2020 draft.

After seeing him in action, Woo states that LaMelo has a chance to be the best player in the family. He’s already 6’6″ at age 18 and is a much better scorer than Lonzo was at the same age. Woo describes LaMelo as “an excellent passer” with an effective change-of-pace move and a “quicker, cleaner release” on his shot than his brother has.

Woo also got a first-hand look at Cade Cunningham, whom he calls “best high school prospect regardless of class.” The 6’7″ point guard appears to be headed to Kentucky, North Carolina or Oklahoma State and could be the first player drafted in 2021.

  • Former NBA forward DeJuan Blair can’t fulfill the contract he signed with Italian team VL Pesaro earlier this month because of a doping suspension, Carchia writes. Blair failed an anti-doping test during the 2017/18 season, but wasn’t aware because FIBA sent the notification to the wrong email address. Blair was selected by the Austin Spurs in last year’s G League draft.

And-Ones: LaMelo Ball, Brooks, De Colo, Black

Like fellow 2020 prospect R.J. Hampton, LaMelo Ball will play in Australia’s NBL next season. After announcing his decision on ESPN’s The Jump on Monday (link via ESPN’s Jonathan Givony), Ball made it official, signing with the Illawarra Hawks for the 2019/20 season. According to Givony, Ball signed a two-year contract, but it has NBA out clauses.

Having spent a year playing in Lithuania, Ball was unlikely to be cleared to play for an NCAA program anyway, but he’s still the second potential 2020 first-round pick to join the NBL for the coming season. LaMelo, who is Lonzo Ball‘s younger brother, is ranked by ESPN as the No. 21 prospect in next year’s draft class.

“My agents did a ton of research on the options I had to play this coming season, and Australia really made sense for me,” Ball told ESPN. “They have a really strong league, with excellent coaches and great players, including former and future NBA players, and great strength and conditioning programs. My goal is to be the top pick in next year’s draft, and I feel they can help me reach that goal. Also, the timing of the season works well with the timing of next year’s draft.”

Meanwhile, the Illawarra Hawks also appear poised to add a former NBA guard to their roster, as Lachy Reid of Channel Ten and Olgun Uluc of FOX Sports Australia (Twitter links) report that Aaron Brooks is set to join the Australian club (hat tip to Sportando). Brooks, a longtime NBA point guard, last played in the league in 2017/18 when he appeared in 32 games for the Timberwolves.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

Lonzo Ball Parts Ways With Agent

An ankle injury has sidelined Lonzo Ball since January 19, but 2019 has still been an eventful year so far for the Lakers point guard. After filing suit against Big Baller Brand co-founder Alan Foster, Ball has now parted ways with longtime agent Harrison Gaines, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, who classifies the split as a mutual decision.

“Harrison Gaines has been a trusted advisor and close friend for many years,” Ball said in a statement to ESPN. “He guided my NBA career with integrity and always had my best interests at heart.”

Despite the timing, Ball said that the decision to move on from Gaines was unrelated to the dispute with Foster. According to Ball, Gaines “always had my back,” and their relationship “will always be bigger than basketball,” as Shelburne relays.

With Gaines no longer in the picture, Ball is in the market for new representation, and multiple agents have reached out to gauge his interest, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. However, Haynes says that most of those agents “became uninterested” once they were notified that LaVar Ball is still very much involved in his son’s decisions.

As Haynes details, LaVar has met with a few NBA agents on behalf of Lonzo, and CAA is currently viewed as the favorite to represent the former No. 2 overall pick. Still, there are concerns about LaVar’s ongoing involvement and the family’s financial standing in regard to Big Baller Brand, sources tell Haynes.

Haynes’ report also notes that LaVar has been inquiring with agencies on whether they have the power to put his three sons – Lonzo, LiAngelo Ball, and LaMelo Ball – on the same NBA team. There would be multiple roadblocks in the way of such a plan, not least of which is the fact that LiAngelo is not considered an NBA-caliber player.

In addition to dealing with LaVar and the Ball family, Lonzo’s next agent figures to be instrumental in trying to secure a new shoe endorsement deal for the point guard, Haynes notes. Lonzo’s on-court future remains uncertain as well, as he could once again be at the center of trade talks this offseason if and when the Lakers re-engage the Pelicans on Anthony Davis.

And-Ones: Ball Brothers, Payton, G. Green, Draft

Lonzo Ball‘s younger brothers are set to remain stateside after spending a portion of the 2017/18 season in Lithuania. Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) reported earlier this week that LiAngelo Ball has let G League teams know of his intent to sign a contract with the league. The NBAGL formally notifies its teams when a player enters the player pool, and as of this afternoon, there had been no official word on Ball, per Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days (Twitter link). Still, that should happen soon.

Meanwhile, LaMelo Ball, the younger brother of Lonzo and LiAngelo, told Franklyn Calle of Slam that he’ll play high school ball this season. LaMelo, who said that he’s “excited” to return to high school for his senior year, is enrolling at prep school Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio, according to Calle.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Elfrid Payton‘s one-year, $3MM contract with the Pelicans was hardly one of the summer’s major deals, but New Orleans has badly missed Payton while he has been sidelined with an ankle injury. Scott Kushner of The Advocate has the story on the point guard, who was injured during the Pelicans’ first loss of the season and has seen his team go 1-5 since then.
  • After being in camp with the Pelicans this fall, Garlon Green has signed with Russian club Khimki, according to an official announcement from the team (hat tip to Sportando). Green, the younger brother of Rockets swingman Gerald Green, was waived by New Orleans along with Jarrett Jack at the end of the preseason.
  • With the 2018/19 NCAA season underway, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today has published his first NBA mock draft for 2019. Meanwhile, Alberto De Roa of HoopsHype identifies several of the top international prospects who could declare for the 2019 draft.

And-Ones: G League Mini Camp, Combine, Balls

A number of NBA players with recent big league experience have been named to the G League’s Elite Mini Camp roster. In mid-May, about 40 players from the developmental league will get the chance to strut their stuff in front of NBA personnel.

A total of 13 players from the initial roster have had at least some NBA experience, including the always intriguing likes of K.J. McDaniels and Archie Goodwin.

Other players, like Marcus Thornton and Naz Mitrou-Long who signed 10-day contracts in 2017/18 will look to prove that they deserve another crack at a rotation spot.

While it will be tough for a significant number of these players to make final rosters next season, there are plenty of opportunities between training camp and the regular season, especially now with the introduction of two-way contracts last season.

Jonathon Simmons, the G League is quick to mention, once participated in this event, prior to latching on with the Spurs and spinning that into a role with the Magic last summer.

There’s more from around the league this afternoon:

  • While it’s become commonplace for highly regarded draft prospects to skip out on the combine, a number of reputable players from last year’s class were in attendance, including Donovan Mitchell and Bam Adebayo. Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype broke down some of the best players from this year’s rookie crop that are actually expected to participate in the pre-draft event later this month.
  • The dust has settled after LaVar Ball‘s decision to move his non-Lonzo sons to Lithuania. According to Donatas Urbonas of 15min.It, LiAngelo Ball may have been slightly underrated prior to arriving in Europe while LaMelo Ball isn’t prepared to perform at the pro level yet. Urbonas connected with USA Today’s Andrew Joseph to discuss the Ball family’s Lithuanian adventure.
  • The NBA offseason is a lot closer than you might think. In fact, players like Cory Joseph and Wesley Johnson have already made key decisions on contract options for the 2018/19 campaign. For a rundown of what we expect from each team’s pending free agents, check out your respective team’s recap in our Free Agent Stock Watch series. Similarly, Hoops Rumors writers have ranked who we think the top available 2018 NBA free agents are.

And-Ones: Rice Commission, Ball Brothers, Chang

Earlier today, we relayed that the the Commission on College Basketball, headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, released a detailed 60-page report in response to a request by the NCAA for sweeping reforms of college basketball.

In an in-depth article for ESPN, college basketball reporters Jeff Borzello and Myron Metcalf, along with NBA draft analyst Jonathan Givony, gave their two cents on what the report means for the future of college basketball and, for our purposes, the NBA.

As part of what is most likely the most relevant portion of the article for our readers, Givony blasts the commission for “washing its hands” of any real responsibility and repeatedly blaming the NBA’s one-and-done rule for the problems in college basketball.

“Abolishing the NBA age limit, also known as the one-and-done rule, is the commission’s first recommendation… The insistence on prioritizing this topic over a myriad of others is an indication of how much the commission is washing its hands of any real responsibility for the issues facing college basketball.

“It’s preposterous to think that abolishing the one-and-done rule will fix all of college basketball’s problems. The much bigger issue is not allowing players to profit from their likeness, receive endorsement deals or be properly compensated by schools for the huge amount of money they generate — one the commission conveniently deflected, citing ongoing litigation and other issues.”

One potential consequence of the NBA not eliminating the one-and-done rule is for the NCAA to revisit “freshman ineligibility,” which Metcalf wholeheartedly disagreed with.

“This doesn’t make sense. So you want players who aren’t drafted to retain their collegiate eligibility and scholarships, but you’re also willing to put talented high school kids in a situation where they might not be allowed to enter the NBA draft or play for a college team as freshmen?

“This is worst stickup in sports history. The NBA doesn’t have to listen to the NCAA. That’s why they’ve had the age limit for more than a decade, despite complaints from many collegiate power brokers.”

Other topics broached include allowing undrafted players to return to school, harsher punishment for rule breakers, and the influence of AAU and other recruiting enterprises. The entire article is well-done and worth a read.

Below are more odds and ends from around the world of basketball:

  • Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball‘s younger brothers, LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball, will leave their team in Lithuania before season’s end, reports Lithuanian basketball reporter Donatas Urbonas. BC Vytautas still has two regular seasons games left to play and they are fighting to avoid relegation.
  • The NBA has appointed Derek Chang as CEO of NBA China reports Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Chang will oversee the NBA’s basketball and business development in China.
  • With the NBA Draft early entry deadline now behind us, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders gives us a look at his mock draft. Like many others, he has Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton going No. 1 overall.

And-Ones: Ball Family, Durant, Early, Tanking

Both LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball are set to play for the Lithuanian team Vytautas Prienai starting next year and the marketing campaign behind the brothers is not far behind. The Balls’ new team has shipped jerseys of the brothers to the United States and they will be available for purchase on Amazon soon after the new year, Shams Charania of The Vertical reports.

Vytautas has shipped 500 jerseys (half for each brother) to an Amazon warehouse and more will be shipped in the first week of January. LiAngelo, 19, and LaMelo, 16, have provided branding to facilitate the marketing deal, Charania writes.

The brothers’ outspoken father, LaVar Ball, has captured headlines across the basketball world for the better part of two years, advocating for his sons and their basketball futures. Lonzo Ball is currently in his rookie season with the Lakers but his two siblings will have to pursue NBA careers differently. LaMelo was taken out of Chino Hills High School and homeschooled before signing with Vytautas; LiAngelo was enrolled in UCLA before he was arrested for shoplifting in China. Shortly after returning to the United States, LiAngelo left UCLA to pursue his professional career.

Check out other news from the basketball world below:

  • Former Knicks player Cleanthony Early was traded in the G League last week, going from the Santa Cruz Warriors to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, per Nicola Lupo of Sportando. Early, 26, last appeared in the NBA during the 2015/16 season. He was averaging  13.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG and 2.6 APG with the Warriors at the time of the trade.
  • The NBA’s Last Two Minute Report from Christmas Day’s matchup between the Warriors and Cavaliers revealed that Kevin Durant fouled LeBron James multiple times during the final possession of the game.
  • While teams have found success and results from prolonged stretches of losing seasons, the entire league suffers when teams decide to tank, ESPN’s Howard Bryant writes.