LaMelo Ball

Hornets’ LaMelo Ball Signs Rookie Contract

LaMelo Ball, selected with the No. 3 pick of the draft, has signed his rookie contract with the Hornets, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Assuming Ball receives the usual 120% above rookie scale, as virtually all first-rounders receive, he’ll make $7,839,960 in his first year. Ball is due to make $35,596,275 over the next four seasons.

Ball joins a backcourt that includes last season’s starters, Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier. Ball played 12 games professionally in Australia last season.

Hornets Draft LaMelo Ball With No. 3 Pick

The Hornets have used the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft to select guard LaMelo Ball.

President of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak had long vowed to select the best player available in the draft, and the Ball pick reflects that. The Hornets’ backcourt is one of the team’s strengths, with Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham having led the team in scoring in 2019/20.

There was a belief that Charlotte may prefer a big man in the draft, but James Wiseman came off the board at No. 2 and the Hornets decided not to use the No. 3 pick on USC’s Onyeka Okongwu. The Hornets will have cap room available and may look to address their frontcourt in free agency later this week.

A report earlier today indicated that Hornets owner Michael Jordan had given the team the “stamp of approval” to draft Ball.

Ball will be in line for a $7.8MM salary in his first NBA season.

Draft Rumors: Hornets, Ball, Wolves, Cavs, Achiuwa, Hawks, More

Assuming the Hornets keep the No. 3 pick in tonight’s NBA draft, team owner Michael Jordan has given the “stamp of approval” to select LaMelo Ball, league sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. James Wiseman has long been considered to be atop Charlotte’s wish list, but if he and Anthony Edwards are the first two players off the board, Ball may be the top prospect available.

O’Connor suggests that “at this stage” it seems as if USC big man Onyeka Okongwu is no longer in serious consideration for the Hornets at No. 3. It’s worth noting that ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his Hoop Collective podcast that there has been some medical-related chatter on Okongwu recently that could affect his stock, though Windhorst cautioned that may just be a smokescreen from a team with interest in him.

Here are several more rumors worth passing along, as we prepare for what should be an eventful 2020 NBA draft:

  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) is hearing that the Timberwolves continue to operate as if they don’t want to pick at No. 1. Sources tell Wasserman that Minnesota is even signaling it could make a pick for another team – such as Wiseman for the Hornets – and try to figure out a deal later.
  • According to O’Connor, the Cavaliers are interested in potentially trading down a little and still selecting Dayton forward Obi Toppin, who has been linked to them frequently as a potential target at No. 5. O’Connor suggests the Pistons (No. 7) could be one potential trade partner for the Cavs if Detroit wants to move up to secure Florida State’s Patrick Williams.
  • Sources tell both O’Connor and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic that the Wizards (No. 9) are high on Memphis power forward Precious Achiuwa. Krawczynski says the Suns (No. 10) are “fond of” Achiuwa as well.
  • Conversations between the Hawks and Timberwolves about a swap that would send the No. 6 pick to Minnesota for No. 17 and Jarrett Culver have stalled, per Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Atlanta would be open to the idea, but the Wolves have become hesitant about moving Culver unless it helps them land a star, according to Kirschner and Krawczynski. Kirschner adds that talks between the Hawks and teams looking to move up in the draft have “cooled down” as of late.
  • While the Celtics have explored packaging their three first-round picks (Nos. 14, 26, and 30) to move into the mid-lottery, teams in that range have indicated they’d like to stay there, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

Draft Notes: Tyrell Terry, Isaiah Joe, LaMelo, Hayes

Stanford point guard Tyrell Terry has worked out for the Nets and Grizzlies, in addition to conducting Zoom meetings with Brooklyn and the Knicks, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post (Twitter link). Lewis notes that Terry has not worked out in person for any other clubs as of earlier today. Brooklyn has the No. 19 and No. 55 picks in tomorrow’s draft, while Memphis owns the No. 40 pick.

There’s more in the the lead up to the big day tomorrow:

  • According to Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report (Twitter link), there is buzz that the Sixers may have promised to draft 6’5″ Arkansas guard Isaiah Joe with either the No. 21 or No. 34 pick tomorrow.
  • Ahead of tomorrow’s draft, Joe Vardon of The Athletic reflects back on LaMelo Ball‘s 2018/19 tenure with SPIRE Academy in Geneva, Ohio before heading overseas before his NBA eligibility. “It was great for a time and it was helpful to our brand and it was good for the program and it was interesting, but I don’t think that’s something we want,” SPIRE chief operating officer Jeff Orloff said.
  • 6’4″ Ratiopharm Ulm combo guard Killian Hayes reflected on his international career prior to this season’s NBA draft with Sean Deveney of Forbes.com. “It wasn’t easy at all,” Hayes said. “The physical part was very tough for me.”

Rockets Rumors: Westbrook, Harden, Luxury Tax, Tate

The Hornets and Knicks are the only teams with “verifiable” trade interest in Rockets star Russell Westbrook so far, Marc Stein of The New York Times writes in his weekly newsletter. And Stein cautions that both clubs’ interest is “conditional” rather than aggressive.

Some people around the NBA believe that Charlotte’s desire to acquire Westbrook will increase if the team doesn’t end up drafting LaMelo Ball on Wednesday night, per Stein. As for the Knicks, their stance is best described as “weighing, but resisting,” according to Stein, who says multiple people within the organization are hesitant to make a move for Westbrook and his pricey contract.

Stein suggests that the best offer the Rockets could expect from the Knicks for Westbrook at this point would include one future first-round pick from Dallas, along with players who aren’t part of the team’s long-term plans, such as perhaps Julius Randle and Dennis Smith Jr.. Even then, there’s no guarantee New York would want to take on the three years and $133MM left on Westbrook’s contract.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • While the Rockets remain reluctant to move James Harden and don’t feel pressure to make a move right away, the “overwhelming expectation” around the NBA is that he’ll eventually be dealt, whether it’s this week, next month, or sometime in 2021, according to David Aldridge and Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Past inquires of Harden have simply been turned aside by the Rockets, but there’s a sense that they’ll now come around if the package is strong enough.
  • Although Harden is reportedly focused on getting to the Nets, the Sixers‘ interest in him has grown in recent weeks, sources tell The Athletic’s duo. According to Aldridge and Iko, rapper Meek Mill – who is from Philadelphia – has been trying to convince Harden to come to the Sixers.
  • The Clippers aren’t currently pursuing Harden, per The Athletic’s report.
  • Sources tell Aldridge and Iko that Harden feels as if some of the Rockets’ decisions – including roster moves and hirings – have been made without substantial impact from him.
  • The Athletic’s sources maintain that Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta is “hellbent” on keeping the team out of luxury tax territory for the foreseeable future.
  • Sydney Kings swingman Jae’Sean Tate, who went undrafted out of Ohio State in 2018, is expected to sign with the Rockets sometime after free agency opens later this week, Stein reports. John Hollinger of The Athletic recently referred to Tate – who made over 40% of his three-point attempts in Australia last season – as one of the most highly-regarded players outside of the U.S. Houston is also bringing Sydney’s head coach Will Weaver stateside as an assistant on Stephen Silas’ staff, as we relayed last week.

O’Connor’s Latest: Hornets, Knicks, Toppin, Spurs, Harris, More

League sources have long said that the Hornets‘ preference on draft night would be adding a big man, either by trading up for James Wiseman or by picking Onyeka Okongwu, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. However, according to O’Connor, there are some people in Charlotte’s front office who like the idea of drafting LaMelo Ball if he’s available.

As O’Connor notes, one potential avenue for the Hornets if Wiseman is off the board at No. 3 and Ball is available would be to trade down with a team like Chicago or Detroit that might be eyeing Ball. In that scenario, Charlotte could theoretically pick up an extra asset or two while still having the opportunity to select Okongwu.

Here are a few more of the most interesting tidbits from O’Connor’s latest mock draft at The Ringer:

  • O’Connor’s sources believe the Knicks will select Obi Toppin if he’s available at No. 8. If the Dayton forward makes it past Cleveland at No. 5, there’s a chance he’ll still be on the board for New York.
  • The Spurs “love” Villanova forward Saddiq Bey, according to O’Connor, who says San Antonio is also one of multiple teams with interest in trading up for Florida State’s Patrick Williams.
  • “Everyone around the league” thinks that the Thunder will look to trade up to land seven-footer Aleksej Pokusevski, who has been frequently linked to Oklahoma City in large part due to his agent’s connection to general manager Sam Presti. Agent Jason Ranne used to work in the Thunder’s front office.
  • Within his note on the Nets‘ potential pick at No. 19, O’Connor cites sources who say that Brooklyn is likely to re-sign free agent sharpshooter Joe Harris.
  • The Nuggets are thought to be targeting a frontcourt player at No. 22, league sources tell O’Connor, who identifies Isaiah Stewart and Zeke Nnaji as a couple possibilities.

Draft Rumors: Wolves, Edwards, Ball, P. Williams, Hawks, Knicks, More

With the 2020 NBA draft just two days away, several draft experts are publishing their final mocks of the year, nearly five months after the event was initially scheduled to take place. Jonathan Givony of ESPN, Jeremy Woo of SI.com, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, and Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report are among those who published new mock drafts today. Let’s round up a few of the key pieces of intel from those mocks…

  • Sources tell Vecenie that the Timberwolves still haven’t finalized a decision on what they’ll do with their No. 1 pick, as they expect “real” trade offers to start coming in during the next couple days. However, Givony and Woo have both heard that most teams around the NBA are operating as if the Wolves will select Anthony Edwards if they stay put.
  • LaMelo Ball‘s private workouts with teams last week were strong, according to Givony, who suggests that the Warriors were among the teams impressed by what they saw from Ball. Still, Givony and other draft experts view James Wiseman as Golden State’s most likely pick at No. 2.
  • There has been plenty of chatter about Florida State forward Patrick Williams, whose ceiling is as high as No. 4 to the Bulls, according to both Woo and Givony.
  • Opposing front offices say the Hawks (No. 6) have been the most active team in trade talks, according to Givony, who says Atlanta could push for an impact player (such as Jrue Holiday or Victor Oladipo) or trade down and pick up another young player.
  • Sources tell Wasserman that the Knicks (No. 8) appear to be “looking hardest” at Devin Vassell, Isaac Okoro, and Kira Lewis Jr. Sources have also linked Obi Toppin to New York for some time, per Woo, though the Dayton forward is less likely to be on the board at No. 8.
  • Assuming the Suns keep the No. 10 pick, sharpshooter Aaron Nesmith is thought to be high on their list, says Wasserman.
  • While the Celtics have looked into packaging their three first-rounders (Nos. 14, 26, and 30) for a mid-lottery pick, interest in that sort of deal appears to be lukewarm, according to Woo, who says Boston may be more likely to make smaller trades with their picks.
  • Sources tell Wasserman that the Trail Blazers (No. 16) have expressed interest in Serbian forward Aleksej Pokusevski, while Vecenie says Jay Scrubb‘s name is the one he has heard linked most frequently to Portland.
  • The Bucks‘ pick at No. 24 is one to watch in trade talks as Milwaukee tries to upgrade its roster, writes Vecenie. If they keep the pick, Josh Green is among the options the Bucks are eyeing, per Wasserman.

Community Shootaround: LaMelo Ball

Lonzo Ball was drafted with the No. 2 overall pick in 2017. Will his younger brother LaMelo Ball one-up his older brother and get taken with the top pick on Wednesday?

Ball’s status among NBA executives and scouts is one of more intriguing aspects of this draft. Some draft experts believe Ball will be taken with the No. 1 pick. Others think Ball, despite his reputation as the premier point guard prospect, might drop out of top three slots.

Ball worked out for the Timberwolves on Wednesday, then gave the next two teams in the draft order — the Warriors and Hornets — a closer look on Thursday. Interestingly, the Pistons — who hold the No. 7 pick — were also invited. Ball has also met with the Bulls, who sit at the No. 4 spot.

Detroit would have to trade up to snare Ball and it’s unclear whether they have enough trade capital to make that move. The Pistons don’t own any extra future first-rounders and their best young trade pieces would presumably be Luke Kennard, who missed most of last season with a back injury, and Sekou Doumbouya, who had a spotty rookie year.

Another recent report suggested the Thunder might have some interest in Ball. They don’t own a pick higher than No. 25 in this draft but have plenty of future first-rounders, courtesy of the Paul George deal last year.

If the Timberwolves pick Ball, it would signal that they believe a Ball-D’Angelo Russell backcourt could work. The Warriors, with Stephen Curry, would seemingly be less interested in drafting a point guard. It would make more sense for either the Hornets or Pistons to take Ball, though Charlotte owes Terry Rozier a hefty salary over the next two seasons.

That leads us to our question of the day: Which team will end up selecting or trading for LaMelo Ball in Wednesday’s draft?

Please provide your input in our comments section. We look forward to what you have to say.

LaMelo Ball Works Out For Additional Teams

After holding his first in-person workout ahead of the draft on Wednesday for the Timberwolves, highly-regarded 2020 lottery pick LaMelo Ball followed that up with a second private workout for three other clubs today in Southern California, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

Ball, a native of Chino Hills, CA, went through several individual drills in front of coaches and front office personnel from the Warriors (owners of the No. 2 pick), Hornets (No. 3) and Pistons (No. 7). Givony notes that Ball also interviewed with executives from the Bulls, owners of the No. 4 pick, during the last few weeks.

Ball, a 6’7″ guard with terrific passing acumen who spent last season playing for the Illawarra Hawks of the Australian National Basketball League, could be an intriguing backcourt partner for the Wolves’ D’Angelo Russell.

The Hornets and Pistons could also use a definitive long-term fit at lead guard. Though the Bulls drafted point guard Coby White with the seventh pick in 2019, it remains to be seen whether White can evolve from his current standing as a score-first bench off guard.

Draft Rumors: Warriors, Vassell, Suns, Spurs, Mavs, More

The Warriors continue to actively discuss trades involving the No. 2 pick, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Insider link), who writes within his latest mock draft that the Bulls, Pistons, and Knicks are among the candidates to make a deal with Golden State.

If the Warriors remain at No. 2, the team seems more likely to select Memphis center James Wiseman than Georgia guard Anthony Edwards, per Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report. Wasserman has heard that there are some voices in Golden State’s front office against drafting Edwards, as well as mixed opinions within the front office on LaMelo Ball.

As Wasserman details, the Warriors have also expressed “legitimate” interest in sharpshooting wing Devin Vassell, but the assumption is that the club wouldn’t take the Florida State prospect at No. 2 — he’d be an option in a trade-down scenario. Wasserman adds that Vassell’s camp is confident he’ll go in the middle of the lottery and is unlikely to slip past the Kings at No. 12.

Here are a few more draft-related updates and rumors:

  • According to Givony, the Suns (No. 10) are “looking heavily” at point guards and wing players, especially prospects who can complement Devin Booker, while the Spurs (No. 11) are eyeing both big men and wings in the hopes of bolstering their frontcourt.
  • The Mavericks have expressed some interest in trading up into the lottery, league sources tell Jeremy Woo of SI.com. Dallas currently holds the 18th and 31st overall picks.
  • Teams with picks in the 20s aren’t expecting Precious Achiuwa to be available, according to Wasserman, who says the Memphis forward will likely be picked in the 9-18 range.
  • Multiple teams believe Arizona shooting guard Josh Green could slip a little, with some clubs viewing him as a “fringe first-rounder,” writes Wasserman.
  • Jaden McDaniels, Tyrell Terry, Daniel Oturu, Tyrese Maxey, and RJ Hampton are among the first-round candidates with the widest projected draft ranges, per Wasserman.