LaMelo Ball

LaMelo Ball Shut Down For Rest Of NBL Season

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.

One NBA scouting executive who spoke to Sean Deveney of Heavy.com gave a mixed review on Ball’s time with the Hawks, suggesting that he prefers James Wiseman as a potential top pick.

“(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.”

Ball is currently the top prospect on ESPN’s big board, followed by Georgia’s Anthony Edwards and Wiseman.

Lonzo Ball On LaMelo Being A Fit For Knicks: “For Sure”

As Lonzo Ball‘s younger brother LaMelo Ball prepares for the NBA Draft this summer, the elder Ball brother believes the potential first overall pick would be a fit for the Knicks, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

“Whoever has the No. 1 pick, I feel like that’s who’s gonna get him,” Lonzo said to the Post scribe. “He’s been in the spotlight since he was 15, plus I went through everything he’s gonna go through. So he always has me to fall back on.

“But what he did overseas, what he did in high school, I think it’s a fair choice [as the No. 1-overall pick], honestly. He’s been killing grown men in Australia, which is a very good league. So I expect the same thing here. It’s different for everybody. Hopefully, it happens from the first game. That’s what I’d love to see.”

LaMelo, 18, is currently in Australia with the National Basketball League but is sidelined with a foot injury. However, the injury is not considered serious enough to put his draft status in jeopardy.

It’s possible the Knicks — who landed R.J. Barrett with the third overall pick last year — could land the first overall selection this summer. The team currently sits third in the lottery standings, as our Reverse Standings show.

“Wherever he lands, he’s gonna help out a lot. Anybody could use him,” Lonzo said of his brother.

And-Ones: 2020 Draft, Giannis, Curry, Silver

The 2019 NBA draft, like many in recent years, had an obvious hierarchy at the top, with No. 1 prospect Zion Williamson followed by clear top-tier options like Ja Morant and RJ Barrett. However, things don’t project to be quite so simple in 2020, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Insider link), who suggests that the this year’s draft might be the weirdest one in years.

As Givony explains, James Wiseman‘s departure from the University of Memphis, Anthony Edwards‘ inconsistency at Georgia, and a handful of unknowns surrounding LaMelo Ball have ensured there’s no clear-cut favorite to be the No. 1 pick in June. Wiseman’s absence, along with injuries to Ball, Cole Anthony, and R.J. Hampton, have also resulted in a dearth of opportunities for evaluators to scout many of this year’s top prospects.

With so much uncertainty about the top of the 2020 class, a chaotic draft night is possible, according to Givony, who thinks teams might have big boards that look very different.

Despite Givony’s assertions, there seems to be at least a rough consensus among experts on the top of the draft order for now. In their latest mock drafts, Givony and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic each have Edwards, Wiseman, and Ball going 1-2-3, in that order. The two mock drafts do diverge significantly from there, however.

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

  • After his postgame conversation with Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo on Wednesday went viral, Warriors Stephen Curry claimed to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (video link) that he wasn’t talking to Giannis about teaming up in Golden State in the future — he was giving him his gamer tag for the online game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. “Don’t shoot the messenger,” Haynes said, perhaps recognizing that some fans will find Curry’s explanation dubious.
  • Former NBA first-round pick Jared Cunningham, who had been playing for the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G League, has opted to return to China and sign with the Shanghai Sharks, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Cunningham, who has appeared in 84 regular season NBA games, played in the Chinese Basketball Association for Jiangsu in 2016/17.
  • Ethan Strauss of The Athletic identifies five issues facing commissioner Adam Silver in the coming years, including the NBA’s next TV rights deal and the league’s delicate relationship with China.
  • The National Basketball Players Association is creating an accelerator program to help current and former players invest in and create startup companies. Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg has the story and the details.

And-Ones: LaMelo Ball, Hampton, Guarantee Deadline

NBA teams hoping to scout LaMelo Ball in Australia will have to wait a little longer, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN, who reports that the Illawarra Hawks guard remains out indefinitely due to a foot injury. Ball is still in a walking boot and has been instructed not to put any weigh on his injured foot for at least two more weeks, sources tell Givony.

With the Hawks unlikely to make the National Basketball League playoffs in Australia, it remains to be seen whether Ball will actually return for the team this season. The regular season ends on February 14, so if the youngster isn’t cleared for several more weeks, it may not make sense to have him suit up for the team’s final games.

Givony provides a more positive update on R.J. Hampton, the other probable 2020 lottery pick who is playing in Australia’s NBL this season. According to Givony, Hampton has been cleared to resume full basketball activity as he recovers from a hip injury. The New Zealand Breakers are expected to reintegrate the 18-year-old with a minutes restriction once he’s ready to return, which should happen soon.

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

And-Ones: I. Taylor, Wiseman, Draft, World Peace

Free agent guard Isaiah Taylor was one of the Raptors’ final cuts this fall, having been waived just two days before the regular season began in order to create room on the roster for the team to retain Malcolm Miller. Now, Taylor is headed to the G League, where he has joined the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Rockets‘ NBAGL affiliate, a source tells JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors (Twitter link).

Taylor, who received a $50K guarantee from Toronto on his training camp deal, has logged 71 regular season NBA games. Most of those came in 2017/18, when he appeared in 67 contests with the Hawks, but the other four occurred in 2016/17 with the Rockets. Taylor has previously signed multiple NBA contracts with Houston and has spent time with the Vipers, so he’ll be re-entering a familiar environment as he looks to play his way back to the NBA.

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

  • James Wiseman, a candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, has officially left the University of Memphis and signed with Excel Sports for representation, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links). Woj notes that the seven-footer met with several agents before deciding on Excel.
  • Speaking of the 2020 draft, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic recently shared some of the draft-related tidbits he heard of this month’s G League Showcase. According to Vecenie, draft evaluators are split over who should be the top pick — Anthony Edwards was mentioned most, but Wiseman and LaMelo Ball also have backers.
  • According to a report out of Puerto Rico relayed by Alessandro Maggi of Sportando, Puerto Rico’s new Mets de Guaynabo expansion team was interested in Metta World Peace as its head coach, but the former NBA forward declined an offer.

And-Ones: E. Okafor, Trade Season, 2020 Draft, Cacok

Former No. 2 overall pick Emeka Okafor made an NBA comeback during the 2017/18 season, appearing in 26 regular season contests for the Pelicans after being out of the league for nearly five years. Although Okafor made 19 starts for a New Orleans team that ultimately made it to the Western Conference Semifinals, the veteran big man hasn’t appeared in the NBA since then.

Still, that doesn’t mean Okafor is giving up on his professional career. As Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays, the former UConn star has found a new home in South Korea, where he has already appeared in a pair of games for Mobis Phoebus. At age 37, Okafor may not return to the NBA again, but he’s averaging a double-double so far in the KBL, with 11.5 PPG and 10.5 RPG.

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

  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) shares his comprehensive and invaluable trade guide for 2019/20, while John Hollinger of The Athletic provides five reasons why the ’19/20 trade season may turn out to be a dud.
  • Within his article, Hollinger makes a case for why the Warriors may push hard to get out of luxury-tax territory before the end of the season, noting that doing so would allow the team to avoid repeater penalties in 2020/21. It won’t be easy for Golden State to sneak below the tax line, but if the team is willing to discuss a Kevon Looney trade, that could open up one path, Hollinger observes.
  • Jeremy Woo of SI.com and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic have published their first big boards for the 2020 NBA draft. Georgia freshman guard Anthony Edwards tops both lists, but they diverge from there, with LaMelo Ball coming in at No. 2 in Woo’s rankings, while Vecenie has UNC’s Cole Anthony at No. 2.
  • Devontae Cacok‘s new two-way contract with the Lakers is a two-year agreement, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). Cacok is one of six two-way players who is in the first year of a two-year deal.

Top Prospect LaMelo Ball Sidelined With Foot Injury

LaMelo Ball had recently been gathering momentum for the top pick in the 2020 NBA draft as a result of his strong play in Australia’s National Basketball League, but evaluators hoping to take a closer look at Ball will have to delay those plans until the new year.

According to a press release issued by the Illawarra Hawks, Ball’s NBL team, the guard suffered a bruised foot in practice and is expected to miss approximately four weeks. The Hawks’ season doesn’t end until mid-February, so the club will look to get Ball back in its lineup for the home stretch.

Ball has impressed scouts by averaging 17.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 6.8 APG through 12 games as an 18-year-old in one of the world’s most competitive basketball leagues. While he has struggled a little with his shot (.377 FG%, .250 3PT%), Ball has boosted his stock and is a contender for the No. 1 pick in 2020.

According to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, several NBA decision-makers had been planning to visit Australia in the coming weeks to get an in-person look at Ball and fellow projected lottery pick R.J. Hampton, who is a member of the New Zealand Breakers. Hampton is dealing with a health issue of his own — Givony hears from a source that the young guard is day to day with a hip flexor injury.

In other Illawarra news, the Hawks announced in a press release that they’ve signed 22-year-old forward Billy Preston. Preston started the 2018/19 season on a two-way contract with the Cavaliers, but was released by Cleveland last December.

And-Ones: LaMelo, MVP Votes, Warriors, Fratello

LaMelo Ball doesn’t mind a little campaigning in his effort to be the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, writes Krysten Peek of Yahoo Sports. The buzz around Ball continues to grow as he strings together impressive performances in Australia’s National Basketball League. Over the weekend, he became the first NBL player since 2005 to post back-to-back triple doubles.

“Most definitely,” Ball responded when asked whether he thinks he should be the first pick. “I believe in myself and I’ve worked hard to get here. The other guys at the top of the draft, James [Wiseman] and Anthony [Edwards], are very talented too. But just in the way I believe in myself, I think I’m the top pick.”

Several scouts were in New Zealand recently to watch Ball go up against another projected lottery pick in R.J. Hampton. Many came away impressed, with one scout saying, “The fact that he’s putting up numbers like this in a league full of former NBA players is forcing every team to look at him as a potential No. 1 pick.” 

Ball addressed rumors that he might end his season early to protect his health for the draft. He insists he’s “committed to the whole season,” even though his team is off to a 3-9 start.

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

  • Roughly a quarter of the way into the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo is in good position to repeat as MVP, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. In a poll of 101 media members, Antetokounmpo received 48 first-place votes and was the only player listed on all the ballots. LeBron James (29 first-place votes), Luka Doncic (14) and James Harden (nine) were next in line.
  • Declining ratings continue to be a concern, and the NBA has started taking action to address the problem. One solution is fewer national TV games for the Warriors, who have the NBA’s worst record after five years as its marquee team. Golden State’s next two scheduled ESPN games have been replaced, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic, who speculates that more are likely to be removed.
  • Former NBA coach and long-time broadcaster Mike Fratello will be back on the sidelines soon, according to Nicola Lupo of Sportando. Fratello will serve as head coach for USA Basketball in February’s qualifying games for the FIBA AmeriCup.
  • Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the China controversy today, saying a “culture clash” was almost inevitable, tweets Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic. NBA games haven’t returned to China Central Television, the main broadcaster in Mainland China, but they are back on Tencent, which Silver called a “thawing” in tensions (Twitter link).
  • Sources tell Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that March 20 has been set for the debut of the NBA’s Basketball Africa League (Twitter link). The first game will take place in Dakar, Senegal.
  • The NBA will consider allowing corporate investors to hold passive minority stakes in more than one team, tweets Alex M. Silverman of MorningConsult. The measure will be part of the agenda at April’s Board of Governors meeting.

And-Ones: LaMelo, Scouting, Pitino, Schedule Changes

LaMelo Ball is the top prospect for the 2020 draft, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. American fans haven’t seen much of the youngest Ball brother because he’s playing in Australia’s National Basketball League, but he’s making a strong impression on NBA scouts.

According to Givony, Ball’s assets include unusual size for a point guard at 6’7″, along with “impressive creativity, flair, poise and instincts operating off a live dribble.” He can pass with either hand and is especially skilled on the pick-and-roll. To improve his game, Givony believes Ball needs to become a more efficient scorer and show a stronger commitment to defense, but he still has the potential to become a franchise-altering player.

The rest of the top five includes Memphis center James Wiseman, Georgia guard Anthony Edwards, North Carolina guard Cole Anthony and combo guard R.J. Hampton, who is also playing in the ABL.

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

  • This week normally marks the unofficial beginning of scouting season, but that’s changing because of the concept of “flight risk,” writes former league executive John Hollinger of The Athletic. Team officials who may be planning a trip to Australia to see Ball or Hampton in late December or January are taking the risk that they could shut down their seasons early to avoid injury if they believe their status as a high lottery pick is secure.
  • Some of the top players in Greece are refusing to play for the national team as long as Rick Pitino is the head coach of Panathinaikos, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Former NBA player Kostas Papanikolaou joined with Georgios Printezis and Antonis Koniaris to write a letter to the Greek federation, protesting Pitino’s recent return to their arch-rival and calling the situation “toxic.” Greece hasn’t earned a spot in the Olympics and will be part of a qualifying tournament in June.
  • Instead of making radical changes to the schedule and the playoffs, the NBA needs to do a better job of promoting its current product, contends Michael Lee of The Athletic. He observes that the league has large number of  “skilled, likable and marketable stars,” along with many international players to attract an overseas audience. Lee opposes a shortened schedule and an in-season tournament, and points out that reason behind declining ratings is that it’s easier than ever for fans to enjoy the league through highlights on social media without dedicating the time to watch a full game.

And-Ones: Wiseman, One-And-Dones, Australia, Kings

Memphis center James Wiseman lost several games of his college career because of the aggressive stance that he and the university took with the NCAA, writes Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News. The potential top pick in next year’s draft has been suspended for an additional 11 games and won’t take the court until mid-January, although the university plans to file an appeal.

DeCourcy states that Wiseman likely could have been playing before Christmas if he hadn’t elected to challenge the NCAA’s authority in the case. When the original penalty was announced, Wiseman filed a lawsuit against the organization and obtained a restraining order that enabled him to play against UIC and Oregon. Memphis president David Rudd and athletic director Laird Veatch were both vocal in their support of Wiseman’s suit, with Veatch saying, “It is clear to me in my short time here that Memphians will stand up and fight, both for each other and for what is right, and I am proud to stand with them.”

Wiseman’s suspension will total 12 games — nine for the amount of money that Tigers coach Penny Hardaway gave his family for moving expenses, and three more to cover the games he has played. In addition, Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated is reporting that the NCAA has threatened a major infractions case against Memphis.

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

  • Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated identifies five freshmen who have put themselves into consideration for one-and-done status with their early-season play. The players are Isaac Okoro of Auburn, Samuell Williamson of Louisville, Onyeka Okongwu of USC, Jahmi’us Ramsey of Texas Tech and Zeke Nnaji of Arizona. Woo adds that NBA executives still see the 2020 draft class as underwhelming.
  • The presence of potential lottery picks LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton has lifted Australia’s National Basketball League to a new level of popularity, relays Bill Shea of The Athletic. With its Next Stars program, the NBL is offering an alternative to the NCAA for young players.
  • In an entertaining story, Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN examines how former Kings chief revenue officer Jeff David was able to embezzle $13MM before being caught.