The NBA Draft will be held in a little over three months and mock drafts are already flooding basketball media. Predictions are as varied and divisive as ever but there does seem to be a consensus on LaMelo Ball’s relative position. He will be a high lottery pick.
Ball impressed everybody with his recent performances for the Illawarra Hawks in the NBL. Sure, the new Melo didn’t shoot the ball efficiently, but he dropped 17 points, 7 assists and 7.5 boards against professional opposition. The 6’7″ point guard is immensely talented it’s a surefire bet that he lands in the top 5 come draft night, but which team needs him the most?
The 10 worst teams in the league with the best chance at a high pick this season were the Warriors, the Cavaliers, the Timberwolves, the Hawks, the Pistons, the Knicks, the Bulls, the Hornets, the Wizards and the Suns. Some of these teams don’t really make sense for LaMelo Ball but there are five that stand out as very tantalising landing places.
5. Golden State Warriors
LaMelo Ball is a player with the talent to win 2021’s Rookie of the Year. That will not happen if Golden State pick him up. Instead of playing heavy minutes as a starter, Ball would slot into the Shaun Livingston backup role behind Steph Curry. Admittedly, that doesn’t sound great for an ambitious young star, but there are definitely positives here. Melo, like big brother Lonzo, has struggled when shooting from range, going at just 24% from deep in the NBL. Aussie legend, Andrew Bogut, noted that Ball’s shot seemed, “herky jerky,” when he matched up on him earlier in the year. There is no place better to develop your shot than the Golden State Warriors. With the splash brothers as his mentors, Melo would be efficiently draining bombs from half court within months.
Who better than Steph Curry to teach LaMelo Ball how to shoot?
There are also clear positives for the Dubs. They want to win another championship next year when Curry and Thompson are back to full health but there are gaps on their roster that need filling. Backup point is one such issue. Shaun Livingston was so effective in that role and, now that the D’Angelo Russell experiment has run its course, he needs to be replaced. Currently, Chasson Randle and Ky Bowman are their options. Ball is better than both of those guys and would soak up minutes while easing the strain on an ageing Steph Curry. The only problem here would be if Golden State choose to plug their other gaps, namely at centre and at the three. If they do want a backup point guard who could potentially develop into their next franchise player, LaMelo Ball is their pick.
4. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons would likely be first or second here if they would just commit to a rebuild. It seemed like fate when they traded Andre Drummond for diddly squat last year. It felt like the franchise had finally admitted to itself that it was average and needed a change. 5 months later and fate has yet to fully realise itself. There hasn’t been a confirmation on whether Blake Griffin will stay put or leave and there’s a similar void of information regarding Derrick Rose. If those guys stay, Detroit would do better by finding a shooter in the draft like Aaron Nesmith. If they are traded, LaMelo fits this franchise like a glove. Ball brings talent, charisma and even more talent to a team begging for someone exciting to come in and take over. Griffin was fun for a little bit, but even a 6-time All-Star wasn’t enough to fill seats at Little Ceasers Arena. LaMelo Ball already has a brand that demands attention and it’s so easy to picture him throwing lobs to a flying Sekou Doumbouya. That could fill seats and may even win Detroit a few games as they, hopefully, commit to a rebuild.
The Pistons desperately need a little excitement
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
This team is baffling. Entering the 19/20 season it was obvious that the team was rebuilding. They’d flipped guys like Alec Burks and Rodney Hood for draft picks and assets and they looked all set to build around their young guards, Colin Sexton and Darius Garland. Despite their supposed focus on youth, they decided to hire a dinosaur by the name of John Beliein to coach the team in his ancient ways. Thankfully, J.B Bickerstaff has now replaced him but the problems with the team are still glaringly obvious. Instead of trading Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson at the deadline for young pieces, Cleveland decided to act like a contender and kept them both. Then they acquired Andre Drummond. This gave Cleveland two young and somewhat promising point guards, three above average centres and approximately zero wing players.
Can J.B resurrect the Cavs
The obvious solution then, is to draft a third promising point guard in LaMelo Ball. Makes total sense. In actuality there are three very good reasons why this would actually work for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
1. They need talent. They need talent that they can build around one day. LaMelo is probably the most talented player in this sub-par draft class. The youngest Ball brother can give this franchise a direction.
2. They also need leaders. The locker room fell apart under John Beilein this season. The coach publicly criticised the players, the players criticised the coach and Tristan Thompson had beef with everybody. All of this earned the franchise extensive criticism from the media and while Beilein may be gone, it’s obvious that this team lacks leadership. Enter LaMelo Ball. The 18 year-old has natural charisma and a winning attitude that should lend itself well to a struggling Cavs team. Andrew Bogut has publicly praised Ball for the way he led Illawarra in the NBL. LaMelo Ball would instantly become the face of the franchise and should thrive in that role.
The Bull and DG are the worst backcourt in the league – Cleveland’s Insta
3. Cleveland desperately need a distributor. They rank 24th in the league for assists and their stat leader, Darius Garland, only drops 3.9 dimes a game. Their ball handlers, Garland and Colin Sexton, both play like Allen Iverson but have the talent of Brandon Jennings. Admittedly, Sexton does shoot it well, dropping 20 points at 47% this season but those points come at the cost of any semblance of teamwork and chemistry due to his selfish mindset. Garland is yet to prove himself at all. Both of them are liabilities on the defensive end. When they play together they have a defensive rating of 117.3, the worst of any backcourt pairing in the league. LaMelo Ball becomes the best guard on this team the second he is drafted. He’d be the best playmaker, the best floor general and the best finisher. Ball may not be brilliant on the defensive end himself, but at least he has the size and athleticism to make you think that the potential is there. Ideally, Cleveland trades Garland for a reasonable wing defender and they start Melo alongside Kevin Porter Jr. Sexton can play the Lou Williams spark-plug role off the bench and suddenly, Cleveland have some promise and don’t look so lost.
2. Chicago Bulls
This isn’t necessarily a need for the Chicago Bulls, but good lord would it look spectacular. LaMelo and Lavine running the floor and finishing at the rim or finding Lauri Markannen and Otto Porter for 3. Wendell Carter playing the role of rim-running rebounder and Coby White as your sixth man. It all makes sense, that team wins games. There are, unfortunately, obstacles that need to be overcome.
Chicago are almost a mix of Detroit and Cleveland in that they need to pick a direction for their franchise and they have a serious backlog of point guards. This is yet another club who looked to be heading in the right direction but are yet to fully commit in a positive way. In this case, by removing GarPax and hiring Arturas Karnisovas, Chicago told their fans that they were ready to get serious about Basketball again. Things got even more exciting when Marc Eversley was hired as GM but there is still one head yet to roll. One very loud and very angry head. Jim Boylen. The man calls timeouts when his team are being hammered and has a hate-hate relationship with his best player. He ruined Lauri Markannen and doesn’t seem to understand how to manage a lineup. Jim Boylen and John Beilein probably share stories about man-management over coffee. Despite all of this, Boylen is still employed. Whether Karnisovas is under pressure from ownership or whether he’s merely taking his time to pick the right successor, Boylen needs to go if Chicago are to win games.
Jim Boylen and an average point guard
The other glaring issue is pretty simple. Tomas Satoransky, Kris Dunn, Coby White, Ryan Arcidiacono. Those are the guys playing point for the Bulls. Archie can be a solid bench warmer and an injury replacement guy. Coby White looks good but his game is probably best suited as a sixth man. Kris Dunn is a great defender who can guard multiple positions and could definitely play a role. The man standing in LaMelo’s way is incumbent starter, Tomas Satoransky. Satoransky is far from bad. He also happens to be pretty far from good. The Czech is just average and Melo would be a much better fit for this team. If the new front office can replace Boylen and trade Satoransky with his 10 million per year contract, LaMelo Ball comes in and this team makes playoffs.
1. New York Knicks
The Knicks may well be the worst possible franchise LaMelo Ball could play for. The team is bad, they don’t have a coach yet, the scrutiny would be extreme and James Dolan is a buffoon. Unfortunately, despite logic and reason, this move is probably ideal for all parties and here’s why.
The Ball family and their immense ego. There are already reports that LaMelo Ball and his camp have chosen the Knicks as their preferred landing spot. Ball’s camp, of course, is his dad, LaVar Ball. The CEO of Big Baller Brand became the most polarising figure in the NBA when he publicly pushed for his eldest son, Lonzo Ball, to be drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017. That ended up happening. Nowadays, Lavar is less of a celebrity but he has still been very vocal about where he wants LaMelo to land. Naturally, that team is the one team with the fanbase to potentially rival the Lakers, the New York Knicks. Melo would become the saviour of New York, the face of the Knicks and the entire basketball would be watching his every move. The pressure would be immense and that is exactly what Lavar and his boys seem to love.
Are Barrett and Ball the heroes that New York need?
It also makes sense for the basketball team. Knicks fans will hope that new President, Leon Rose, will make some positive moves in free agency this offseason. Rose will need to be active because he does not have a lot to work with right now. The Knicks are currently the proud employers of Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr, Reggie Bullock, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Ignas Brazdeikas and a bunch of expiring contracts. LaVar Ball was pretty close to spot on when he said that the Knicks, “have nothing.” Ntilikina and Robinson have shown potential as defensive stalwarts and Randle can put the ball in the bucket. Rj Barrett is the most intriguing prospect as a strong young finisher who’s shown flashes of elite quality. Beyond that, this team is made up of washed-up role players and failed prospects. Pairing Ball with Barrett would give this franchise a spark of excitement it desperately needs. If Melo develops nice chemistry in the pick and roll with Randle and Robinson, the Knicks might even win some games. All of this depends on which coach Leon Rose chooses to hire but LaMelo Ball’s best fit in the NBA is with the New York Knicks.