He’s one of the flashiest and most exciting playmakers in the draft, LaMelo Ball could thrive with the San Antonio Spurs if he gets the chance
More than nearly any other NBA team, the San Antonio Spurs loathe noise. Whether it’s pundits declaring them the title favorites or bloggers predicting the end of an era for the umpteenth time, it doesn’t matter to the folks in the Alamo City. They’re focused on what they can control on the court and little else.
That quiet working, nose to the grindstone mentality might seem juxtaposed to the chest-pounding bravado that we’ve all come to expect from LaVar Ball over the past few years but don’t let the words of the father distract you from the game of his son. LaMelo Ball is one of the most exciting prospects in the draft and while his fit in San Antonio might seem strange it could be exactly what the Spurs need.
Let’s preface all of this by saying that the Spurs chances are slim. They’ve got close to a nine percent chance of landing a pick in the top-four. Any lower than that and Ball will surely be off the board. Even if San Antonio ends up with pick three or four they could possibly have to move up again to select him, he’s that good.
The Spurs seemingly already have their point guards of the future in Derrick White and Dejounte Murray but Ball does something that neither of the two can do. He’s way ahead of them as a passer, especially in transition. It must be something in the Ball genes because just like his brother Lonzo, LaMelo can whip outlet or cross-court passes with both hands, sees plays long before anyone else, and makes everyone on his team better because he truly seems to take joy in setting others up for easy baskets.
Ball’s vision is way ahead of the other guards in his draft class at this point. Not only does he see passes that others don’t, but he’s got the confidence and awareness to manipulate defenders using just his eyes. He’s an expert at looking off his actual target, guiding defenders away with his eyes to create an opening, and then whipping the ball into the newly opened man for an easy bucket.
Outside of his passing ability, Ball shows promise as an offensive threat as well. He’s got room for improvement as a finisher but already has the confidence to attack the rim and finish with either hand. Given his impressive height and wingspan, he should have no problem getting the majority of his points in the paint while he continues to work on his outside game.
Like Lonzo, LaMelo’s outside shot will need a near full overhaul over his first few years in the league. It’s a daunting process to be sure, but not one that should scare the Spurs or any other team away from selecting him with one of the highest picks in the draft.
Frankly, San Antonio should be less concerned with the potential need to re-tool Ball’s shot than other teams. Just look at the progress that Murray has made with his jumper in his time with San Antonio. Just last season we saw him take a leap from a non-threat from behind the arc to a 37.8 percent shooter from deep.
Given his solid performance from the line and soft touch on floaters and other looks close to the rim, there is little reason to worry about Ball’s ability to develop a consistent jumper. If Lonzo can grow into a 38 percent shooter there should be no reason that his younger brother cannot do the same if he’s able to work with the right coaches and puts in the necessary work.
More than just an offensive threat, Ball has the size and vision to be a good rebounder for his position. He combines 6’7 height with a 6’10 wingspan, he can beat opponents to rebounds and once he gets his hands on the ball, look out. We’ve seen how effective Lonzo is when he’s able to grab a rebound and push the pace on his own, LaMelo can have a similar impact.
That same impressive frame should help him on defense as well. He’s got the size of a wing but the quickness of a point guard. We’ve talked at length about how much potential the young Spurs have on the defensive end of the floor, LaMelo would fit right into that.
LaMelo has all the raw talent in the world, but he’s going to need a solid coaching staff with a proven development program to help him reach his potential. And starting out in a smaller market like San Antonio wouldn’t hurt him either.
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We all saw the absolute circus that swirled around Lonzo’s first two years in the league with the Los Angeles Lakers. And there’s sure to be pressure for LaMelo to end up with someone like the New York Knicks, but landing with a team like the Spurs could actually be the best thing for him.
San Antonio has a proven development program and while it’s unlikely that Ball would spend as much time in Austin as the typical Spurs rookie, the coaching staff would still be able to temper the rougher edges of his game while bringing out the best of what he’s good at. He’s a bit of a gambler on defense, Gregg Popovich is okay with that under certain situations but he would also teach LaMelo the fundamentals of good team defense that he’s lacking at this point in his development.
We often talk about how much potential the young Spurs have, and between Murray, White, and Lonnie Walker there’s a lot to like about the future of the team. But Ball is on a different level than those three. He can be one of the best playmakers in the league in a very short time. He’s a terror in transition and would help the Spurs lean more towards a faster style of play that the team seemingly has the potential to excel with.
He would also make Derrick White expendable. This isn’t a slight at White by any means, he’s a very solid point guard with All-Star potential. But the Spurs have already given Murray his long-term extension and Walker looks like he will end up as a better scorer and off-ball threat than White. Teams around the league know White’s value, if the Spurs are able to somehow land Ball it would free up White to be used as a trade chip to fill out other areas of the roster.
It would take a near miracle for the San Antonio Spurs to get into a position to select LaMelo Ball in the 2020 NBA Draft. But if the lottery balls do end up bouncing in their favor it could be the best thing to happen to both the Spurs and Ball.