Could the youngest Ball brother fit in with the San Antonio Spurs?
For much of the year, LaMelo Ball was viewed as a consensus top-three pick in the 2020 NBA Drat. But recent developments have caused his position on draft boards to slip a bit. Could he be available when the San Antonio Spurs are on the clock?
The attractive parts of Ball’s game jump out at you. He’s a visionary passer, there isn’t a pass on the court that he’s afraid of or unable to make. He’s got prototypical size for a point guard – standing 6’7 with a 6’10 wingspan he’ll have no problem guarding multiple positions and seeing over defenders. But the questions about his potential are growing louder.
Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer recently reported that Ball is not fairing well in his pre-draft interview, causing his value to take a bit of a dip.
“LaMelo Ball is not performing very well at job interviews…He is not improving his perception via job interview. There are people drafting later in the top ten who were not preparing for the possibility of Ball still being around. And I’m not saying that he will not be a top-three pick. I am saying that I know for a fact that there are teams later in the top ten who are doing more research on him, because they no longer think it’s a given he will.”
Now, this could all be smoke and mirrors. Maybe the Ball family is leaking these rumors to try to get LaMelo to the New York Knicks at the eighth pick. Maybe the Detroit Pistons are spreading them in the hopes that enough teams will pass on Ball so he’ll fall to them at seven. Or maybe Ball is legitimately bungling these interviews. It’s hard to tell at this point.
In any case, a draft-night slide isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Ball, or any other prospect for that matter. If it comes to be that teams start passing on Ball, should the San Antonio Spurs consider making a move to trade up and take him? Here’s why they should consider it.
Next: LaMelo injects potential into the Spurs offense
LaMelo Ball would help the San Antonio Spurs offense thrive like never before
The San Antonio Spurs offense for most of the season was about what you’d expect. They weren’t playing at breakneck speed, weren’t shooting a lot of three’s, and were relying heavily on their two mid-range focused stars to carry them to victory. The results were, shall we say, not great.
That changed when the team got to Orlando. Injuries to key frontcourt players forced San Antonio to go small and push the pace. Over their final eight games of the season, the Spurs ranked fourth in the league in pace of play and had the ninth-highest offensive rating in the league. And, frankly, the new fast-paced offense was way more enjoyable to watch.
The potential of adding an otherworldly passer like Ball to the offense San Antonio was running in the bubble should excite and intrigue Spurs fans. He has what it takes to unlock the full potential of this team if they’re willing to build around him.
Ball could be the best playmaker that the Spurs have had since Tony Parker in a few year’s time. And given the improvements that Derrick White and Dejounte Murray have made on their outside shooting over the past few months, it’s reasonable to believe that the three could work in a lineup together someday.
More than just a passer, Ball’s also shown that he can be effective without the rock in his hands. He’s a smart cutter who knows how to get himself into positions where his teammates can find him for easy buckets.
His jumper could use some work. He’s got the same kind of low, strange release that Lonzo had when he came into the league. But over the past three seasons, we’ve seen the older Ball brother completely overhaul his shot. Now he’s coming off of a season where he shot nearly 38 percent from behind the arc. If LaMelo can mimic that progression he’ll be a steal for whichever team takes him.
Next: Ball's impact on defense
The San Antonio Spurs can bring out the best of LaMelo on defense
LaMelo Ball has the physical tools to be a solid defender, he just needs to come to a coaching staff that can help sharpen his game on that end of the floor.
He’s got a penchant for jumping passing lanes and getting out in transition but other than that he’s got a long, long way to go on defense. He lacks discipline and seems to check out at times. But if there’s a team in the league that can bring the best out of him on defense it’s the Spurs.
For years, San Antonio built their success around their feistiness on the defensive end. But they got away from that this year. They had their worst defensive rating in franchise history and were regularly getting burnt on the perimeter.
Ball isn’t going to come in and turn the Spurs into an elite defensive unit overnight but he can help form a dynamic defensive backcourt with Murray, White, Lonnie Walker, and Keldon Johnson in a year or two.
And really, that’s all the appeal for Ball as it pertains to his defense. There’s not much to love there right now outside of the potential. San Antonio would have to believe that they can get the most out of his unlocked defensive potential if they’re considering trading up for him.
Next: How could San Antonio trade up to take him?
Dec 15, 2018; San Antonio, TX, USA; Chicago Bulls small forward Chandler Hutchison (15) shoots the ball over San Antonio Spurs small forward Davis Bertans (behind) and Derrick White (4) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs and Atlanta Hawks could make a splashy draft-day trade
Earlier this week, Kevin O’Connor highlighted the possibility of the San Antonio Spurs and the Atlanta Hawks making a trade on draft day that would send DeMar DeRozan and the 11th pick to the Hawks in exchange for the 6th pick.
O’Connor made the case for San Antonio doing this deal so that they could take Isaac Okoro but if LaMelo Ball is sliding he could take Okoro’s spot.
Although, the Chicago Bulls, who have the fourth overall pick in the draft, could use a true floor general. Coby White and Zach LaVine are scoring minded guards, not playmakers. They could use a more well-rounded guard to finish out their backcourt. Could they be interested in one of Dejounte Murray or Derrick White?
Zach Lowe believes that the Spurs may have to trade one of their guards or wings away at some point. Could this be when that happens? I know that as fans were all very fond of White and Murray but it’s hard to argue that Ball doesn’t have a higher ceiling than both of them.
With that in mind, what about a deal that sends one of White or Murray, as well as the 11th overall pick this year, to the Bulls in exchange for Lauri Markannen and the fourth overall pick? San Antonio might have to add another pick down the road to get Chicago to agree to the deal but the framework of the deal seems reasonable.
Overnight the Spurs could look like a vastly different team. Adding Ball and Markannen in one day would do wonders for their offense. It would be a shame to have to give up one of their point guards in the process but it’s worth considering.
I don’t think that San Antonio should give up too much to add LaMelo Ball to their team but if he starts sliding down in the draft they should at least have a few possible trades in mind to bring him to San Antonio. He’s got far too much potential for them to ignore.