Let’s not kid ourselves. LiAngelo Ball isn’t a NBA prospect.
Known most notably as the middle child in the Ball family, LiAngelo doesn’t have the talent of his older brother Lonzo and the Instagram hype like his younger brother LaMelo. While he has tried to stay quiet for the most part — aside from his shoplifting arrest that made national media — LiAngelo made headlines recently by putting his name forward for the 2018 NBA draft.
Although it is widely agreed that this decision isn’t smart for LiAngelo, it was done to appease father Lavar’s plan to have his three sons in the NBA as soon as possible. When LiAngelo’s put his name forward for the draft, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman outlined what people around the league are thinking.
“Ultimately NBA people feel that, again, he shoots the ball well. He has good size. But he cannot put the ball on the floor, and he doesn’t defend,” Goodman said on SportsCentre. “Not a great athlete, and then you also have the LaVar factor that comes into play. Most NBA people that I’ve spoken to feel that he will have a pretty good career over in Europe, but he is not an NBA player, will not be drafted this year.”
Case closed, right? Not so fast. On Apr. 12, it was reported that the Lakers scouted LiAngelo while in Lithuania.
Why did Los Angeles send someone to scout LiAngelo? I’m not sure. Maybe they did it to keep Lonzo and the Ball family happy. Maybe they were there to scout the other NBA draft prospect, Tadas Sedekerskis. Who knows.
No matter what the situation, we should look at LiAngelo Ball as a prospect, not another part of the Lavar Ball circus. And when you do that, there’s not much going for the NBA-hopeful.
In 12 games for Vytautas Prienu, Ball averaged 14.25 points, three rebounds, one assists and shot .440 percent from the field and .447 percent from three in 24.3 minutes of action per game.
Although these numbers aren’t bad for a NBA prospect, when you look at the competition he has played, they are a little skewed. According to ESPN scout and writer Fran Fraschilla, the LKL — the league which LiAngelo and LaMelo play in — is ranked as the 12th best professional basketball league.
This number is concerning because even though it’s good that he has played against grown men night in and night out, the competition level here isn’t as competitive as other American exports who try their craft overseas.
Even more of a red flag are the inflated numbers he posted in Big Baller Brand Challenge games. With Lavar as coach against these developmental or second-division squads, both younger brothers to Lonzo set the court on fire.
With their game focused strictly around the Ball brothers, Vytautas Prienu focuses their efforts solely on offense and rarely plays any defense. Against Guangdong Southern Tigers development squad for example, LiAngelo scored 72 points and raked in 11 rebounds.
While these numbers do stand out, LiAngelo’s highlights show some major flaws in his game.
For example, he is a straight up shooter. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but at the NBA level, rarely do guys hold down contracts for being a standstill shooter. In the new NBA, it’s expected that players can run off screens, create their shot by themselves off the dribble and attack the lane with power. Unfortunately for LiAngelo, this is something he hasn’t developed or shown to fans and scouts.
When you watch his highlights from High School, his brief stint in college at UCLA or his pro-tape, the biggest glaring hole in his game is defensively. Often, LiAngelo looks disengaged, can’t move his feet quick enough, and doesn’t possess the defensive IQ to make have an impact on that end of the court.
Unlike other professional sports where there’s multiple rounds to a draft, only 60 people get their name called on draft day in the NBA. And because of this, I don’t there’s a chance any NBA team would use a precious first- or second-round pick on LiAngelo.
If all else fails, the G-League has become more of “minor-leagues” for NBA teams. If things don’t pan out in the draft, maybe a team will be to take a risk on LiAngelo in the hopes he can develop into a NBA player.
With all of this in mind, there’s still a lot of time until draft day. LiAngelo will have his chance in front of scouts at the Professional Basketball Combine in May. At this showcase — for prospects who need more exposure — there will be at least 16 teams will be in attendance.
Maybe in this short-time-frame LiAngelo can improve his game enough that NBA executives will take him seriously. But until then, being scouted and drafted are two completely different things.