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NBA Draft 2020

NBA Draft 2020: How does LaMelo Ball fit in with each team that has a top-five pick?

With the 2020 NBA Draft order set, we can begin to shape out where some of the top prospects will land.

Illawarra Hawks guard LaMelo Ball is among the top-tier group of prospects out of this draft class, with many considering the playmaking point guard to be a top-five pick. Should Ball be selected in the top five as he's projected, how does he fit in with each of those NBA franchises?

We took a look at each team individually to see how the 19-year-old star suits their current roster.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves won the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery, earning a chance to build on the young duo of D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns.

While we only saw one game of that tandem with Minnesota trading for Russell at the February trade deadline and Towns suffering what became a season-ending wrist injury, we have an idea of what the two best friends might look like together on the court.

Towns is an offensive virtuoso who can score from all three levels of the floor, in multiple different ways from each level. He's a dream-big man for a playmaker of Ball's calibre.

Russell, on the other hand, is a score-first playmaker who thrives at creating his own shot and can heat up in a hurry but performs better with the ball in his hands. Can he play off-ball as a two-guard? Yes, but that's not where he's at his best. Look no further than his small sample size with the Golden State Warriors compared to his time with the Brooklyn Nets.

That's where Ball's fit becomes complicated here - he and Russell are actually very similar players.

MORE: LaMelo Ball's scouting report

Ball is more pass-first than Russell but they're both crafty playmakers who excel with the ball at their disposal. To add to that, neither of them are particularly great on defence, and the Timberwolves aren't a very good defensive team as a whole either.

Minnesota allowed 117.5 points per game last season, the third-worst in the league. The Wolves were a bottom-10 team in defensive rating as well.

Ball won't help them in either of those aspects, but a LaMelo-D'Angelo backcourt taking turns incorporating KAT into the offence sounds like an NBA League Pass party. They just better be ready to score 140 points a game if they want to win.

2. Golden State Warriors

The timeline doesn't exactly match up here, as the Warriors are sure to become title contenders again next season with two-time MVP Stephen Curry and All-Star guard Klay Thompson back in the fold, but if they belive Ball is the most talented player in the draft, they could take a stab at him.

While Ball's father, LaVar, singled out Golden State as the only place he wouldn't want LaMelo to go, it could do wonders for his career long-term to learn underneath great veterans like Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green, as well as an experienced coach in Steve Kerr.

LaVar's reasoning wasn't off though, stating, "they got Klay and the other guys and now you want to put Melo in that mix to say you got to follow these guys... Melo ain't no follower."

This is the only scenario in the top-five where Ball wouldn't become a key focal point to a team's offence. However, the Warriors could use a playmaker and scorer off the bench to back up the future Hall of Famer Curry and he'd have full reign over the second unit of a team fighting for a championship. That experience would be invaluable, but it could limit his growth in the early stages of his career.

Ball to the Warriors is a fantasy draft, video game-like scenario, but his potential talents would be more appreciated elsewhere.

3. Charlotte Hornets

This seems to be the favourite destination for Ball among most NBA mock drafts, including the first edition of our own NBA.com mock draft.

The Hornets are an intriguing destination and although the backcourt would become pretty crowded, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Devonte' Graham is coming off of a breakout season in which he received consideration for the league's Most Improved Player. Graham proved his worth as a passer and perimeter shooter, finishing in the top-10 in assists per game and top-five in total 3-pointers made.

Coinciding with Graham's breakout season, we saw the Hornets' top offseason acquisition, Terry Rozier, develop a knack for playing off-ball when necessary, allowing head coach James Borrego to roll out both guards at the same time. According to Basketball-Reference, Rozier played 62% of his minutes at shooting guard this past season, which resulted in career-highs in points per game (18.0), field goal percentage (.423) and 3-point percentage (.407).

So where does Ball fit into the equation here? Well, they could try to go with a three-guard lineup that we've seen the Oklahoma City Thunder find success in with Chris Paul, Dennis Schröder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

None of Ball, Graham or Rozier are the defenders that CP3 and SGA are, but from an offsenive standpoint, both Graham and Rozier can play on or off the ball. LaMelo has the potential to play off-ball, but he'd more likely be running the point in most scenarios here.

Defence would certainly be an issue, but the Hornets had the third-worst offensive rating in the NBA last season. A three-guard lineup of Ball, Graham and Rozier should be able to mend their offensive woes in an instant.

4. Chicago Bulls

The Bulls took a guard in Coby White with the No. 7 overall pick last year but former head coach Jim Boylen unexplainably underutilized White's talents. Originally drafted as a point guard, it became relatively clear that White would better suffice as a shooting guard who's constantly looking to score. In the 19 games that White shouldered a starters' workload - playing 30 minutes or more - he averaged 20.1 points per game, including three 30-point games.

And then there's a prolific scorer in Zach LaVine, who's career-high 25.5 points per game was good for 11th-best in the NBA. Neither White nor LaVine are true point guards, they'd both prefer to score than pass and the Bulls currently lack a playmaker of that level.

Yes, you know exactly where I'm going with this - another potential three-guard lineup.

Chicago invested a good amount of money when they traded for Otto Porter Jr in 2019. It also appears as though they like their young frontcourt in Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. While that only leaves room for two guards, White showed he has the perfect potential to be a microwave off the bench as a sixth man. They could bring him off the bench with Ball taking over the starting point guard role and at times, roll out all three guards at once for a fast-paced offence.

Add a playmaker of Ball's level at the helm of that offence and you're sure to see their 105.8 offensive rating - second-worst in the league - go up next season. He'd be a great running mate alongside LaVine and a perfect pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop partner with Markkanen, though defence would again become an issue.

At least in this scenario, you have a quality rim protector in Carter to give the backcourt a bit of a cushion defensively.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers

I'm not sure there's four players in this draft class that have a higher ceiling of potential than Ball but should he fall to the Cavaliers, we've already seen why it would work.

Cleveland selected Darius Garland with the No. 4 pick in last year's draft and Collin Sexton with the No. 8 pick in the draft before that. They spent the greater majority of last season trying to figure out how to make that duo work together before realizing that Sexton is at his best playing alongside a pass-first point guard.

Way back before the NBA season hit pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, I addressed how veteran point guard Matthew Dellavedova brought out the best in Sexton. Dellavedova isn't necessarily a known playmaker, he was just more interested in getting the ball in Sexton's hands in the right places on the floor than he was in scoring the rock.

Now imagine what Sexton would be capable of with a passer like Ball running point.

LaMelo's elite court vision and playmaking ability could unlock that small sample size we saw of Sexton for good. Now, take into consideration that he'd have Kevin Love as a pick-and-pop option or spot-up shooter and Andre Drummond and Larry Nance as pick-and-roll lob targets and this Cavaliers offence begins to sound a lot more fun than it did last season with a bottom-five offensive rating.

The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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