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NBA Draft 2020

NBA Draft 2020: What is top prospect LaMelo Ball's ceiling in the NBA?

LaMelo Ball is widely renowned as one of the top prospects in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Listed as a 6'7, 180 lbs. guard, his height gives him a couple of inches on the average player at his position. His playmaking ability shines through, while his inconsistencies with his perimeter jumper and defence could put a cap on his potential.

With draft day a little over a month away, it had our NBA.com staff thinking... what is Ball's ceiling as an NBA player?

Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): I'm going a little abstract here but, I think Ball is going to be like a pass-first D'Angelo Russell.

In college, we saw Russell make some ridiculous passes with next-level court vision, just like we've seen from Ball in Australia's NBL.

While Russell was a much better and more efficient scorer coming into the NBA Draft that Ball is, I don't doubt that LaMelo will find his touch on that end of the floor once he gets to the league. Ball's jumper is still a work in progress shooting 25.0% from 3 in the NBL (where Russell shot 41.1% in his one season at Ohio State), but I think they work similarly in pick-and-roll settings, especially when Ball tries to attack the hoop and score.

Ball looks to pass much more than Russell, but there are some comparisons to be drawn from D-Lo's 2018-19 All-Star season where he led the Brooklyn Nets with 7.0 assists per game. And I think Ball could do that as a rookie if he's in the right setting.

But as a scorer, I don't see why LaMelo can't reach a similar number to Russell's 13.2 points per game he averaged as a 19-year-old first-year player.

Crazy enough - these two could end up in the same backcourt, too. That sounds like a lot of fun offensively, whereas, defensively is a whole different conversation.

Alex Novick (@Anov_SN): A 6'7" lanky point guard with a sub-par jumper? Give me Michael Carter-Williams. It's not a flattering comparison given what MCW's role has evolved to in the NBA: a backup on a .500 team playing less than 20 minutes per game. Yet, the similarities are too great to ignore.

Carter-Williams once had the hype machine rolling just like LaMelo after exploding into the league with 22 points 12 assists, 7 rebounds and 9 steals in his first NBA game. He went on to win Rookie of the Year in 2013-14 and the expectations were sky-high. A couple trades, some injuries and three teams later, he was sent to the G-League as a member of the Hornets. Shooting right around 40 percent overall for his career and 25 percent from deep with a poor assist-to-turnover ratio, MCW just hasn't been able to offer enough value to get consistent minutes in the league.

LaMelo comes into the league with many similar question-marks himself, from his shooting, strength and defence on the court, to his commitment and baggage off it. The hope is that he can harness MCW's initial creativity as a distributor and be less turnover-prone, while putting on enough muscle to hold his own on defence just like his brother Lonzo has.

If he can put in the work and make those improvements, Ball has a chance to slide into that initial positive trajectory MCW was on. A rosy outlook for LaMelo looks like a pass-first creator who can use his height to score over smaller point guards when the situation calls for it. And if he can get his jumper to live up to the deceiving first impression we all got after seeing his viral half-court heaves, then he may actually warrant the attention he's getting as a potential top-5 pick.

Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): Look, I'm just not buying into the LaMelo Ball hype. I don't see it and I have a hard time seeing how he can develop into an NBA All-Star. Solid starter on a team, I can get behind, but All-Star... no.

That's why I'm going with Smush Parker. Parker had two seasons as a starting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers before disappearing but those two years showed he could contribute at the NBA level as a starter.

His averages weren't eye-popping but they were solid and although he didn't need to score much sharing the backcourt with Kobe Bryant he still had 17 games where he went over the 20-point mark in those two years.

I get it, no one wants to be compared to Smush Parker. He's the punchline of many Lakers fans jokes, but he was a starter on a playoff team before he got in his own way. But he was also skilled, raw and had athletism and if he put the effort into developing he would've been a solid starter for a much longer time than he was. Ball can be a starter on a good team for a long time. He's going to take time to develop and figure out a role in the NBA. That role to me is a pretty good starter for a lot of years providing he doesn't get in his own way.

Benyam Kidane: (@BenyamKidane): We're talking ceiling here right? I think the sky is the limit for LaMelo Ball, as the lottery pick with arguably the most upside.

A 6'7" playmaker with elite court vision and a nightly triple-double threat? If everything pans out, I think Ball has the potential to be the next Penny Hardaway.

Hardaway was awesome right away and I think Ball will take a while to find his feet in the NBA, but his natural feel for the game, willingness to put others in position to score, and his penchant for pushing the ball up the floor and forcing defences to scramble in transition, has the makings of Hardaway 2.0.

Ball still has work to do on the defensive end and getting his shot off from distance quicker, but he is not shy letting it fly from deep.

In his rookie season, 1993/94, Hardaway averaged 16.0 points, 6.6 assists, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.3 steals per game. If Ball is drafted to a team and given the green light, those numbers aren't that farfetched.

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

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