Lamelo Ball’s Unique Route to the NBA

(Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

On April 28, 2020, Lamelo Ball was declared for the 2020 NBA Draft. He is projected to be the top pick in the draft. According to Corey Williams, an analyst in the National Basketball League (NBL), “This kid is a generational type of point guard. He reminds me of Penny Hardaway. That type! And he’s only going to get better.” Corey “Homicide” Williams also mentioned in Scoop B radio that Lamelo Ball’s raw talent was very impressive especially against Damian Martin the 6-Time Defensive Player of the Year in NBL. A comparison to Penny Hardaway can lead to high expectations. Can he fill in the shoes of one of the best basketball players in the NBA like Penny Hardaway?

Lamelo Ball has been in the spotlight since he was 13 years old. He played alongside his older brothers in Chino Hills High School. The team consists of young prospect players such as Lonzo Ball, Liangelo Ball, and Onyeka Okongwu. At a young age, he was considered a pure scorer when he achieved 92 points in one game in high school. Eventually, his playstyle changed when he moved to Lithuania to play professionally. According to The Undefeated, a sports website operated by ESPN, he became the youngest American to sign a basketball contract. He signed with Prienai of the Lithuanian “Krepsinio” Basketball League (LKL). He played limited minutes where he only averaged 6.5 points and 2.4 assists in just 12.8 minutes of playtime.
He moved back to the United States and played high school basketball in his senior year. He became more of a floor general of the Spire Basketball Team. USA Today High School Sports noted Lamelo Ball averaged 21 points, 9.2 rebounds, 10.4 assists, and 3.9 steals per game. He was gaining attention but he was not eligible to play college basketball. Lamelo Ball signed an agent as a high school player and played professionally in the Lithuanian team, which jeopardized his National Collegiate Athletic Association eligibility.  
He instead took his talents back overseas and signed with Illawarra Hawks in Australia.
He improved and gained experience playing overseas. As an 18 year-old, he averaged 17 points, 7.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. In 12 games, He played alongside former NBA players Aaron Brooks and Josh Boone. On November 25, 2019, he played his best game against the Cairns Taipans. He tallied 32 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists. Aaron Brooks told TMZ sports that he was surprised by Lamelo Ball’s maturity. He also mentioned that he would be a great player someday.
Playing overseas developed Lamelo’s game to another level. It reminds analysts how Lamelo Ball can be the next Penny Hardaway. There are a lot of his traits that resemble the former superstar. For instance, his height and length are unique for his position. Both Lamelo Ball and Penny Hardaway are listed as 6’7” and play the point guard position. The pair have great positional length against a typical point guard in the NBA. They play great defense and can guard 3 positions against the other team. Penny Hardaway averaged 1.6 steals per game in his career while Lamelo Ball also averages the same stat in NBL. Unfortunately, Lamelo Ball tends to be lazy on defense at certain times.
What mirrors Penny Hardaway’s abilities the most is Lamelo’s court vision. His flashy ability to give his teammates an easy score is remarkable. Their passing talents and instincts made them a different kind of an athlete. The skill of running down the court and making an easy basket or assist are just one of the best attributes of Penny Hardaway and Lamelo Ball.
The difference between the two athletes are their explosiveness. Penny Hardaway’s athleticism is outstanding. His skill to dunk the ball effortlessly is superb. Lamelo Ball is not as athletic as Penny Hardaway. Lamelo is an exceptional athlete but Penny’s jumping ability and vertical skills are outstanding. Another distinction is their shot selections. Lamelo’s field goal percentage is 38% and Penny’s career field goal percentage is 46%. Lamelo Ball still has a lot of development in decision making on the court and shot selections. 
He has all the tools to be the next Penny Hardaway. He has a long way to go and a lot of time to evolve to be one of the best athletes in the NBA.

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