Why LaMelo Ball Has Become the Draft’s Biggest Swing Factor

Where will LaMelo Ball land in the 2020 NBA draft? The Crossover examines his potential landing spots.

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If LaMelo Ball has one thing going for him, it’s that he can no longer be classified as clickbait. He’s been in the spotlight for almost the entirety of his teenage years, he’s played basketball around the world, somewhere along the way he shot up to 6′ 7″, and he’s honed his skills to the point where he will almost certainly be a top-five pick in next month’s NBA draft. No matter how much doubt swirls surrounding his unusual background, or speculation over what makes him tick, at the end of the day, the last big question is where Ball lands on the night of November 18th.

For all his warts, Ball is the only 6′ 7″ visionary playmaker in this draft. And for all the concern about the lack of star power in this year’s class, players with Ball’s skill set simply don’t come around often. NBA front offices are tasked with selling optimism. Ball is the type of talent that’s easy to talk yourself into. He will tempt somebody. So there’s a trickle-down effect here, beginning at the very top of the draft.

Minnesota holds the No. 1 pick, but many around the NBA have been penciling in Anthony Edwards there. Golden State picks at No. 2, and while Ball isn’t an ideal fit in the Bay, the very real possibility of a trade at that spot puts a number of other teams into play. Would the Cavaliers move on from one of their young guards to trade up and pivot to Ball? Can the Pistons or the Knicks cobble together the right assets to move up? Might there be a mystery team in need of a point guard further down the board?

If Ball makes it past No. 2, the opportunity falls to the Hornets, who would have to think hard about their options. Charlotte needs star power. Michael Jordan—a no-frills competitor—would ultimately have to sign off on Ball, who plays the game in a diametrically opposite fashion. Would the Hornets grab a big instead? Are they savvy enough to entertain trading back?

Chicago sits at No. 4 in need of a playmaker; the Bulls would seem to be a logical match. And Cleveland at No. 5 seems like the absolute floor (although the Cavs would have to shuffle some things around). But it feels like nearly every permutation when trying to project out the lottery revolves around who takes the plunge with Ball, with the fates of prospects like Deni Avdija, Obi Toppin and Tyrese Haliburton all potentially impacted. It’s far easier to pencil in destinations for Edwards and James Wiseman than it is to discern a landing spot for Ball. And of course, Minnesota could still grab him at No. 1. Stay tuned.

SI’s NBA Draft Coverage

Jeremy Woo’s latest mock draft

Jeremy Woo’s latest Big Board

What you need to know about the Virtual Combine

The Evolution of Killian Hayes (from May)

Burning Questions: Anthony Edwards (from March)

Three Trade Ideas for the Warriors

Should the Warriors make a move? With the No. 2 pick in hand and a return to contention on the table, Golden State holds one of the major keys to this year’s draft. We came up with some *realistic* trade options this week.

— Golden State sends Andrew Wiggins, the No. 2 pick and the 2021 Minnesota first to Atlanta for Clint Capela and the No. 6 pick

— Golden State sends The No. 2 pick and Kevon Looney to Cleveland for Collin Sexton, the No. 5 pick and a future first

— Golden State sends Wiggins, the No. 2 pick and the 2021 Minnesota first to Indiana for Myles Turner and T.J. Warren

Read more about how the Warriors should handle the No. 2 pick

Remembering B.J. Johnson 

The NBA lost a close friend and one of its most popular, accomplished figures last week in Houston Rockets scout Brent “B.J.” Johnson, who died at age 65 in a bicycle accident. Johnson worked for the Rockets for 26 years, was a sharp talent evaluator and a fixture in the league’s international efforts. He was revered as a mentor and life coach by countless individuals across the NBA community, leaving fingerprints on multiple generations of basketball professionals—players, coaches, scouts and otherwise—with his welcoming spirit and willingness to embrace just about anybody.

Whether you knew B.J. well, as many did, or as only a friendly face in passing, the news of his untimely loss was heartbreaking. His lasting impact on and service to the sport shouldn’t be undersold, and my thoughts are with the Rockets, his family, and all of his many, many, many friends.


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