The Ball Family has taken the basketball world by storm over the past few months. Whether it was Lavar’s antics on FS1 or LaMelo’s 92 point game, you have probably seen the Ball family in the news at some point. The opinions this family has elicited could not be more different. Supporters view the Ball family as a breath of fresh-air, that are changing the game of basketball and the endorsement game as well. Detractors are quick to point out how expensive Big Baller Brand clothing is and are even quicker to call Lavar’s sons overrated. For the record, I am a huge fan of the Ball family and fully support Lavar’s vision. Tonight, we will take a look at how the Ball brothers will fare in the first season they are on separate teams.
The Ankle Bully is the youngest Ball brother, and the only one left at Chino Hills. The 16 year old Lamborghini owner, is an extremely young junior. In fact, he is even younger than top HS prospects such as Kyree Walker, who is a grade below him. Along with competing in the notoriously competitive California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), LaMelo and the rest of Chino Hills’ roster should expect to play a national schedule for the third straight season.
With the graduation of LiAngelo Ball, LaMelo will need to shoulder the majority of Chino Hills scoring load. That being said, he is not completely alone as junior forward Onyeka Okongwu is one of the best big men in the country. In order for the Huskies to be successful on the court LaMelo will need to improve his shot selection and get his teammates more involved. Although these should both come with maturity, they are two issues LaMelo must address in the near future. It will also be intriguing to see how LaMelo responds to facing elite Point Guards in head-to-head matchups. Lamelo is very battle tested from a team standpoint having shared the court with Oak Hill Academy and other juggernauts in the past.
Given that Melo does not play in the Nike EYBL, Adidas Gauntlet, or Under Armor Association it is hard to judge his head to head performance vs other top PGs. In a head to head matchup with Devon Dotson this summer, LaMelo more than held his own dropping 34 points in front of a packed house. Conversely a few days later, Lamelo got lit-up by Immanuel Quickley, a top two point guard in the class of 2018. Given that we have such a small sample size it is hard to draw any meaningful conclusions, but this should be an interesting development to follow during the HS season.
The often forgotten Ball brother is gearing up to make his freshman debut in Westwood this season. Although I do not think Gelo will be a one and done for the Bruins, I do believe he will have a positive impact at UCLA this year. The UCLA Bruins lost many of their top scorers to the NBA Draft, and the cabinet looks quiet bare going into this season. Although they do return Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday, Steve Alford will rely heavily on his 2017 recruiting class, to provide big minutes. LiAngelo will most likely backup Kris Wilkes at small-forward, and be UCLA’s best scorer off the bench. I cannot see the full court post-ups LiAngelo was known for at Chino Hills translating to the NCAA, but there are still other ways I expect him to contribute. The main skill LiAngelo will bring to Westwood in his freshman year is outside shooting and there will definitely be a void to fill, given the amount of talent UCLA lost from last season. LiAngelo Ball has the skills and teammates to surprise a lot of people. I predict he will average around 12 points per game and shoot around 37% from three, in what should be the start to a nice career in Westwood.
The 2017 Summer League MVP enters his rookie year with grandiose expectations. If Lonzo can live up to half of Lavar’s predictions, he will be a lock for Rookie of the Year. Saturday’s pre-season loss to the Timberwolves makes those predictions seem more like pipe dreams. Lonzo finished the game with a plus-minus of -13 but did approach double digit totals in rebounds and assists. Lonzo’s size and floor vision make him a legitimate triple double threat on a nightly basis, as long as his scoring follows suit. He also appeared much more comfortable in pick and roll situations than people anticipated. For all the potential Lonzo oozes, it appears he will also face his fair share of growing pains this season. Lonzo often attacks off the dribble in a very upright stance. Given his height (6 feet 6 in) and lack of advanced handle, this makes him an easy target to get his pocket picked. Despite shooting at a high clip from three at UCLA, it seems more evident that Lonzo will need to reconstruct his shot. Many of his misses at the NBA level are short and he only looks comfortable shooting from the left wing. There is not enough time during the regular season to completely rebuild a jump shot. For now, the most feasible substitute for Lonzo Ball, would be to try and add more arc to his jumper to eliminate short misses. At this point Lonzo reminds me of Rajon Rondo (lack of outside shot combined with floor vision and rebounding from the guard spot) , in Shaun Livingston’s body (both are about 6’6). As Lonzo acclimates to NBA defenses I believe he will eventually start to resemble the more popular comparison of Jason Kidd. Laker fans are in for a rollercoaster season, but I am a fan of Lonzo and believe he is their point guard of the future.
No conversation about the Ball family will EVER be complete without bringing up Lavar. In about a six month span Lavar has gone from just another loud Dad in the stands to a household name and borderline A-list celebrity with a family reality show. This celebrity status should earn him plenty of airtime with all the major Sports Broadcasting Companies going into the NBA regular season. I would personally love to see Lavar join Shaq, Ernie Johnson and the rest of the crew on TNT as this would undoubtedly be pure comedy. I could also see a primetime show like Dancing With the Stars inquire about the Big Baller Brand CEO as a contestant. Apparently Lavar could also be releasing his own signature shoe, at a rumored price of $1,500. Whether you like him or not, what Lavar has accomplished as a parent and as a businessman is extremely impressive. If you are not a fan of Lavar and the Ball family, you should follow the advice Lavar gave to Kristine Leahy and: “Stay in yo lane”.