Playing in New York comes with a certain spotlight. The lure of playing in the Garden, the pressure of the New York media and the fans expectation of success all comes with playing in New York.
Not prospect is equipped for that spotlight like LaMelo Ball. The 18-year-old guard is projected to be a top 3 pick in next years NBA draft and the Knicks should have him on top of their draft boards.
As I previously stated playing in New York comes with pressure and a spotlight on you. Ball has had more criticism and spotlight on him than any other prospect in this class.
Ball first appeared to the media at age 13 when he was eighth-grader starting alongside his older brothers Lonzo and LiAngelo on the Chino Hills High School basketball team that was competing for a national championship.
The Ball family eventually became a media circus because of the Lavar Ball, LaMelo’s father constantly making controversial and irrational decisions.
In case you forgot I’ll give you a couple of examples of Lavar’s controversy to jog your memory. In early 2017 Lavar said that Lonzo who was still at UCLA was better than Steph Curry, the reigning MVP at the time. Lavar also pulled LaMelo out of high school to go play professionally in Lithuania, effectively making LaMelo ineligible for college basketball.
Ball has been surrounded by controversy since he was only 13 years old and he has always handled it with maturity; he does not say anything harsh towards the media or causes any controversy of his own. Ball’s ability to take all the criticism thrown his way in stride and rebrand himself from a distraction to a potential all-star is one the reasons he’s uniquely qualified to play in New York.
Even if Ball didn’t have to deal with controversy his whole life his skillset is exactly what the Knicks need.
While far from a finished product, Ball has all the tools to become a star. When watching Ball’s game the first thing you notice is how tall he is. Ball is listed at 6-foot-7 and reports say he may still be growing. Ball uses his natural height to consistently get to the basket even against grown men in the NBL, some of which have NBA experience.
With this said Ball is only shooting 37.5 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc. Ball’s poor shooting numbers are due more to bad selection than lack of natural talent as a shooter.
Ball’s shot selection has always been an issue but something many young players face and can be fixed as he matures. Signs of improvement are there, in Ball’s last four games he is shooting slightly over 42 percent. His last two games are a 32 point triple-double and a 25 point double-double, he was only one assist away from a triple-double in the latter.
The Knicks have also struggled badly, at the free-throw line this season. The Knicks are the worst free-throw shooting team in the NBA and it has constantly plagued them late in games. Ball has shot 72 percent from the free-throw line this season. That would make him one of the Knicks more effective free throw shooters if he shoots a similar percentage that would put him above major contributors like R.J. Barret and Julius Randle.
The Knicks need a lot more than scoring, they also need a playmaker. Currently, Frank Ntilikina leads the team in assists with only 3.5 assists per game. That number is far from amazing, while, Ntilikina is a great energy guy and plays fantastic defense he is not the player who should be leading your team in assists.
Ball is currently averaging just under 7 assists per game in Australia. That number may not be exceptional but, Ball has once in a generation court vision and makes passes very few other players around the planet can. You don’t have to watch Ball for long to realize his passing abilities don’t come around often.
Ball’s natural height and scoring ability do not come around too often at the point guard position, factor in his breathtaking passing ability and how he’s uniquely accustomed to pressure and criticism there’s no way he should not be on the top of the Knicks draft board.