Bleacher Report Draft Expert Jonathan Wasserman's Scouting Report
Player: LaMelo Ball
Pro Comparison: Penny Hardaway
Scouting Report: LaMelo Ball moved to No. 1 on Bleacher Report's board in November, and most scouts believe he possesses the most star potential of any prospect in the draft. He's a 6'6" point guard with Trae Young's creativity, passing and playmaking skills. And though his shooting consistency needs to improve, Ball will start his rookie season with NBA range and the shot-making confidence to catch fire and score in bunches.
Ball becomes the fourth player ever drafted No. 2 overall by the Hornets, who took Alonzo Mourning (1992), Emeka Okafor (2004) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2012) in that spot during previous drafts.
The California native, who turned 19 in August, joins his brother, Lonzo, in the league after spending a portion of last year playing professionally with the Illawarra Hawks in the Australian National Basketball League.
A bruised foot limited Ball to just 12 games in the NBL, but he impressed by averaging 17 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game.
Now he finds himself headed to Charlotte to prove the international route prepared him well for the NBA.
Nicolas Batum, SF: $27.1M (2021)
PJ Washington, PF: $3.9M (2023)
Jalen McDaniels, PG: $1.5M (2023)
Terry Rozier, PG: $18.9M (2022)
Miles Bridges, SF: $3.6M (2022)
Cody Martin, SF: $1.5M (2022)
Caleb Martin, SF: $1.4M (2022)
Cody Zeller, C: $14M (2021)
Malik Monk, SG: $3.9M (2021)
Devonte' Graham, PG: $1.4M (2021)
LaMelo Ball, PG: Rookie scale contract (2024)
Bismack Biyombo, C: UFA
Willy Hernangomez, C: UFA
Dwayne Bacon, SF: RFA
Kobi Simmons, PG: RFA
Ray Spalding, PF: RFA
Wasserman was incredibly bullish on Ball, naming him the No. 1 player on his big board in mid-May, though not without some question marks:
"With 6'7" size, special passing skills and obvious basketball IQ, it's easy to picture that LaMelo Ball's high-level playmaking will translate. At 18, he ranked second in the NBL in assists per game while limiting his turnover rate to 12.0 percent. Teams should be able to bank on Ball to create easy shots for teammates in transition and off ball screens."
The biggest worries relate to his defense and shooting form, but those appear secondary to his playmaking abilities, which are more than league-ready.
"If Ball reaches his ceiling, he has the most potential to be an absolute difference-maker," he wrote. "He's the one with the most upside. He plays a critical position of value that is tough to find as a lead guard."
With the Hornets, Ball will be relied on right away to become the difference-maker he's convinced scouts he is.