The 2020 NBA draft is going to feel quite a bit different than last year's edition. There is no Zion Williamson waiting to reward the winner of the draft lottery. There are a few intriguing prospects, to be sure, and there is one overwhelming personality in NBL product LaMelo Ball.
The younger brother of New Orleans Pelicans standout Lonzo Ball, LaMelo only appeared in a dozen games for the Illawarra Hawks, but he created the impression that he can emerge from this year's draft as a budding NBA star.
"I wouldn't bet against him," Hawks coach Matt Flinn said, per Christopher Riley of GQ Australia.
Thanks largely to his father, LaVar Ball, LaMelo might be as well-known as Williamson was last year. Unlike Williamson, he isn't the consensus best player in the draft, and his value is going to hinge on team fit.
New York Knicks
The New York Knicks are the team most closely associated with Ball because this may be where Ball's camp wants him to end up.
"Some league sources believe the Ball camp will try to steer the 18-year-old point guard to the Knicks, though such a maneuver will seem difficult if Leon Rose's club doesn't rise into the top four in the lottery," Marc Berman of the New York Post wrote.
The issue is that New York is not guaranteed a lottery slot. The Knicks hold the sixth-worst record in the league, though, and could slide into one.
In terms of fit, New York would provide a nearly ideal destination. A potential franchise point guard, Ball projects to mesh well alongside rookie star RJ Barrett, and the two would provide the Knicks with some much-needed star power.
The fit is good enough that New York may consider trying to move up to secure Ball, though SNY's Danny Abriano believes the team could have some alternatives in mind:
"With the Knicks still looking for their point guard of the future, LaMelo seems like a perfect fit. If they miss out, it's possible New York could instead turn to a player such as Tyrese Haliburton or Cole Anthony with their first pick. In addition to their likely lottery pick, the Knicks also have the No. 27 overall pick in the draft, and point guard Kira Lewis Jr.—widely projected as a late first-round pick—could be waiting there."
Expect the Knicks to show plenty of interest in Ball. Don't expect them to mortgage the future to get him.
Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors are an intriguing potential suitor. The Warriors already have a star-studded core—consisting of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green—but they also own the league's worst record.
If Golden State added Ball, it would have a premier player to lead its second team.
While having a quality bench unit can be extremely valuable—particularly during the postseason—Ball doesn't appear to be Golden State's favored target. According to Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Warriors have their sights set on USC's Onyeka Okongwu.
Alternatively, the Warriors could be willing to trade out of their early first-round draft slot.
"Yeah, we're going to consider all that," Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers said, per NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole. "Now, I don't know if the headline is going to be that we're trading our pick. So, be clear that I said 'consider.'"
It might make far more sense for the Warriors to use their draft capital to acquire another veteran. Their window with Curry and Thompson isn't going to last forever. A veteran may better allow them to make a run now.
Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves
The Cleveland Cavaliers own the league's second-worst record and could well end up with a crack at Ball. For the Cavs, the pairing would provide some much-needed hype, and Ball would fit with the young fore of Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, and Kevin Porter Jr.
However, the small-market nature of the Cavaliers may not be a fit for Ball.
"Cleveland, he already lived in Cleveland," LaVar Ball told FS1's Undisputed. "He don't like that cold weather, especially if you're not going to be inside with a lot of bright lights."
Of course, Ball won't have much say in the matter if Cleveland selects him. While this may not be an ideal fit on a personal level, the match makes a lot of sense for the Cavaliers.
The Minnesota Timberwolves hold the league's third-worst record and also have a shot at Ball. However, he makes far less sense in Minnesota than he would in Cleveland.
The Timberwolves traded for point guard D'Angelo Russell just before the deadline and have him under contract through the 2022-23 season. Because Russell's success is dependent on him having the ball in his hands, trying to fit Ball alongside him would be a challenge. Targeting a more complementary player would be ideal for Minnesota.