Assessing LiAngelo Ball in an LKL Basketball Game

May 21, 2018

by Alan Lu

I decided to take the time to watch Vytautas Prienu’s 6-5, 1998-born swingman LiAngelo Ball, as the Chino Hills, Californian-born player is currently listed as an eligible candidate to be selected in the 2018 NBA Draft.  Recently, he was invited to participate at the Pro Basketball Combine that will take place later this month.  To recap his year, he had a tumultuous run when he was at UCLA, as he was involved a shoplifting incident in China, and he later decided to leave that team.  He then decided to play for Vytautas in the LKL, which is Lithuania’s top professional league.

He and his younger brother, LaMelo Ball played against Pieno Zvaigzdes on January 21st this year.  For those that are on Facebook, you can watch them play via BallisLife Basketball Weekly Showcase.  For those that do not are not on Facebook, you can watch them play on YouTube via zinpaitex.  Here are my thoughts on how they fared in this game, and how LiAngelo Ball may rate currently as a prospect for the NBA.

LiAngelo Ball is a good shooter that can knock down plenty of threes to effectively space the floor for his team.  He can use ball fakes and dribbles move to create separation between him and his defender, as he can effortlessly knock down pull-up threes on the break.  Ball also made an open three in transition later on in this match, though he struggled more to make long-range jumpers off the catch.

He also did a adequate job of getting scores off the dribble.  Ball managed to use a smooth crossover on a left-handed drive, as he managed to score off the glass in transition.  Another time, he was able to catch a long inbounds pass, and he used a jump stop to score on another fast break drive.  But on one occasion, he attempted to drive to his right in transition, but he ended up missing early in the second quarter.  In addition, Ball was able to score on a tip-in after leaping in to get an offensive board in the middle of the second quarter.

He also flashed the ability to score out of the low post.  LiAngelo Ball would frequently look to post up, and he would often draw free throws, as he would get opponents to foul him when he would hoist up fadeaway, turnaround jumpers.  He also scored once after using a quick drop step to score off the glass.  However, sometimes he would miss on turnaround jumpers, and he also occasionally struggled to score in traffic, though he does have very good strength to consistently back his man down far in the paint.

Also, LiAngelo Ball displayed fairly average playmaking skills.  Ball did not look to pass often, but he did throw one good pass late in this game, as he drove in to throw a lob pass to set up an alley-oop dunk for a teammate.  He can throw accurate passes and he can quickly find the open man.  He did commit one turnover though, as he went to the corner to catch a pass, but he ended up dropping the ball out of bounds late in the second quarter.

He also was able to collect his fair share of boards when he was on the floor.  LiAngelo Ball would actively crash the offensive glass, and he was able to score once off of an offensive rebound.  But defensively, he skills largely are a work in progress on that end, as he will need to improve significantly on that end of the floor.  For the positives, LiAngelo Ball managed to intercept a pass to get a steal, and he also stayed with his man on a drive to alter a shot to force a miss late in this contest.

However, he will really need to improve his position defense.  Ball often had trouble defending in the post, as he would try to go for a steal or front his man, and he would miss, leading him to be out of position, which would cause his team to allow scores.  Other times, he would be late to contest shots to allow opponents to score on jumpers.  Other times, he would struggle to defend his opponents on drives to the hoop, as he bit on a pump fake once to allow a score, and he also committed a reach-in foul when guarding an opposing ball handler another time, as he can be undisciplined defensively.

In general, LiAngelo Ball is an offensive minded player that can shoot and score the basketball.  However, he will need to improve his defense significantly, and he may need to look for his teammates more so that he can set up more scoring chances for them.  He may have the skills to be a shooting specialist in the NBA, but character concerns combined with his subpar defensive skills could likely cause him to go undrafted.  Even so, he could hone his craft in the G-League or overseas, as that help him get a shot to possibly end up in the association sometime down the road.  But if he does end up making an NBA roster next year, he could end up developing into a player similar to former VMI and Golden State Warriors’ guard, Reggie Williams in the league.

Other Notes:

6-2 point guard, LaMelo Ball played a substantial number of minutes for Vytautas Prienu, as the prodigious, 16-year old playmaker was able to show off good athletic gifts as well as promising offensive skills in this game that was played on January 21st.  Both he and LiAngelo Ball came in the game with about four and a half minutes left in the first quarter, and they were able to help out offensively for their team.

LaMelo Ball did a good job of getting scores on quick drives to the basket.  He can often draw free throws on half court drives as well as in transition, and he can also score on acrobatic layups at the rim.  He did have some trouble making floaters, but Ball is an agile player that handles the ball well, and he showed a knack for drawing fouls and scoring on tough shots around the hoop.

On the other hand, he was unable to make any of his three-point shots in this game.  Ball can tend to be streaky with his jump shot, and he will hoist up a lot of difficult long-range jumpers that can hurt his shooting percentages.  He would attempt deep threes from way out, and he would take quick pull-up threes, but he was not able to knock down shots from beyond the arc.  He did attempt an open corner three late in this contest, but he was unable to make the shot from that spot.

Also, he displayed adequate playmaking skills.  Ball was able to throw a long inbounds pass to set up a score for his teammate down the court, and he also excelled at kicking the ball out to shooters off the dribble to set up scoring chances for them.  But sometimes he can play too fast, and on one play, he dribbled quickly up the floor, but he threw an inaccurate pass that sailed out of bounds to commit a turnover.  Ball was able to collect one defensive board, as he was able to push the pace to draw a shooting foul in the third quarter.

However, he displayed average at best defensive skills.  On the plus side, LaMelo Ball is a very active help defender, as he can be a good defender when he commits himself to playing hard on this end of the floor.  He can quickly jump passes to get steals, and he also ran in to poke a ball away from an opponent in the high post to help force another turnover.  Ball can help his team rack up steals, as he can roam around to collect many of them when he is on the floor.

On the other hand, he will need to significantly improve his position defense.  Sometimes, he will lose focus on this end, as he will either leak out too early to try to get fast break points while his team is still on defense or he won’t run back hard on defense.  Other times, he will commit reach-in fouls when guarding opposing ball handlers, as he will wildly gamble for steals.  Also, Ball ended up getting beat several times off the dribble, which led his team to commit fouls and allow scores, and he also lost track of a cutter another time due to a having a mental lapse.

In summary, LaMelo Ball is a talented combo guard that can get buckets for his team, and he also will push the ball up the floor to get his team scoring chances in transition.  On the other hand, he can tend to take too many chances on both ends of the floor, and sometimes he will have lapses defensively.  But if he will put in the hours to hone his craft and continue to play well in games, Ball could be a potential first round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, as he could end up being a similar player to current Los Angeles Clippers’ guard, Austin Rivers in the association.

Vytautas Prienu’s 6-9, 1996-born forward, Regimantas Miniotas from Lithuania is a skilled basketball player that will compete on both ends of the floor.  In this game, he showed off some passing and defensive skills, and he will look to score from anywhere on the court.  Miniotas did a fairly good job of getting scores on aggressive drives to the hoop.  He was able to use a quick hesitation move to score on a right-handed drive off the glass, and he has good acceleration to get past his man.  Plus, he also managed to score on a contested floater another time.

Also, he rolled after setting a screen to post up, and he managed to catch the ball inside, as he ended up getting deep position before going up with the shot to score.  However, Miniotas missed all four of his three-point shots in this game, as he was unable to knock down any of the open threes he took from beyond the arc.  Though he may be a decent shooter on average, in this game he was unable to connect on the long-range jumpers that he took.

He also displayed solid playmaking skills.  Miniotas would push the ball up the floor, and he would find teammates on the break to notch assists due to possessing fairly good ball handling skills and court vision.  He can make an assortment of passes, and he also will set screens on offense.  But he did commit one turnover, as he threw an ill-advised long inbounds pass that ended up getting intercepted.  He also almost committed other turnovers, as he dribbled into a trap, but he ended up drawing a non-shooting foul as his pass was deflected out of bounds.  Another time, he posted up, but had a ball poked out of bounds.

Plus, he was able to haul in his fair share of boards when he was on the floor.  Miniotas was able to collect multiple rebounds on both ends of the court, and he would sometimes push the ball up the floor after grabbing defensive rebounds.  But sometimes, he would be unable to corral or secure rebounds, as he would occasionally lose balls to the opposition when trying to come down with boards in traffic.

Miniotas also showed off good defensive skills.  He can jump passes to get steals for his team, and he will also heap on loose balls to help his team force additional turnovers.  Plus, he will actively look to contest shots to force misses around the basket.  But he also can struggle to guard quicker players.  On one play, he defended a drive on a switch, but he ended up getting beat off the dribble to allow a score.  He also rotated to commit a foul on a drive another time.  In addition, there was one possession where he was out of position when defending around the basket, as he tried to contest the shot, but ended up allowing a basket to his opponent.

In summary, Regimantas Miniotas is a skilled combination forward that can make plays on both ends of the floor to help his team in games.  He may only possess average athletic gifts, but he is an energetic player that will compete when he is out on the floor.  Right now, he may be a borderline second round candidate at best, but as there is a lot of competition for spots in this draft, it may be possible that he may not end up getting drafted.  Even so, he could end up having a solid career overseas in professional basketball.

Pieno Zvaigzdes’6-5, 1997-born swingman Martynas Varnas from Lithuania played fairly well in this contest, as he showed off a variety of skills to help his team get a double-digit victory.  He is a good shooter that managed to make an open three off the catch, as he can knock down spot-up jumpers when given the space to do so.  He also will look to make quick cuts to the hoop, and he will also run the floor to provide his team with a scoring option on fast breaks.   Also, he managed to drive quickly off of a screen, but he ended up missing once.

Also, Varnas displayed good playmaking skills in this game.  He can dribble up the floor to push the pace, and he would throw long passes to teammates to set up scores for them.  Varnas is a quick player that possesses good court vision, and he can make a variety of passes to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  On one play, he managed to cut to the hoop to get the ball, and he instinctively found an open man to get his teammate a chance to score that time.

He also displayed adequate defensive skills.  Varnas was able to heap on a loose ball to help his team get a steal, and he also did a good job of defending in the post to force misses.  In addition, he was able to successfully challenge a three-point shot on another defensive possession.  But sometimes he can struggle to guard opponents off the dribble, as he rotated to commit a foul on a drive once.  Also, he got beat quickly off the dribble another time late in the game, as he allowed a pass that led to a dunk for the opposition.  In summary, Martynas Varnas is an agile, skilled basketball player that can shoot and pass the basketball.  He will need to be more assertive on offense, and he will need to play well next season, but if he does so, he could then end up potentially being a second round pick in 2019.