First Look At LaMelo Ball In An NBL Blitz Game

September 30, 2019

by Alan Lu

LaMelo Ball has played very well in the NBL Blitz. (Photo: Steve Bell/Getty Images)
LaMelo Ball has been playing very well in the NBL Blitz, and there’s talk that he could potentially be the number one pick of the 2020 NBA Draft. (Photo: Steve Bell/Getty Images)

Recently, Illawarra’s 6-7 guard, LaMelo Ball has been gaining some serious traction to be the top pick of the 2020 NBA Draft after posting a near triple-double in his team’s overtime victory over the defending NBL champions, Perth Wildcats in the NBL Blitz. Ball has been on the upswing due to his torrid play in NBL preseason play, and it has caught the attention of NBA scouts and teams alike. I decided to take the time to watch him play in that game he played in that took place on September 20th, as I was able to see it with thanks to Facebook via NBL.

LaMelo Ball is a terrific playmaker that possesses a high basketball IQ and great court vision. He will often push the ball up the floor aggressively, and he can effortlessly throw no-look passes and kick balls out to shooters to get numerous assists for his team. He is a terrific passer in the open court, and he also excels at finding teammates that are rolling to the rim, and he will throw sharp interior passes to set up scoring chances for them. He is a creative, savvy facilitator that sees the floor very well, and he also moves well off the ball, as he will quickly move into the open spots of the floor.

However, he can be turnover prone at times. Occasionally, he will try to do too much, as he will try to quickly get to the hoop when handling the basketball, as he lost the ball once when trying to split a double team when dribbling off of a screen, and he also lost a ball on a dribble handoff, which led him to commit some turnovers. Other times, he can tend to throw hasty passes that may get intercepted, as he may try to go for the home run pass a little too much.

Ball is an excellent rebounder that possesses a strong nose for the basketball. He will often run in and leap up to sky for boards in traffic on both ends of the floor, and he isn’t afraid to scrape for rebounds. He will energetically go for boards, and he also ran in to get an impressive, one-handed offensive rebound on one possession.

Also, Ball is a very good spot-up shooter. He definitely has improved his jump shot since the last time I saw him play, as he showed both a great ability to knock down spot-up threes, as well as make them on the move. Ball would run to get the basketball, and he would make quick, open threes off the catch, as he has a quick release that enables him to get his shot off before defenders have a chance to close out on him. He had trouble making pull-up jumpers, but Ball showed that he can make a barrage of spot-up threes, especially when he’s given the space to take them.

He also is a good scorer on quick drives in transition. Ball has a good first step to the hoop, and he can draw fouls on defenders when he takes on the contact. He also can score using either hand, and he can score on acrobatic layups at the rim.  Other times, he can struggle to make shots in traffic, as he may not always have his balance, and sometimes he will shy away from contact when he’s around the basket area.

He also can score on hustle plays. Ball also was able to score on a cut to the hoop, but he also missed another time on a reverse layup off of another backdoor cut. Plus, he also managed to score on a put back quickly after running to get a one-handed offensive rebound.

However, Ball will need to improve his defensive skills significantly. For the positives, he was able to intercept an inbounds pass late in this contest to help his team get a steal, and he also pressured an opponent that was looking to pass to force him do so another time.

However, Ball’s effort level tended to be lagging on the defensive end most of the time, even though he was not guarding elite level players on the floor, as he was tasked to defend Damian Martin for most of the game. Ball would tend to loaf on defense in this game. Most times, he would jog rather than hustle back, and sometimes he would not get back on defense at all, as his team would allow scores and free throws in transition. He also would often cheat off his man, and sometimes he would be late on his rotations, and occasionally he would not even contest shots, which would lead his team to allow opponents to score on open three-point shots.

In general, LaMelo Ball is a very talented player, as he is a tall, skilled point forward that can really shoot, score, and pass the basketball. The big knock on his game right now may be his defense. Right now, LaMelo Ball will need to be both a committed defender and improve his defense for the time being. Still, the fact that he dropped 19 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 assists in a fairly high level professional league is still quite an accomplishment in itself, even if it still technically was in preseason. LaMelo Ball may have put himself in contention for the top spot in the 2020 draft, and at least for now, he looks to be a surefire lottery pick as he could end up being a very good player in the NBA.

Other Notes:

Illawarra’s 6-8, 1998-born swingman Daniel Grida also played well in his team’s overtime win over Perth. He is a high-motor player that can shoot the basketball, and if he does end up making his way to the NBA someday, he could be a shooting specialist in the association.

Grida was able to knock down a couple of threes from beyond the arc. He made a nifty pull-up three from way out, and he also was able to knock down a quick open spot-up three-pointer another time. However, he did chuck up an ill-advised heave with about 9 seconds still left in the first quarter, as he did so from about half court that missed, and he had far more time on the clock to get a shot off.

He also did a good job of scoring off the dribble. Grida can score using either hand, as he will run the floor to get down court, and can quickly score off the dribble. Grida also ran the floor to catch a lob pass in order to score on the break.

He also showed off fairly decent playmaking skills. Grida will move off the ball on offense, and he also managed to set an off-ball screen once. There was one play where he fell down on a drive and slipped, as he appeared to go too fast and out of control that time, but instead of being called for a travel, he somehow drew a foul on an opponent on that play.

He also will run in to help his team get offensive rebounds, and he will hustle to help his team get boards.

Grida also may be a fairly average defender. He will run in to poke balls and deflect passes to get steals and deflections, and he also rotated to tie up an opponent in the post to get a steal. He also managed to actively contest a deep three once to force his opponent to shoot an airball.

However, he can tend to be late on his rotations, which can lead him to commit fouls. He also can be foul prone due to over-aggressiveness, and other times, he may not rotate or contest shots, which can lead his team to allow opponents to score on jumpers. Another time, Grida was pushed down, but somehow there was no foul call, as he ended up allowing an opponent to score in the post.

Overall, Daniel Grida is a skilled shooter that plays hard, and he will likely be a solid player in the NBL. The question though is how much upside he may have a prospect for the NBA. He is a decent athlete, though he is not overwhelmingly athletic, and he has a good motor. Grida also shoots the ball well, but he also had his struggles on the defensive end, and he will need to continue to develop and grow as an overall player. If he can continue to excel in the NBL, Grida could be a potential second round pick for the 2020 draft, as he could be a prospect to keep an eye on this season.

Illawarra’s 6-4, 1998-born guard, Angus Glover also played fairly well in his team’s victory over Perth. He didn’t stand out quite as much as the other two, but he made some solid plays to help his team in this game.

He was able to make a quick open three-point shot off the catch, and he also managed to score on a tip-in off of an offensive rebound. He also missed on a quick, right-handed drive off of a screen early on, but he also got away with a double dribble that time.

He also is an unselfish player that will find open shooters to set up scores for them. However, he also committed one turnover as he had a ball taken away from him while handling it. Glover also will leap up to get boards on both ends of the floor.

Overall, Glover looks to be a good system player for his team in the NBL, but he doesn’t seem like he will be considered to be a prospect for the NBA. He only possesses average physical tools, and he has less than ideal size to play out on the wing. Still, if he has a good season this year, he could perhaps be a player to keep an eye on, as his motor and ability to knock down shots could allow him to carve out a solid career in professional basketball.