LaVar Ball predicted time and time again that all three of his sons would be NBA players. But hey, two out of three isn't bad.
The youngest Ball brother, LaMelo, was forced to skip college due to eligibility concerns (having played professionally in Lithuania and the now-defunct JBA). He ultimately accepted a Next Stars contract with the NBL's Illawarra Hawks in Australia.
Despite being among the most famous high school prospects ever, LaMelo and his game were mostly enigmas. He was impressive in a high school return with SPIRE (Ohio) and played well against pros in the Drew League -- albeit in contests at a pickup-game pace. But how would LaMelo respond in a competitive league against legitimate professional competition? That was the real question with the Australia move.
So far, LaMelo has more than passed the test.
In the latest mock draft from ESPN's Jonathan Givony, LaMelo has jumped to the projected No. 3 overall pick with a possibility of going No. 1 next summer. Ball was described as a possible MVP candidate in the NBL, and the 27 NBA scouts who made trips to watch him play last week were blown away. Via ESPN:
"If he keeps this up, I don't see any way he isn't in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick," one NBA executive told ESPN. "He completely changed my perception of the type of prospect he is, and all of the background info I gathered here from his coaches and teammates paint a very different story of what I thought about him off the court as well."
Even Atlanta Hawks coach Matt Flinn raved about LaMelo and added that he hadn't heard from LaVar Ball yet, which is a good thing.
"He's exceeded expectations. He's come with absolutely zero baggage. He's assimilated into his teammates, and they genuinely like having him around," Flinn told ESPN.
NBA teams will have plenty of opportunities to evaluate LaMelo in the coming months, and we should note that these impressions were made from preseason friendlies. But LaMelo has the size and confidence to be a legit top-five pick, and thus far, he's brought the game as well.