In the run-up to the 2020 NBA Draft, there might not be a fit that will be analyzed more heavily than that of LaMelo Ball and the Warriors.
The Warriors own the rights to the No. 2 overall pick after the Minnesota Timberwolves won last week’s NBA draft lottery. Most expect the T-Wolves to draft either Georgia guard Anthony Edwards or Memphis center James Wiseman, leaving Ball to potentially fall to the Warriors. Ball is seen as one of the top three prospects, along with Edwards and Wiseman, and has a lot of upside for a team looking for a ball-dominant guard.
Unlike the Timberwolves and other teams near the top of the lottery, the Warriors are not looking for a young star to build their franchise around. After a year spent at the bottom of the NBA to heal and recalibrate their roster, the Warriors plan to vault back into title contention next season. With Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins forming arguably the best top four of any team in the NBA, the Warriors are looking for a young, talented prospect who can fill a role early on and help the team return to the top of the NBA before taking the mantle from Curry once the two-time MVP reaches the other side of his prime.
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Ball’s father LaVar has said he doesn’t think the Warriors are a good fit for his son (shocking) because he doesn’t want LaMelo to have to take a backseat to Curry, Thompson, Green and Wiggins early on in his career.
Many question whether or not Ball and his offensive game would fit well alongside Curry, Thompson, Green and Wiggins in Steve Kerr’s system. Where many see Ball and the Warriors as a disastrous fit, Bleacher Report draft expert Jonathan Wasserman believes the two could be a good match.
“After shooting 37.7 percent with a giant workload for the Illawarra Hawks, Ball wouldn’t have to force as many plays and shots with Golden State. He could play to his strengths as a special passer and setup man running between elite shooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson,” Wasserman writes.
“He’d also benefit from the Warriors’ winning culture, veteran leadership and team defense. In Golden State, chances are his bad habits of overdribbling, hero jump shots and lapses in effort would disappear.”
Ball might be the draft’s biggest conundrum. He’s a talented offensive scorer who shot just 37 percent from the field against lesser competition. He is a flashy playmaker who posted troubling turnover numbers in the NBL. His constant defensive lapses would undoubtedly be an issue for the Warriors, who were one of the best defensive teams in the NBA during their dynastic rise.
It’s easy to watch tape of Ball and see how the Warriors could use a young scorer off the bench to run the show when Curry needs a spell. Kerr admitted the Warriors were going to have to start managing Curry’s minutes this season, and with Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston all gone, the Warriors will need someone who can run the offense when Curry heads to the bench. Ball can get his own shot and create for others. How well he will be able to do that at the NBA level in his rookie season is up for debate.
He’s an anomaly who could develop into a star. But that potential road to stardom likely will have more than a few twists, turns, bumps and perhaps a cliff in it.
The Warriors reportedly view point guard as the deepest position in the draft, per The Mercury News’ Wes Goldberg, and would draft Ball if they believe he will become an All-Star. But they also are quite high on Iowa State point guard Tyrese Haliburton who shot 41.9 percent from 3-point range in college and is can guard multiple positions on the wing.
Turn on Ball’s tape and the talent and potential are evident. He’s also 19 years old and has been playing internationally since 2018. His game has a lot of growing to do, and in the right environment, he can blossom into a star.
There’s little doubt the Warriors have the best culture in the NBA and can break him of his bad habits. But it will take time. Time not afforded to a team hoping for a quick turnaround back to title-contender status after pause year.
The Warriors need to draft a player who can wear two hats simultaneously. The prospect must be able to help the Warriors win a title immediately with few growing pains, while also being able to grow into one of the next faces of the franchise.
Ball’s talent isn’t the issue. Time is. With Curry turning 32 in March and Thompson and Green both 30, the Warriors must maximize the remaining years of their prime and draft a prospect who can be an asset immediately.
If Ball can prove to the Warriors he can curb the bad shot-taking at play within their system, he could be exactly the type of player they are looking for and grow into the next face of the franchise. It could turn out to be a massive coup for the NBA’s former goliath. But there are no guarantees with Ball, and a draft miss at No. 2 would be devastating.
Bal is a puzzle. One that only the right mind can solve. Helping him reach his ceiling while negating his worst instincts will be a task that could put some in a straitjacket.
If the Warriors call Ball’s number come draft day, they must be sure he’s their guy. Otherwise, they should let someone else gamble on the final member of the Ball triumvirate.