On Nov. 18 the NBA will hold its annual draft for 2020, the draft is usually held around early June but due to the delay of the season, this also delays the start of the free agency to Nov. 20. The belief as of now is that the number one pick will be point guard LaMelo Ball, brother of current New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball and son of the infamous Lavar Ball.
But the thing about Lamelo Ball to me is not the very apparent talent, it’s his unusual journey to the league that makes me believe he helped build a new path for the next generation of players behind him. LaMelo was playing varsity basketball at age 14 along with his two brothers Lonzo and Angelo as they led Chino Hills High School to an undefeated 32-0 season, a state championship, and were crowned with a mythical national championship as they beat various highly ranked teams around the country.
In his junior year of high school Lavar Ball, LaMelo’s father pulled LaMelo from Chino Hills for at-home learning and training for his then future at UCLA that he, later on, went to decommit. Fast forward to later that year to where LiAngelo and LaMelo signed to play overseas in Lithuania with Vytautas Prienu that made LaMelo the youngest American to sign a professional basketball contract ever. The decision to play in Lithuania was ultimately a flop for LaMelo where he seemed to struggle with only averaging 6 points 2 assists and 1 rebound the whole season that made the possibility of LaMelo in the NBA very doubtful and went back to the US after only one season.
After a short break, LaMelo signed another contract to play overseas again in Australia with the Illawarra Hawks on a two-year deal and grew to his current 6-7 height. This was very different compared to his time in Lithuania where LaMelo got to show his skill at one of the highest leagues in the world as he averaged 17 points 8 rebounds and 9 assists as scouts also noticed and said that he would be a top pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. With the draft, just days away my biggest takeaway from the early part of Melo’s career is that players can make their paths now. With the NBA G League offering the top recruits to make money off their talents at only 18 when the NCAA still and probably will never pay their players it makes sense why players want a different much-needed different path to the league on their terms.