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Warriors Draft Pick Tournament: #2 LaMelo Ball vs #15 R.J. Hampton
You make the call.
Which of These Two Prospects Would You Rather The Warriors Draft?
We’ll present scouting reports, and you can vote at the end of this post. For details on how these prospects were selected and seeded, see the master tournament post.
2. LaMelo Ball
(Graphic from The Ringer)
I’m a big believer that the first pick in any NBA Draft should be the player the franchise selecting thinks has the best chance to be a future All-Star. Period. And, in this draft, I believe Ball is that player.
In a nutshell, it’s easy to see him being a starting-caliber guard based off his size and truly special passing gifts, but he’s going to have to work himself into a better perimeter shooter and learn how to better facilitate winning basketball. Ball racked up stats on one of the NBL’s worst teams and was able to showcase his range of abilities, and did all of that as a true 18-year-old, which is wildly impressive.
In an ideal world, you’d like the top-rated player on the draft board to be somebody who actually tried on defense. Alas, that option doesn’t appear to be on the table this year.
Ball played only 13 games in Australia this season and the results weren’t always spectacular, but he’s atop my board because he showed the ability to do things most NBA players simply can’t. He’s an amazing passer off the dribble, particularly with his right hand, and his rebounds sometimes turn into full-court TD passes that hit the receiver’s hands perfectly in stride.
Ambidextrous passer. He sees everything on the court. Excellent ball handler. Elite touch. Though he attempts too many floaters and shys away from contact. Attentive off-ball player who cuts. Great rebounder for his position. Versatile defender.
Can’t be classified as a great playmaker yet. He jacks up poor shots early in the clock. Poor shooting mechanics. Rarely initiates contact. He doesn’t stay in his defensive stance and often keeps his hands down. He defaults to switching instead of fighting over screens.
SHADES OF: Jason Williams, Lonzo Ball, Shaun Livingston
High IQ and feel for the game -- knows where teammates are, anticipates where they are going, and can make high-level reads in pick-and-roll situations.
Tight handle allows him to thrive in leading transition, running offense.
Low set point on jump shot, and troubling results overseas as deep shooter; mechanically the shot may need tweaked to get shot off consistently at NBA level.
Shaky defender but potential to turn into a net neutral with expanded physical maturation
Not only is Melo one of the youngest players in this draft, he is also a late-bloomer. He’s still growing into his frame, and while I doubt he’s ever be on par with someone like Russell Westbrook, he’s definitely going to get stronger and more athletic as he matures physically and gets into an NBA strength training program.
The 18-year-old shines as a quarterback in transition and the half court. He's always reading the floor in front of him, which allows him to thread needles at exactly the right moment. He's raw—and sometimes wildly ambitious—as a scorer, but the foundation is in place for three-level point production with nearly unlimited off-the-dribble shooting range.
Ethan Strauss and Evan Zamir, The Athletic:
Evan: If he’s really that tall with his ability to handle the ball and make plays, it’s hard to pass up on that combination in a draft lacking for high-end talent. Finally, LaMelo is another one of those super young prospects, not turning 19 until August. All else being equal, I tend to bet on youth.
So, no, I wouldn’t advise taking Ball as a top-5 pick in this draft, even in this discombobulated draft. Mostly for the finishing concerns, but there are other reasons. If you’re the Warriors, the time it would take for Ball to realize his potential is likely outside of your hypothetical title-contention window.
Ball does have that otherworldly vision, though, that way of seeing the game in a manner James might analogize to how he and Jason Kidd view it.
So, while I don’t think Ball is a future star, I do know this: I’ll be glued to the TV set whenever the rookie gets a touch.
I maintain, and it’s now a lonely position, that the No. 1 pick shouldn’t be a guy who claimed a 47.9 true shooting percentage in Australia, small sample size and age curve be damned. I also completely understand why smart, savvy observers think otherwise. He’s a high-variance kind of pick, meaning that one side in this debate will be wholly validated and the other wholly humiliated. I have a good shot at being the next Charley Rosen, sadly. Those are the stakes, in the least predictable draft in years. Call it Tools vs. Fools. The former are the people who’ve given Ball their blessing. The latter is my crew, those who steadfastly refuse to see the light, even if it’s proselytized by the sharpest observers around.
15. R.J. Hampton
(Graphic from The Ringer)
Hampton has said he would’ve gone to Kansas if college was his chosen path. Hard to blame the 6-5 guard for pursuing an opportunity to play overseas, make real money and prepare for the draft by competing against professionals. He'll play on and off the ball in the NBA, probably for many years to come, thanks to a versatile offensive game that allows him to make plays in lots of ways.
Hampton, who has looked the part defensively at times and has the makings of a more well-rounded playmaker. He’s acclimated relatively well in Australia after a bumpy start, and remains in the late-lottery mix.
SHADES OF: Will Barton, Dante Exum, taller Rodrigue Beaubois
He can hit turbo on drives to the rim, and has explosiveness when elevating for layups. He stays low on crossovers, and displays advanced moves with herky-jerky hesitations.
Displays the fundamentals, craft, and body control to become a good interior finisher. Playmaking potential. Doesn’t make advanced reads but flashes the ability to develop in pick-and-roll. Good off-ball player.
Long-term defensive upside because of his athleticism.
Without a reliable jumper, his strengths will be diminished. Selecting him is a big bet on the development of his shooting ability. Though his at-rim finishing is an overall positive, he must get stronger so he can absorb contact better. Raw playmaker. Inexperienced defender with poor habits and fundamentals.
RJ Hampton remains an intriguing NBA prospect because of his athleticism, crisp handle and physical makeup. A work in progress. He struggled overseas last season on both ends of the floor and his jumper still needs some work
Hampton is a kid that has quite a bit of potential, but he’ll need time to develop at the next level. He has the length, quickness and athleticism to be able to defend either backcourt spot in time, but he is something of a late-bloomer that needs to put on some weight and strength. He’ll try defensively, too, but he needs to be coached up. Again, that will come with time.
The biggest concern I have with Hampton is that I’m not sure if he has an elite skill yet.
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