Warriors Draft Pick Tourney, Round 2: #2 LaMelo Ball vs #10 Devin Vassell
Round Two. Up to you.
Okay, welcome to the second round of the Warriors 2020 Draft Pick Tournament! Now we’re dealing with some much harder decisions. I have added a few more scouting reports and comparisons since the first round.
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
NBADraftRoom Comp: 6-7 Jason Williams
(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.
Wizzy’s Comps: (per 40 similarity > 70) Zhaire Smith, DerMarr Johnson, Robert Woodard, Jason Richardson; (>66) Pat Connaughton, Kevin Porter Jr, Justin Anderson, Kevin Huerter, Xavier Henry
Wizzy’s Comps: (advanced similarity > 70) None. (>55) Zhaire Smith, Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Ross, Pat Connaughton, Reggie Bullock, Tyler Herro, Justin Anderson, Robert Woodard, Carrick Felix
NBADraftRoom Comp: Michael Redd, Kerry Kittles
(Graphic from Sports-Reference.com)
Vassell's numbers — 12.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game — don't jump off the screen, but that has more to do with playing at Florida State than anything else. The Seminoles had four players who averaged between 9.2 points and 12.7 points. So Leonard Hamilton's team was balanced at the top, possibly to the detriment of Vassell.
On the heels of his full-blown emergence as Florida State’s best player... He fits the much-discussed three-and-D archetype as well as anyone can, and that comes with an extremely attractive floor attached.
Vassell is a wiry wing who can jump, and in his case, the 3-and-D isn’t some far-off theoretical construct. He shot 41.7 percent from 3 at Florida State and is equally potent off the catch or the dribble, with a high release and great elevation when he shoots off the bounce. Meanwhile, he was a consistent lock-down defender with long arms, good feet and quick reactions.
The star potential here isn’t nearly as high as some of the players above, but he comes in with a really high floor at a position and role where teams fling $10M a year deals at even mediocre alternatives. He could be a plug-and-play starter for a decade.
SHADES OF: Khris Middleton, Robert Covington, Matisse Thybulle
Elite team defender who will immediately help any NBA rotation. Never stops hustling. Even when a play seems over, he’ll fly out of nowhere for a chase-down block or last-second deflection.
Good spot-up shooter with a high release. Tightened his handle to become a potent shooter off the bounce. Displays high-level passing vision for a wing, though he’s not a primary ball handler.
Lacks burst to beat defenders off the dribble, struggles to finish against contact. Wiry frame may limit his versatility against larger, stronger opponents.
He's an NBA-ready 3-and-D type wing who shot above 41% from 3-point range in each of his two college seasons, and he should be ready to step in and contribute defensively from Day One.
Playing for Leonard Hamilton, you can be sure he got plenty of reps switching defensively and guarding bigger and smaller players. He’s not much of a playmaker on the offensive end, and at 180 pounds, he definitely needs to add some weight to his frame.
He might be the best candidate in this draft class to help fill the defensive void the Warriors have felt since the loss of Andre Iguodala.
Per a league source, the Warriors like Vassell’s “3-and-D” potential enough that they’d consider taking him at the bottom of the top five — about a half-dozen spots above where he sits on most mock drafts. He also could be an option if Golden State decides to trade down to the mid-lottery.
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