An argument could be made that there are at least six legitimate contenders for the top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, and UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball might be the most intriguing of them all. Ball just finished an incredible career at Chino Hills High School, where he helped set a number of individual and team records that might stand for years to come.
During his memorable senior season, Ball helped lead Chino Hills to a 35-0 record, which had them ranked as the top high school team in the country. Alongside brothers and UCLA commits LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball, the team scored 100 points in 18 games, which tied a California high school record.
LiAngelo is a 2017 recruit and a physical swingman who can score from just about anywhere on the court. LaMelo is a 5’10”, 145-pound point guard who should have been in eighth grade last year, but instead he was playing for the top high school team in the country. The brothers share a unique chemistry on the court.
Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo only know one speed to play basketball — fast. They fly up and down the court, throw full-court-length baseball passes and take 30+ foot threes with somewhat awkward releases. If you thought watching the Golden State Warriors last year was entertaining, this was like a high school version of it:
The trio has been led by their father, LaVar Ball, who helped teach them that there really is no bad shot while growing up, per Danny Chau of The Ringer:
“My thing is, a bad shot is a shot you don’t practice,” LaVar Ball told me. “If you practice shooting from 30, 40 feet, that [can be] a good shot. It’s better to shoot a 30-footer with nobody in your face and go through your technique and your form, as opposed to shooting right on the 3-point line with a hand in your face.”
Lonzo led the way as the lead guard, and he put himself on the map with his versatility, unselfishness and overall basketball IQ. He averaged a triple-double during his senior season with 25.4 points, 12.9 assists and 11.5 rebounds per game, and he showed uncanny playmaking ability. His decision-making might be the best in this high school class, and you can already see the impact his game is making on UCLA during its trip overseas this summer:
LaVar knew Lonzo would have an instant impact on UCLA, and the plan is for Steve Alford to utilize him in a similar fashion to how Chino Hills operated last year:
“He’s going to change the whole dynamic of the team over there. Everybody has to adjust to him. Because Alford knows I’m not giving him a player to change. He’s been watching my boys for a long time. He knows exactly what they do.”
As an NBA point-guard prospect, there’s a lot to like with Ball and his potential for the highest level of play. He makes quick decisions and can find open teammates all over the floor with tremendous vision and passing ability. He has good two-way potential thanks to solid length and athletic ability. He should be able to guard all three perimeter positions effectively when he adds some strength to his 190-pound frame:
On the down side, you can also see his funky shooting stroke in the video. Ball brings the ball along the side of his face before the release. It’s pretty effective at the high school level where smaller point guards can’t really contest the 6’6” Ball, but we’ll have to see if he can maintain such efficiency against better competition. He made just 4-of-21 treys during UCLA’s trip to Australia this summer.
If UCLA opts to go all in on Ball’s unique style of play, I expect there to be some growing pains throughout the early part of the season. But in time, expect the team’s high tempo to be a problem for opposing defenses and for Ball to increase his NBA stock with more success.
Ball should be in the top-five pick conversation all season long, with the outside chance at the top spot if he’s able to have a dominant freshman season.