Jeff Goodman handed Bob Ryan homework ahead of this week’s show, key in on LaMelo Ball’s unique shot release and secure a forthcoming interview with new Rockets head coach Stephen Silas that will air this week. Before that, the Ryan and Goodman Podcast on CLNS Media dove into the NBA Draft.
Goodman covered Ball from his earliest days on the court with ESPN through his professional endeavors in Lithuania. Ball entered this class heralded by some as the top prospect given his explosive high school scoring, professional experience and passing prowess. Within the last week multiple reports, including Kevin O’Connor’s, stated that Ball is falling on some team’s boards significantly after he exited the draft process.
“(His shot) reminded me an awful lot of Lonzo,” Ryan said. “The first shot release that came to my mind was Shawn Marion, he kind of used to flip it up like that a little bit. It was low. I go back to Bob McAdoo … he had a low release, but it never used to bother him too much.”
Goodman remembered Ball’s Chino Hills days, when he couldn’t dunk and said the pivotal difference between the oldest and youngest Ball brother is the proximity to fame. Lonzo created his own allure and maintained a modest personality. LaMelo rose after the hype around his brother, the Big Baller Brand and his father Lavar Ball’s infamous ESPN rounds.
The explosion in notoriety landed LaMelo on an internet special “Ball in the Family,” a Lamborghini at 16, then pulled him from a UCLA scholarship to Lithuania and Australia. Goodman sees him as more of a reflection of his father than Lonzo.
“His dad has not given him the best coaching,” he said. “His dad has not put him in the best positions to succeed and be held accountable. I don’t blame LaMelo Ball for any of this. I really don’t. I blame his father for all of it. A lot of bad habits.”
Settling, mechanics, discipline and shot selection rank among the biggest concerns for the consensus top-5 pick. Similar concerns exist with another top prospect, Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, to create the most uncertain No. 1 pick since Anthony Bennett went to the Cavaliers in 2013. The Rich Paul signee posted inconsistent results on a bad Bulldogs team that didn’t even perform well enough for NIT consideration at 16-16 and Goodman said his stock is slipping too.
Ryan dubbed Edwards the “yeah, but” prospect from his scouting, for shooting 40.2% from the field and 29% from three in an unspectacular freshman season.
“He’s very streaky,” Goodman said, noticing him fading as the team got worse. “In his defense, Tom Crean used him the wrong way last year. They tried to use him at the point, and he’s not a point guard. He’s clearly a two guard. He’s a guy that can attack, he can score … the combine, he’s going to blow it away … he’s a freak athlete, but there’s a lot of freak athletes that weren’t great basketball players … his team absolutely stunk last year, when college basketball wasn’t very good … (Ben Simmons) at least had (LSU) in the equation for a NIT bid.”
Goodman agreed with other evaluators that moving up isn’t a bonafide way to getting to a better player in this draft. Highlighting the Celtics specifically at 14, he pointed out that talented shooters like Devin Vassell, Aaron Nesmith and Cole Anthony could all fall to the late lottery. Those three and RJ Hampton, Precious Achiuwa, Killian Hayes and Tyrese Haliburton all seem to hold as much potential as the top players in the draft.
“It’s a very average draft in the top seven or eight,” Goodman said. “I honestly think you could make a case to take Obi Toppin number one.”