Ahead of the 2020 NBA Draft, LaMelo Ball was one of the most talked about prospects, both because of his family name and his polarizing skillset. While his talent and potential were obvious, there were also very real weaknesses — shooting and defense, for example — that teams would have to take into account.
But however you felt about Ball overall, there was one aspect of his game that everyone was in agreement on: his passing. He has an incredible feel that belies his age, the height to see over defenders and create different angles and a willingness to take chances and be creative. All told, he was by far the best passer in this class, and he’s proven as much throughout the preseason.
Right from his first game with the Hornets he was throwing lobs and behind-the-back dimes that were all over the internet. On Saturday night against the Magic, he did it again. Late in the second quarter, he drove to the basket and flipped an overhead pass out to the 3-point line, where Cody Zeller knocked down the triple.
That alone would have been impressive, but he managed to one-up himself late in the game with another ridiculous assist. After stripping Cole Anthony, Ball made his way up the the floor, and spotted Malik Monk streaking to the basket ahead of him. With one hand, Ball whipped a bounce pass that hit Monk in stride for an easy layup.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem super impressive. He didn’t go behind his back, or thread the needle between multiple defenders, but even so the degree of difficulty is extremely high. To throw that pass on the move, with the perfect amount of weight and spin so that it pops up right into Monk’s hands and lets him coast in for the layup ahead of the defense is just remarkable.
Ball hasn’t had the easiest time this preseason, and it’s clear he has a lot to work on, but the glimpses we’ve seen of his passing are a reminder of why some were so high on him coming into the draft. It’s rare when someone comes along with his combination of physical tools, vision and understanding of the game. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s willing to put on a show in the process.