When the news broke earlier this year that LaMelo was being pulled from Chino Hills High School, in favor of home schooling, it was pretty evident that he’d be playing overseas in the near future. When UCLA announced an indefinite suspension for LiAngelo, following his incident in China, the writing was then on the wall that he’d be headed across the water as well. Now with the announcement that both the younger Ball brothers have signed with Lonzo’s agent, to begin searching for opportunities to play overseas, all the pieces are falling into place.
While LiAngelo has the most to gain, LaMelo, who is arguably the most talented of the trio, has the most to profit. Currently being on a whopping 0 NBA draft boards, Gelo has much to prove if he wants to join his older brother in the NBA ranks. While I’m sure it’s safe to assume that neither of them are looking to be Euro stars, this would give an opportunity to have some tape against quality opponents. For Melo, this is a very unique opportunity that could give him a leg up in the short long run. Ask any coach or athlete and they’ll tell you one of the best ways to get better is by playing and competing against better. At just 16, this would give Melo the opportunity to compete against top players overseas. Sure, their level of talent fails in comparison to that of the NBA, but it’s far superior to that of the high school circuit he’d be playing in otherwise. Most importantly, it’ll teach him how to be a professional. It’ll also teach him how to move, on and off court, with a target on his back. Because, believe me, there will be. And he’s got Pops to thank for that.
While some believe this could be career sabotage, it could actually work out pretty well. Let’s take a look at 3 notable players who were drafted based on overseas play. In the seasons before they were called on draft day: Brandon Jennings averaged just over 6 points and 2 assists, Nikola Mirotic averaged 7 points and 3 rebounds, Ricky Rubio averaged 9 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals. All three were first round picks in their respective drafts.
It’s no secret that LaVar has high hopes that the trio will reunite in the purple and gold (I personally think he’s trying to finesse his way onto the coaching staff but what is life other than one big finesse) and if they can put up halfway decent numbers across the water then a Summer League roster spot certainly isn’t out of the question. Lakers or otherwise, because let’s be serious here, the NBA is a job, and if you can execute well in your role then you deserve the spot. Then of course there’s the G-League which is mainly focused on smoothing players who may be a little rough around the edges and getting them ready for league play.
Barring a rules change, LaMelo is still three years out from competing for a spot on an NBA roster. And known for going against the grain, LaVar may even challenge that. If I’m not mistaken, the official rule states that players must be at least 1 year removed from school, a requirement Melo will meet in roughly a year or so. But with most Euro contracts being year to year, one solid season could turn into a nice boost for Melo’s personal pockets. Not to mention the uptick he’d potentially see from merchandise sales. It’s also no secret that overseas markets love NBA players and their loyalty is second to none. If this kid can string together a couple of good seasons, he’d enter the league with an earned global fan base from day one. If this plays out to be successful (and by successful I mean if either Gelo or Melo sign as much as a 10-Day contract for an NBA team) then you can’t help but give it up for the unorthodox marketing genius that is LaVar Ball. #BallisLife