It’s a tournament that has brought top Euro prospects to international attention and LaMelo Ball could use it as a chance to enhance his reputation. Emmet Ryan on why the youngest Ball brother should say yes to the offer from Zalgiris Kaunas to play in the Adidas Next Generation tournament
EDIT: It was confirmed on Friday evening that LaMelo won’t play. The core points of why he should have are laid out in this article
The ANGT, formerly the Nike Invitational Junior Tournament, is the youth showcase that flies just a teency bit under the radar at the Euroleague Final Four weekend. US readers will be familiar with a few of the names of former MVPs. Dario Saric, runner up for NBA Rookie of the Year last year, took that crown in 2011. Donatas Motiejūnas, who logged five seasons in the NBA with the Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans, won it in 2007. Boriša Simanić took the crown last year, while Isaac Bonga and Dzanan Musa also played in that edition, and all are appearing on plenty of draft boards for 2018.
Oh and Luka Doncic, who you may have read a few million articles on, was the 2015 tournament MVP.
That’s a good list and the alumni also include plenty of other Euros to go as lottery picks in recent years such as Kristaps Porzingis, Mario Hezonja, and Dragan Bender. Bogdan Bogdanovic is an alum, Rodions Kurucs did nothing to hurt his draft stock with a good showing at the 2015 event, and other players to make the jump to the association include Willy Hernangomez (All Rookie 2017), Nikola Jokic, Nikola Mirotic, and Jusuf Nurkic.
Basically, the ANGT is a really good place to see some of the best prospects in Europe and for players looking to make it in the NBA to make an impression.
Which brings us to LaMelo Ball. The usual circus that goes with the Big Baller Brand bunch often leads to some of the more raw and simple questions being left aside.
Don’t ask whether LaMelo Ball has what it takes to be a star in the NBA. Ask whether he is a player that is looking to get drafted once eligible. Both lovers and haters of the circus will agree that he does.
Now ask whether he is a player of the talent level likely to be in the discussion to get drafted. Prior to this season, he was. LiAngelo Ball wasn’t but LaMelo, like his previously drafted brother Lonzo, is seen as a player who was on course to be in that discussion.
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That’s where the ANGT becomes an interesting proposition for the youngest Ball brother.
Zalgiris Kaunas made an offer to loan LaMelo Ball for the ANGT qualifer in Kaunas next week. The other participants include VEF Riga, who Kurucs played for before jumping to Barcelona, and last year’s overall champions CFBB Paris. That’s a high stand and the Kaunas club wants LaMelo as a weapon in the competition.
For the youngest Ball, and his father Lavar (who is unquestionably a huge factor here), this access to a competition which will attract scouts and showcase LaMelo against a serious standard of opposition.
If Lavar is serious about LaMelo going as a high draft pick, he’ll want his son to accept this offer.
The groin injury LaMelo has could be a factor but the control of Big Baller Brand’s top dog over the movements and decisions of the youngest Ball could prove just as big.
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Here’s an opportunity for Lavar, amidst all the short-term gain he has created for his family in Prienai, to make a big investment in the future. If LaMelo is healthy enough to play, it’s a massive opportunity as every NBA team will have some kind of representation there. Bearing in mind that LaMelo is for the 2020 NBA class at the earliest, it’s a low risk play. If LaMelo looks good, it’s all positive. If it doesn’t go well, he was playing with an injury and has ample time in his development to claw back.
Should Zalgiris win next week or be granted a wild card slot for the finals in Belgrade, Lavar would likely get to bring the BBB show on tour to another of the continent’s biggest basketball hotbeds and extend the swarm of attention on both of his sons through to the middle of May.
The Lavar Ball show was supposed to end once Lonzo got drafted, per the Andy Warhol perspective on matters at least. The patriarch of the Ball family has shown he can maintain public fascination far longer than he was given credit for, albeit through methods that are often infuriating to those of us who just want to watch the games.
He’d shine a light on the ANGT by giving the green light to LaMelo and it would also be a good opportunity for Europe’s top young ballers to show him they mean business too.
Pic: BC Vytautas Facebook
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