LaMelo Ball opted to play professionally overseas instead of making a brief stop in college basketball. That unconventional route to the NBA now has him set to be the top point guard taken – and maybe the first player overall – in the Nov. 18 draft.
Ball, who most recently played in Australia, is the headliner at the position and is expected to be a top-four pick, and another American-born international prospect Killian Hayes and Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton are likely top-10 selections.
Here’s a look at some of the top point guard prospects:
The younger brother of New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball is projected by to have the draft’s highest ceiling with his passing, ball skills and size.
STRENGTHS: The 19-year-old is bigger than most point guards with a 6-foot-7 frame, which will become even more of an advantage as he gets stronger. He started his overseas career in Lithuania in 2018 before eventually playing in Australia’s National Basketball League, where he averaged 17 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists in 12 games last season. That included consecutive triple-doubles of 32 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists followed by 25 points, 12 boards and 10 assists.
CONCERNS: Ball can score in bunches – he scored 92 points in a California high school game in 2017 — but he didn’t shoot the ball particularly well in the NBL (38% overall, 24% from 3-point range). That at least raises questions about his offensive efficiency, along with uncertainty about how good of a defender he will ultimately be even with his size and length.
The 6-foot-5 Haliburton blossomed as a sophomore for the Cyclones into a lottery prospect.
STRENGTHS: Haliburton, 20, averaged 15.2 points and a Big 12-leading 6.5 assists before going down in February with a wrist injury. He’s a confident floor leader who plays with energy, both as an unselfish distributor in setting up teammates but also as a scorer in transition or from outside (42.6% on 3-pointers in two seasons) even with an unorthodox stroke. He’s also a good rebounder (5.9 last year).
CONCERNS: Haliburton needs to add strength to a lean 175-pound frame, which would allow him to handle physical defenders or withstand contact in the paint.
Hayes became a lottery prospect as a teenager in Europe.
STRENGTHS: The American-born Hayes has been developing in the professional ranks since he was 16, first in France. He later headed to Germany, where he said in a September predraft call with reporters: “I really grew up as a leader on the court.” The lefty has good size with a 6-foot-5, 192-pound frame, as well as overall polish in scoring off the dribble, whipping passes to set up teammates and the potential to play either guard spot.
CONCERNS: Hayes needs to cut down mistakes with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.7 over three seasons overseas, which included 3.2 turnovers per game last year with a German club. He also shot just 29% on 3-pointers last season — although he was 39% in 10 higher-profile EuroCup games. Hayes said he is working to improve his defense, including against the pick-and-roll, and expand his right-handed game.
The 20-year-old son of former UNLV and NBA point guard Greg Anthony started last year as a potential top-10 pick, but is likely to slide more to the middle or second half of the first round after a bumpy freshman year at North Carolina.
STRENGTHS: The 6-3, 190-pound Anthony is a tough-minded scorer. He started with 34 points against Notre Dame on the way to averaging 18.5 points while also being a willing rebounder (5.7). He returned from an 11-game absence due to knee surgery at a time when many questioned whether he should shut it down to protect his pro prospects.
CONCERNS: Anthony was unable to elevate a UNC team unusually down on talent. He was the only player capable of consistently creating his own shot, yet the Tar Heels had trouble finding cohesion with Anthony’s ball-dominant style as he shot 38%. UNC finished 14-19, the only losing record of Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams’ career.
OTHERS TO WATCH
— MALACHI FLYNN: The junior helped San Diego State win 30 games and crack the top 10 nationally. He could be a late first-round pick.
— TRE JONES: The Duke sophomore is an elite on-ball defender who expanded his offensive game last year to become an Associated Press All-American. He could be a late first-round pick.
— KIRA LEWIS JR.: The Alabama sophomore averaged 18.5 points and 5.2 assists last year. He’s a first-round prospect who could climb into lottery range.
— THEO MALEDON: The 19-year-old has been playing in a French pro league and is a first-round prospect with combo-guard potential.
— NICO MANNION: The Arizona freshman is a late first-round prospect after averaging 14.0 points and 5.3 assists.
— PAYTON PRITCHARD: The Oregon senior could sneak into the first round after leading the Pac-12 in scoring (20.5) and assists (5.6) while also shooting 41.5% from 3-point range.
-— TYRELL TERRY: The Stanford freshman could go in the middle of the first round after averaging 14.6 points with plenty of shooting range (40.8% on 3-pointers).
AP Sports Writer Kenneth Maguire in London contributed to this report.
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