By Max Feldman
Ball stock has been shaky ever since returning to the States and Spire Academy. In the last few weeks upon arrival in Wollongong, Australia, LaMelo’s stock has blown up and has cemented himself atop the 2020 Draft. Between the physical growth standing at almost 6 foot 8 now, the elevation of his basketball IQ and experience against grown men, combined with already known flair and speed that Melo plays with, he is the exact type of player NBA scouts and GM’s will fall in love with. Ball will bring eyes to Illawara all season long, but still needs to prove the growth of his game and ability to direct his flair in the right ways. Effort, specifically on defense this season, would go a long way towards development and appeal to NBA teams. Ball’s trajectory after only a few showcase games is sky high, an absolute 180 degree turn on where he was a year ago. Jonathon Givony from ESPN.com said, “is now a real No. 1 pick contender.” LaMelo Ball’s stock is rocketing upwards, and now it comes down to building consistency and credibility.
Comparison: Luka Doncic, Bigger CJ McCollum
FOG Projection: #1 overall pick to the Charlotte Hornets
The 6 foot 9 215 pound multi-positional prospect from Israel is an electrifying, ideal modern fit for the future of the NBA. With no exaggeration or the cliché of previous prospects, Deni Avdija legitimately has the skill to play all 5 positions in the league. At only 18 years old, he has the most experience against professional opponents of any prospect. The ability to play as the initiator and the pick and pop/roll guy is the prototypical high floor prospect for today’s NBA. His game is not as eye-catching as other top prospects, but the collection of pinpoint outlet passes, long strided Euro steps and playmaking creativity make the Israeli national a certified future NBA starter and organizational cornerstone. Avdija’s stock is increasingly steady. Another season in the Euro League and Israeli Premier League looks to be even further opportunity for Avdija to cement himself as the top International prospect.
Comparison: Kyle Kuzma, Less Athletic Ben Simmons
FOG Projection: #2 overall pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers
Hampton is a prototypical bouncy wing that we’ve seen in the past, while going out to Australia gives him an opportunity to prove himself as a high potential, skill, rather than athletically focused wing. Hampton had his pick from essentially any Collegiate blue blood, but chose the benefits of the “Next Stars” program and the New Zealand Breakers in the NBL. At ideal size for a 2 guard, 6 foot 5 and 188 pounds, Hampton will compete for the highest vertical in the 2020 Draft class with wiry arms and frenetic pace. Thus far in the NBL preseason and showcases, Hampton has displayed his triple threat talent and off the bounce deep and mid-range jumper. Hampton stock has not exploded like Ball yet, but looks to be on the up with growing attention on the NBL. A matured physique, a consistent jumper and playmaking ability will be traits that scouts will be looking for in terms of development. Hampton will not remain on the board for long come 2020 NBA Draft time as organizations hunt for athletically gifted, two-way talented wings.
Comparison: Zach Lavine, Josh Richardson
FOG Projection: #9 overall to the Atlanta Hawks
Maledon has been an International name projected at the top of this draft for multiple years, a trend that will not change. At 6 foot 4 and 174 pounds, Maledon is a lengthy ball handler who thrives when pushing the pace and playing off of rim running big men. Maledon’s stand out skills are playmaking, decision making and positional size. The French national became the youngest All Star in LNB history playing for ASVEl at age 17. Still only 18 years old, Maledon has already debuted for the French National Team. Maledon, unlike a few other lottery prospects, will not be an immediate impact guard, and will likely take a few seasons to prove his stock. In an impressive point guard class, Maledon may be the wild card of the group, but another strong season with more film as a consistent three-point shooter and as a mid-range scoring threat will give Maledon’s stock the extra boost it needs to lock in a lottery promise.
Comparison: Kris Dunn, Frank Ntilikina
FOG Projection: #12 overall to the Detroit Pistons