LaMelo Ball’s NBA stocks continue to rise.
After spending the first two matches of the season trying to find his shot, Ball turned his attention to creating baskets for his Hawks teammates as Illawarra slipped past the Cairns Taipans 89-88 in thrilling fashion on Monday night.
Andrew Ogilvy drained the match-winning free throw with 1.1 seconds remaining, but all eyes were naturally on Ball as he continues his path to the NBA Draft.
He finished the night with nine points on four of eight shots, but it was his five assists and five rebounds that caught the eye.
Both Ball and fellow American Aaron Brooks pushed the tempo in a brilliant run at the start of the second half that proved the critical passage of play in the Hawks’ first win of the 2019-20 season.
After an underwhelming first half, Ball’s court vision came to the fore as the Hawks turned a 43-38 half time deficit into a 54-45 lead in the blink of an eye.
The source of those points came on the defensive end as every time the Hawks managed to stop the Taipans, Brooks and Ball pushed the pace.
The fast break points then flowed and Ball thrived.
He picked up two assists in the rapid run to start the third quarter – which opened up the lead – and then showed his half court vision was just as strong with two more assists to finish when the match was there to be won.
“He’s fun to watch, he’s fun to be around and he has a wonderful feel for the game. I’ve said that before,” Hawks coach Matt Flinn said post match.
“Obviously an 18-year-old kid doing what he’s doing in a league like this is special.
“He’s working hard every day, like all of us.”
Ball may have played a critical part in the Hawks’ second-half run, which nabbed their first win of the season, but outside of a superb right-to-left finish for his second basket of the night, his first half was underwhelming.
The youngest Ball brother walked into the bowels of WIN Entertainment Centre with just four points, one assist and one rebound next to his name.
The first of those two made first half baskets was a simple layup as the 18-year-old pinched a break on his opponent in transition.
The second basket was the highlight of the night. It was also a glimpse of why Ball is projected to be a top three pick in next year’s NBA draft.
It was a brilliant moment that showcased Ball’s untapped potential.
But the real star of the show was Brooks.
The American import, who has arrived at the Hawks after a decade spent playing for seven different NBA teams, finished the night with 19 points on seven of 16 shooting, six assists and five rebounds.
Ball may be the player with the most potential in the NBL, but Brooks will make a strong case as one of its most valuable if he continues to play with the sort of precision he showed on Monday.
He competed on the defensive end and made sure the crowd hounded officials when calls weren’t going the Hawks’ way, too.