Minnesota Timberwolves NBA Draft 2020 Prospect Profile: LaMelo Ball

Potential Minnesota Timberwolves prospect LaMelo Ball. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)
Potential Minnesota Timberwolves prospect LaMelo Ball. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, LaMelo Ball
LaMelo Ball of the Illawarra Hawks. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images) /

LaMelo Ball NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Fit with Timberwolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves have a lot of needs, but point guard isn’t really one of them.

D’Angelo Russell was an All-Star at the age of 22 and is one of the league’s most dynamic pick-and-roll guards. He also has a maximum contract and the Wolves just acquired him in February. In short, he isn’t going anywhere.

The Wolves’ backup point guard is currently Jordan McLaughlin, who was a 24-year-old rookie on a two-way contract last year, but his strong play toward the end of the season likely earned him an opportunity as the backup moving forward.

And not only that, but teams don’t use the No. 1 pick in the draft on backups.

The case for the Wolves to draft Ball hinges entirely on the ability of both Ball and Russell to play off the ball.

Russell has done a fair amount of that in his young NBA career, and some of the best stretches of his career came alongside Spencer Dinwiddie and Shabazz Napier in Brooklyn. He’s developed into an above-average 3-point shooter, knocking down 36.8 percent of his long-range attempts over the past two seasons and north of 39 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s over that same span.

While Ball’s shooting percentages aren’t as attractive, his touch on shot attempts inside the arc implies that he can continue to improve from deep.

Defensively, both Russell and Ball have their issues. But they are both big, smart guards. If defensive coordinator David Vanterpool can get them to play hard and play within the scheme, there is potential to have a passable backcourt on that end of the floor. Russell and Ball are both taller and have longer wingspans than Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the backcourt duo on Vanterpool’s successful defensive unit with the Portland Trail Blazers, so there’s some hope that they can learn to hold their own.

Overall, the offensive fit with Ball and Russell should be dynamic; the only real concern lies in how much of their respective value might be diminished by playing together and each having the ball in their individual hands less often. There’s enough playmaking ability and scoring touch to make the pairing work. Add in Karl-Anthony Towns and some shooters and the Wolves could easily have a top-five offense.

The other end of the floor will be a bigger issue. There’s a world in which a Ball-Russell backcourt works defensively, but it’s far more likely that the Wolves’ defense would be one of the league’s worst until (if?) Vanterpool gets Ball, Russell, Towns, and others to work hard, play as a unit, and truly compete.

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The bet here is that if the Wolves don’t trade the pick, they’ll take the leap with Ball and sign up to have a fantastic offense, figuring out the defense later. Put simply, the offensive upside will be too great to pass up on for Gersson Rosas and Ryan Saunders.