When I first heard of the Zion Williamson versus LaMelo Ball match-up, I started to salivate. The game was close to not even happening due to fire marshals worried about fire codes being broken. They had to step in and perform crowd control just so the game could even place. You could say the environment was electric.
Peep how long the line is outside the gym for tonight's LaMelo Ball vs Zion Williamson face-off in Las Vegas.
— SLAM HS Hoops (@SLAMonline_HS) July 27, 2017
LaMelo is one I haven’t a chance to really see play. It just seems the social media frenzy around the Ball brothers helps get LaMelo’s AAU game by game stats out and easily accessible. Seeing these big scoring games has intrigued me to see if he should be ranked as high as he is. 247 Sports has him ranked 16th, Rivals has 18th, and ESPN has him ranked 8th for the Class of 2019. With Zion already establishing himself as one of the up and coming superstars in the basketball world, the pressure was more on LaMelo.
What to Take Away
When it comes to Zion, I first want to note that I am disappointed with his conditioning this summer. Maybe it was the injury he suffered earlier in the summer allowing his body time to fully rest, but it does concern me a little. By the beginning of the second half, he already had his hands on his hips like he was tired. I also don’t like how he doesn’t assert himself immediately into the game. He seemed almost non-existent in the first portion of the first half. He didn’t hit the glass that hard nor did he make any plays. It wasn’t until 8:40 minutes left to go in the first half when Zion completed an and one for his first points. It makes me wonder if he’s fully engaged right now or if he’s picking and choosing when to pick his play up.
However, Zion did finish the game extremely strong. With 50 seconds left he even intercepted a LaMelo Ball pass to go finish an and one dunk on the other end to put the dagger in LaMelo’s Big Ballers. Zion did show me once again that he is the most physically dominating presence in high school basketball right now.
He absorbs contact extremely well, even when multiple defenders are dragged onto him. I had him down for six and one’s. It seemed every time he drew the foul he finished with a bucket as well. He really does remind me of a “baby Lebron” with how he can get to the hole at will without anyone being able to stop him. With 6:58 to go in the first half, he went through three Big Baller defenders to complete the and one. He even showed his comfortability on the perimeter with 11:54 to go in the second half when he crossed over LaMelo beyond the three point line and finished at the hold with yet another and one.
I didn’t see Zion take many jump shots which I love to see a physical specimen like himself attack and not settle. His perimeter jump shot does worry me with him being able to knock them down with consistency. Another area that showed me great concern was his ability to step to the free throw line and knock them down. He went 7 for 20 (35%) from the free throw line against the Big Ballers. This is something he has to work on or else we will see the hack-a-Zion when he gets to college. He did shoot the ball efficiently from the floor though, shooting 12 for 16 (75%). He had a quiet 9 rebounds, but I want to see Zion average double digit rebounds with ease. There’s no reason for him not to with his size and freakish athleticism.
I was impressed with him defensively. This is something I’ve stated before and I will again. I have extremely high expectations for Zion’s defensive potential. He showed active hands against the Big Ballers allowing him to get out in transition where he thrives the most, multiple times. He finished with a solid 3 steals. I believe that when Zion gets his conditioning where it needs to be, he will be a lockdown defender as moves from college and from college to the NBA. Zion’s ball handling also is where it needs to be to allow him to evolve the play making portion of his game.
When I have the chance to watch Zion he tends to start slow and finish strong. I understand it was an exhibition game, but I’d like to see his motor going from the start. If Zion can get his conditioning where it should, it could be scarier. He really is the closest thing to Lebron with how is built physical and style of play, that I’ve seen since Lebron came through St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. At the end of the day, Zion still showed his one of the most dominant high school players right now. He’s just like any other player that has some area where improvement will be necessary as he moves up the ranks.
I can’t lie that I’ve been skeptical about the hype behind LaMelo Ball. I will say he does a good job of setting up his teammates and putting them in good positions. He finished the game against SC Supreme with a solid 5 assists. This doesn’t take into account how he would set his teammates up for an easy shot and they blew it. He should have had close to double digit assists if his teammates would have finished some easy shots for him.
He has a good IQ for sucking in the defense to set a teammate up for an open shot. Another positive was his activity on the offensive glass. He seems to be above average for a guard in the offensive rebounding category. He did finish the game with 12 rebounds, which the 6’3″ guard out rebounded Zion in this one.
However, LaMelo’s shot selection to me is iffy at best. He loves to settle for off balance fade away three’s. This has a direct correlation of him shooting 3 for 12 (25%) from the three point line against SC Supreme. He also shot 10 for 27 (37%) from the field. For me, this is worrisome. I feel like every time I turn around LaMelo scored a lot of points but in an inefficient manner. I understand the ball is in his hands a lot, but he has a huge learning curve with his shot selection. Good thing for him, he has two high school seasons left to play.
Another point of concern is LaMelo’s turnovers. He had 7 turnovers to 5 assists last night. He won’t be able to play point guard and get a lot of minutes at a school like UCLA unless he cleans this up. In my opinion, he predetermines some of his offensive moves allowing him to get caught in the air without a plan b. Luckily for him, I believe Lonzo is someone who can help teach how to read the game better. I understand he hasn’t even started his junior year yet, so there is plenty of time for this.
His defensive effort is another concern of mine. I don’t think he’s a terrible defensive player, I just believe it is an effort thing. I don’t believe he wants to get down in a defensive position and grind it out possession after possession. He’s going to have to crack down on his defensive effort to be able to play at a high level at UCLA. Something else that should come in the next two years is bulking up. At 6’3″ he looks like he weighs 165lbs at most. With how the point guard position is revolutionizing, he is going to have to get bigger and stronger. I’m worried if he doesn’t then he will get knocked off the ball easily. It also will allow him to handle the ball stronger and not have the ball stolen like the first possession of the game when Devon Dotson stole it from him.
I know thus far I’m being critical of LaMelo, but he is not showing me that he is a top 2o player for the Class of 2019. He is not a five-star recruit yet in my opinion. I believe he is definitely a top 150 player for his class. There are just too many things for him to clean up with his shot selection and turning the ball over for me to give him a five-star grade. It will be interesting to see if he is able to work on these things for upcoming Chino Hills season.
You could argue that Devon Dotson was the best point guard on the court last night. This kid is a complete blur with the basketball. He seems to be able to get the basketball baseline to baseline as good as anyone in the country. Devon seems to be a solid on ball defender utilizing his quickness to keep opposing guards in front of him. He also has that pure point guard pedigree in him in how he is able to create for his teammates. With his quickness allowing him to blow by defenders, he easily makes the defense collapse creating open shots for his teammates.
For being only 6’2″ he hit the glass well last night ending up with 8 rebounds. He’s a good athlete so I’m glad to see he utilizes this to hit the glass when needed. He seems to be able to control the tempo well which I feel like many young point guards don’t know how to do. He never seems to be out of control. This is the reason why I believe he ended up with only two turnovers. That is fairly impressive to me considering this was the first game running with SC Supreme. To be able to mesh like he did with them was impressive to see. You would have thought that Devon had been running with them all summer.
Devon showed me why he is a top 50 player for the Class of 2018. He has that pure point guard in him, but also can attack the rim with ease to produce for himself. I would have liked to see him purposely set up Zion more. They did have a nice connection with 7:19 alley-lop to Zion that took the crowd to their feet. Either way, I believe Devon has a solid future in college. His top 8 schools in no particular order are Maryland, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Miami, Ohio State, USC, and Wake Forest.