LiAngelo Ball‘s decision to enter this summer’s NBA Draft was largely met with ridicule on social media. Chinese shoplifting scandals aside, the middle son of LaVar Ball has long been considered to be the metaphoric runt of the litter in terms of basketball talent in the family. The popular narrative is that if he wasn’t the brother of NBA rookie Lonzo Ball and top amateur prospect LaMelo Ball, no one would care who LiAngelo was.
But the truth of the matter is that UCLA, a famed college basketball program, surely recruited LiAngelo for a reason that goes well beyond bloodlines. The former three-star high school recruit was set to be one of the team’s top reserves before he decided to drop out of college during his suspension for stealing during a team trip abroad.
But since he left, his star has shone much brighter than many expected, even if it was against junior level talent while playing in Lithuania. In the hours after he declared for the draft, he scored 72 points in a game on Tuesday, including 42 in the second half alone. With a workout likely to be scheduled with multiple NBA teams, a probable roster spot on an NBA summer league team and his professional experience overseas, there is no reason to believe he won’t be on an NBA team next season.
In fact, here are five reason why he will most definitely be on one.
1. LiAngelo has a realistic chance of scoring a coveted G League two-way NBA contract that will allow him to develop in the NBA’s minor league while still being affiliated with an NBA franchise. He may go undrafted, but history has shown that if a player can prove himself in the summer league (and sometimes even if he can’t), a team will take a shot on him.
2. While pro scouts say Lonzo and LaMelo are more talented at basketball, LiAngelo has proven he’s no slouch by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, he’s the leading scorer on his team in Lithuania while boasting a stat line per 40 minutes that shows he is the model of efficiency while on the court, a trait that is rare in the pro game.
3. NBA squads that aren’t expected to compete for the playoffs could use a player like LiAngelo whose name alone could help fill seats in a sparsely populated arena. Teams at the bottom of the standings aren’t above using desperate marketing gimmicks, like publicizing a matchup between the LiAngelo and Lonzo when the Lakers come to town.
4. LiAngelo has experience playing internationally, something that should prepare him to compete in an NBA game that has been increasingly influenced by players from Europe. Having played in Lithuania, a country that has produced a number of noteworthy NBA all-star and hall of fame players, theoretically gives LiAngelo a leg up on those who played in the NCAA.
5. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, LaVar Ball predicted LiAngelo would not only be in the NBA next season, but that he would be a teammate of Lonzo on the Lakers. While it’s uncertain whether it’ll go down happen just like that, what’s not debatable is how everything else LaVar planned has pretty much come to fruition, for better or for worse.