Published On: Fri, Dec 8th, 2017

Where now for LaMelo, LiAngelo, and LaVar?

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ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP / Getty

Now that the Ball family has washed their hands of the NCAA by having youngest sons LiAngelo and LaMelo sign with Lonzo’s agent with the intent of landing an international contract, the question becomes: Where in the world will they play now?

To be clear, this is ultimately about LaMelo, currently the seventh-ranked prospect in the 2019 ESPN 60. Older brother LiAngelo most likely does not have a future in the NBA. But, unless the league changes its one-and-done draft rule that requires players to be either 19 years of age or one year removed from their high school graduation to be selected, LaMelo will need to play in a foreign – or alternate – arrangement for two-plus seasons (he’s currently being home-schooled by father LaVar). Under current conditions, he won’t be able to play in the NBA until the 2020-21 season.

So, where to?

Europe

Precedent from prep players Brandon Jennings
Competition level Strong

Opportunities will vary given the multiple teams across several countries in Europe, but it’s far from a slam dunk. Many European clubs are well-established and stocked with veterans. Kristaps Porzingis, for instance, averaged less than 11 minutes per game in his first two years with Spanish team Sevilla.

Hope for the Balls comes in the experience of Brandon Jennings, who played for a year in Italy rather than the NCAA. It wasn’t a cakewalk, though. Jennings shot just 38 percent in 43 games for Lottomatica Roma, but was still picked 10th in the 2009 NBA Draft.

It’s debatable whether European club basketball powers in Spain, Greece, and Turkey would be interested in the Balls, including the presence of LaVar. The case may be different in second-tier leagues like France and Israel.

“People don’t understand Europe,” an anonymous agent told SNY’s Adam Zagoria. “It’s no joke. They may get signed as a curiosity but it won’t last.”

China


Precedent from prep players Emmanuel Mudiay
Competition level Middling

This may be the Balls best bet, even if LiAngelo doesn’t have a strong association with China. For better or for worse, the talent level is mediocre in the Chinese Basketball Association. NBA castoffs like Jimmer Fredette and Jared Sullinger are absolutely dominating the circuit, and the league restricts foreign players to no more than three roster spots per team.

Emmanuel Mudiay averaged 18 points on 48 percent shooting for the Guangdong Southern Tigers in 2014-15.

Australia

Precedent from prep players Terrance Ferguson
Competition level Middling

The National Basketball League of Australia has been growing in popularity as an alternative to the G League for the past few years, but so far Terrance Ferguson is the only blue-chipper to spurn the NCAA for it.

On one hand, Australia offers less culture shock to Americans than foreign-speaking countries (it’s like a British Texas), but on the other, NBL players are not paid much.

Other possibilities

National Basketball League of Canada (Pros: Closer to the U.S. Cons: Very little money, players frequently travel by bus).

Philippine Basketball Association (Pros: Some of the most passionate basketball fans on Earth. Cons: Questionable competition level).

BIG3 (Pros: Domestic, and a potential marketing dream for LaVar. Cons: The league presently has a minimum player age of 30).



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