Lonzo and LaMelo Ball have both taken the NBA by storm, but as it stands, who is the better Ball brother?
It wasn’t long ago when Lonzo, LaMelo, and LiAngelo Ball’s father, LaVar, was seemingly going viral daily, over various emotional proclamations that all but anointed his three sons as the next biggest things in basketball. Now, present-day, Father Ball simply looks like a genius, rather than the ignorantly biased and overcompensating dad he was often made out to be just a few years ago.
Today, two of his three children, LaMelo and Lonzo, who were both drafted as top-three NBA lottery picks, are now poised to take over the league as the primary playmakers and ball handlers for both of their respective teams' high-powered offenses. Though their brother LiAngelo wasn’t drafted, he’s still made a name for himself in professional basketball, as he's fought and worked through various G-League contracts over the last few years.
Until this point, success and fame on and off the court have defined the Ball family, especially its three brothers. However, one important, glaring question still remains: who is the best Ball brother?
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24-year-old Lonzo, the oldest Ball brother, was drafted 2nd overall in the 2017 NBA draft out of UCLA by the Los Angeles Lakers. Ball’s teammate Alex Caruso recently admitted that LA wasn't necessarily the best fit for Zo, as Ball was traded from the Lakers to the New Orleans Pelicans in a blockbuster deal surrounding superstar big-man Anthony Davis in 2019.
20-year-old LaMelo, the youngest Ball brother, had an entirely different route and first few years in the NBA. After playing with the Illawarra Hawks of the Australian-based National Basketball League (NBL), LaMelo was selected 3rd overall in the 2020 draft by the Charlotte Hornets. In his rookie season, after a scoreless debut versus the Cleveland Cavaliers, LaMelo took off, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to register a triple-double in only his 10th game, at just 19-years-old. He went on to win Rookie of the Year even after injuries limited him to a 51-game rookie campaign.
Lonzo was also hampered by injury in his rookie season, as he only played 52 games that year, similar to his younger brother. Zo didn’t begin to hit his stride offensively as soon as LaMelo did, but since joining the Pelicans in 2019, his offensive numbers gradually climbed and consistently improved. These improvements have followed Lonzo all the way to Chicago.
Constant improvement has been the story for Lonzo throughout his NBA career thus far, especially since his departure from the bright lights in Los Angeles. Zo averaged just 9.9 points in that final season with the Lakers and has seen his averages rise every year since then, averaging 11.8 and 14.6 in his first two years immediately afterward, with the Pelicans. This season with Chicago, Ball is shooting a scorching 45.2 percent from three, and 83.3 percent from the free-throw line, after years of being roasted for his jump shot.
Lonzo couldn’t get over 33 percent from three during his stint with the Lakers despite shooting the lights-out in college. He was also never able to shoot above 57 percent from the line in his first three years in the league. Now, however, Zo has shown significant improvement as he looks to take his game to the next level. The Chicago Bulls predicted this, however, as his recent sign-and-trade deal was worth $85 million over his 4-year-long contract. A big, secure payday for a player who continues to show his best basketball is yet to come.
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For LaMelo, however, life and success in the NBA came much more naturally and much more quickly. While he wasn't declared a starter until February 1st of his rookie season, LaMelo dropped a career-high 34 points and eight assists in just his third career start in the NBA. Starting his NBA career on the bench didn’t hurt Melo Ball’s growth, as he averaged 15.7 points, 6.1 assists, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game, and also had huge numbers in his per-36 minutes on the court.
According to atthehive.com, a Charlotte Hornets Community, only six other NBA players in 2020 met the per-36 minute stat threshold of 19.7 points, 7.7 assists, and 7.4 rebounds registered by Melo his rookie season. Many of those six players are the greatest superstars and MVPs the NBA has to offer, including names like Nikola Jokic, LeBron James, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Luka Doncic. Melo Ball accompanied elite NBA territory during his rookie campaign, winning the first Rookie of the Year award for Charlotte since Emeka Okafor during the 2004-05 season.
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To Lonzo’s credit though, Charlotte is a much easier place to play for a young player than the bright-light Los Angeles experience Zo endured early in his career. Not to mention Lonzo had to adjust his game to LeBron James, who joined the Lakers in time for Lonzo's sophomore season.
It’s no wonder Zo is experiencing more success with Chicago as a primary ball-handler who’s able to truly help facilitate the offense and push the tempo on fast-break opportunities. The Bulls are currently tied for second in the Eastern Conference with a 10-5 record so far this season, with Lonzo on pace for a career year statistically. Charlotte is not far behind, however, as LaMelo has led the Hornets to a 9-7 record while averaging 18.8 points, 7.5 assists, 7.4 rebounds, and over two steals through Charlotte’s first 16 games.
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So who is the better Ball brother? The answer may not be of glaring importance right now, as Lonzo and LaMelo’s accomplishments as siblings have already put the two in uncharted NBA territory. When LaMelo was drafted 3rd overall in 2020, the two became the first set of brothers in basketball history to be selected within the first three picks of the NBA Draft. Today, Lonzo is an established NBA veteran point guard who has enjoyed a significant pay and usage increase with the Bulls, while LaMelo has provided the Hornets with an über-talented centerpiece that the organization can now build around, much to the satisfaction of Charlotte’s owner and NBA legend Michael Jordan.
The Ball brothers’ comparison topic can safely join ‘LeBron or Kobe versus Jordan’ in barbershop-talk across the basketball community, but for now, one thing is known for certain. When it comes to the Ball brothers’ success, LaVar Ball deserves his credit:hewas always right.