Draft Projection: Top 5 Pick
Positives: Insider Only
Negatives: Insider Only
Summary: May 23 update: Ball's talent is being eclipsed somewhat by the headlines his father is generating. I was skeptical for months that it would have much of an impact on his draft stock, but at the combine there was a lot of grumbling among scouts.
Still, with the Lakers landing the No. 2 pick, he has a great shot at going No. 2 and the talent to be a star.
May 8 update: These days, Ball is getting more attention for what he and his father are doing off the court with the Big Baller Brand than what he did on the court for UCLA.
A number of GMs still think Ball is the best prospect in the draft because of of his otherworldly passing. Kevin Pelton and I debated Fultz v. Ball on Friday, with Pelton leaning Ball while I leaned Fultz.
Ball is not expected to participate in any part of the combine this week.
April 12 update: Fultz might have the edge on Ball, but it's a small one, and Ball's fans are pretty adamant that he holds more upside than Fultz. His ability to make plays for others stands out as his strongest attribute for scouts.
"Put Fultz on the floor with the same UCLA teammates, and I don't think they're nearly as successful," one GM said.
Still, Ball's porous defense causes many who prefer Fultz to wonder whether Ball can have the same impact on both ends of the floor.
April 4 update: All indications are that Ball is dying to play for the Lakers, but right now the Suns have slightly better odds of getting the No. 2 pick in the draft. Would the Suns draft a point guard given that they already have several talented PGs on their roster? Absolutely.
Ball is a better playmaker than Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight and would be able to get the most out of the rest of the Suns' young talent. And landing Ball would allow the Suns to use Bledsoe, Knight or both to land another significant piece this summer.
March 27 update: After playing like the No. 1 pick in the opening two rounds for UCLA, Ball fizzled against Kentucky -- scoring just 10 points, hitting just 1-for-6 from beyond the arc and committing four turnovers. He was completely outplayed by Fox after the first five minutes of the game and down the stretch he looked surprisingly passive.
It was one of his worst performances of the season at the worst possible time for UCLA and it was clear that Kentucky had scouted him well.
That said, the NBA folks I spoke with don't think the performance will affect his stock. He has been awesome all year and one game won't do damage to a guy that has the best court vision of any point guard prospect in a long time. He's still a likely top-three pick and some lottery teams have him ranked No. 1 on their board.
March 23 update: Ball was tremendous for UCLA in the opening two rounds, but he didn't have to play against elite talent on the other side. That will change Friday when he goes head-to-head with De'Aaron Fox for the second time this season.
Ball got the win and played well (14 points, six rebounds and seven assists), though he did have six turnovers and Fox's speed was an issue for him on both ends of the floor. This is the most anticipated matchup in the Sweet 16 for NBA teams to watch.
March 20 update: Ball played like the No. 1 pick in the draft, especially against Cincinnati when he scored 18 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished out nine assists and picked up a couple of steals. His jump shot was falling (6-for-10 from 3 over two games) and the overall confidence in which he runs the team really shined after a shaky performance against Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament.
When Ball plays this way, UCLA has a chance to win it all. If he can lead the Bruins to the Final Four, he'll have the ammunition he needs to convince NBA teams they should take him ahead of Markelle Fultz.
March 14 update: With Markelle Fultz's season over (and the Washington guard still ranked No. 1 overall in our top 100), the NCAA tournament will be Ball's best chance to convince scouts that he's the top prospect in the draft.
Ball has the game and demeanor to do it. He's the best passer in college basketball, with ridiculous range on his jumper and an elite basketball IQ. He thrives in big-game situations.
Ball has the ability to lead the Bruins all the way to an NCAA title. If he does (or even gets to the Final Four) the narrative that he's a winner who makes his teammates better could give him the edge over Fultz.
March 6 update: Ball continues to gain momentum in the drive for the No. 1 pick. While he is a less complete player than Fultz, the things he does well, he does really well.
Scouts are particularly enamored with his ability to control the game offensively. He makes everyone around him better but can take over games when things get close.
Several teams with good odds of winning the lottery like the Lakers, Suns and Magic appear to be leaning toward Ball. With Fultz's season probably over, a big NCAA tournament for Ball could help him gain even more ground.
Feb. 1 update: Ball is a sexier prospect than Fultz, and a player with his ceiling -- think Jason Kidd with a jumper -- would be tough to pass up. But he fluctuates more than Fultz. When he's hot, he's the most dangerous player in America. When he gets cold, he can force things.
In a loss against USC last week, he had a season-low four assists and a season-high seven turnovers. The matchup against Fultz will highlight a major contrast in styles. Saturday's game, along with another one in March, could end up being a deciding factor for the No. 1 pick.
Jan. 24 update: As far as upside goes, Ball has the highest ceiling in my opinion, and in the opinion of many GMs and scouts.
A number of GMs refer to Ball as Jason Kidd with a jump shot. He has the size, strength, athleticism and uncanny feel for the game that Kidd did. And he's ultracompetitive, like Kidd. The difference is that Ball is shooting 43 percent from 3-point range on 5.6 attempts per game. While Kidd got better as a shooter as his game matured, he never shot anything like that.
Alas, Ball's jump shot is also the one thing that often has scouts wringing their hands. While it goes in, it sure doesn't look like it should. His unusual shot mechanics scare some scouts and explain why some teams feel that red flag puts Fultz ahead of him.
Dec. 22 update: While Fultz may be the most complete player in the country, Ball has certainly been the most electric.
His otherworldly passing, deep, deep range on his jumper and ability to explode off the floor have offered a dizzying array of highlights for the undefeated Bruins. Scouts think he's Jason Kidd with a jump shot.
For a team that wants to play the way the Golden State Warriors play, Ball will be very tempting as a lead guard. The only thing that gives scouts pause? His unorthodox jump shot has some questioning whether he can keep shooting 3s at a 45 percent clip.
Oct 31 update: Ball is one of the most versatile players in the draft. He averaged a triple-double in high school and is a highlight reel waiting to happen. His dynamic court vision and deep range on his jumper have had some scouts comparing him to Steph Curry. However, Ball isn't anywhere near Curry when it comes to accuracy as a shooter. Some scouts question his ability to transition from a unique high school system to the pros, but most feel he has a chance to be a star at UCLA.
Aug 23 Update: Elfrid Payton might have the starting point guard job right now, but the Orlando could always use long-term depth, and Ball could be a star with a rare combination of elite court vision and scoring ability.
He averaged a triple-double as a high school senior. His game is a bit more a subject of debate among scouts than that of the other point guards on the list, but if he hits, he'll hit big.
Aug 4 Update: Ball is more polarizing than Fultz, Smith or Ntilikina -- but the scouts that love him, really love him.
He averaged -- that's right, averaged -- a triple double his senior year. He's the most exciting playmaker of the group; there's a ton of sizzle to his game. He sees plays before anyone else on the floor does. He also has elite size for his position and while he's a streaky shooter, he has serious range on his jump shot.
Some scouts question whether the freewheeling style of ball he played in high school alongside his two younger brothers will translate to the college game. But if it does? We probably have him too low.
Apr 10 Update: Ball may be the best pure passer in the projected 2017 draft class. He's the consummate floor general who always seems to make the right pass and doesn't wilt under pressure. He has great size and length for his position. His court vision for his size is phenomenal. He rebounds and can defend multiple positions.
The biggest question marks for him are strength and shooting. While he has a lot of range on his jumper, he has inconsistent shot mechanics.
Scouts are all over the place on which point guards they love the most in this class, but the ones who love Ball think he has Penny Hardaway-type potential.