LaMelo Ball, projected first-round pick in 2020 NBA Draft, shuts down season in Australia due to foot injury

LaMelo Ball is shutting down his season in Australia with the NBL's Illawarra Hawks after suffering a bone bruise in his foot that sidelined him 12 games into the season. Ball has been rehabbing and working to get back on the court after sustaining the injury in December, but his manager, Jermaine Jackson, told ESPN that the clock on his required rehab lapsed, pushing him into the decision.

Ball is the younger brother of former No. 2 overall pick Lonzo Ball, who is now with the New Orleans Pelicans, and an equally intriguing prospect as Lonzo was back when he declared for the draft after a single season at UCLA three years ago. The 18-year-old California native has long been an intriguing pro prospect with his shot-making and passing abilities, but in the years since the Ball family has entered the spotlight, he's blossomed into a 6-foot-7 point guard and one of the most talented draft-eligible players in the 2020 class.

Declaring for the NBA Draft at this point will be no more than a formality for Ball, who joined the Hawks as a fringe first-rounder but has since solidified his standing as a top-five prospect in this class. He averaged 17 points, 6.8 assists and 7.5 rebounds per game for the Hawks in a challenging pro league, displaying enough pop in 12 games to validate buzz about being a contender for the No. 1 pick. While he struggled to shoot with efficiency -- Ball hit just 25% from 3 and 46% from the floor -- the size, skill and upside will warrant teams with top-five picks to give him a long, hard look. 

Even by shutting down his season early, Ball helped -- not hurt -- his draft stock by going overseas on the whole. And unlike Memphis freshman James Wiseman, who left more questions than answers in the wake of his tumultuous freshman season and eventual departure from the university, Ball did well for himself competing against grown men in a pro league. His checking account will benefit all the more soon.

The down side for Ball in shutting it down at this point, though, as ESPN notes, is that many critical NBA decision-makers did not get a chance to scout Ball overseas. Many did -- making the trek to Australia early in the season -- but others who put off the trip are now left with limited scouting opportunities to see him before the draft. 

Ball is the No. 2 overall prospect in our updated top-50 rankings for the 2020 NBA Draft. Our latest mock draft has him falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers at No. 3 overall.

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