As Seth Curry has succeeded in carving out a solid NBA career in the shadow of his superstar brother, it's easy to forget he wasn't drafted when he came out of Duke in 2013. There were a few reasons for that. One, he was injured much of his senior season and didn't get to show his full capabilities. Two, other than shooting, nothing about his game jumps out at you, and there were justified concerns about his ability to create separation, particularly off the dribble, against NBA athletes.
But that wasn't all. I remember talking to Darren Erman, who coached Curry during his breakout 2015 Summer League that wound up getting him his first real shot in the league with the Sacramento Kings, and we discussed how much Stephen Curry's unexpected success might've worked against Seth.
You would think having an NBA brother would only work in your favor, but in this case, rather than evaluating Seth strictly against his peers, they looked at him through the prism of his brother. Nobody is going to look good next to Stephen Curry, and when put inside that mental split-screen, Seth on one side, Stephen on the other, Seth's shortcomings become too apparent. It was an unfair way to judge his game, as time has proven. He's a good NBA player. Just not a great one. He should've been drafted. Clearly.
Fast-forward to 2020, and here we are with LaMelo Ball, who is arguably the most polarizing player in the upcoming draft. Some scouts love him, or at least his upside. Some think he has bust written all over him. Hanging over his evaluation is, of course, his brother Lonzo Ball, who went No. 2 overall to the Lakers in 2017 and has, relatively speaking, been a disappointment to this point in his career.
Let's be clear about this: Lonzo has already proven himself as a solid NBA player. He's going to be in the league for a long time. If we take his shooting improvements last season at face value (and disregard his horrible showing in the bubble), he still has a chance to be a really good player. He's long, a great positional rebounder, a versatile and instinctive defender, a phenomenally talented pace pusher and an elite ball-sharer. Notice I didn't say elite passer, because he doesn't make a ton of passes that actually blow your hair back. He keeps it moving.
LaMelo is a truly phenomenal passer, and as a 6-foot-8 point guard, that's the reason the people who love him wouldn't hesitate to take him in the top three. But like Lonzo, he's a very questionable shooter; what's worse is his shot selection. The dude will gun from anywhere but only made 25 percent of his 3-pointers in Australia.
Being a great passer becomes a far less valuable skill if you aren't enough of a threat to shoot or score yourself to draw defenders away from the potential recipients of those passes. Generally speaking, this has been Lonzo's problem. Take him out of transition, and he's just not creating a lot of offense despite his unquestionable ability to pass the ball and see the floor because nobody has to gravitate to him, and away from others, with the ball in his hands.
Why would LaMelo be any different? If he's just a tall, great passer, so is Ben Simmons, and we know the problem Simmons causes in a half-court offense. Meanwhile, Simmons is at least a capable scorer from a power standpoint and an all-league defender. Lonzo is a good defender, too. LaMelo is downright awful and, though he's young, he hasn't exactly shown a desire to commit to the less-glamorous half of the game.
So LaMelo and Lonzo look alike, and for the most part have pretty similar games: Obviously, there's a natural tendency to use Lonzo as at least some kind of LaMelo barometer. That might not be fair. They're not the same person, or player, just as Seth and Stephen should've been viewed entirely separate.
But in the case of LaMelo and Lonzo, it really is hard to see too much difference between them from 10,000 feet. Get into the fine points, and discerning eyes can always find distinguishing traits. But there's a fool-me-twice-shame-on-me element to LaMelo. The Lakers got all worked up about Lonzo's passing and fell for the hype his father cooked up and took Lonzo ahead of Jayson Tatum, De'Aaron Fox, Donovan Mitchell and Bam Adebayo.
This is widely considered to be a weak draft, at least at the top, so this year might be less about who you're passing up, but the fact remains that LaMelo and Lonzo's games are very similar and that game hasn't translated as expected for Lonzo. That might not hurt LaMelo's stock, necessarily. But it certainly can't help it.