Word from NBL clubland is growing louder that Next Stars LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton may not play a full season in a bid to prepare for the 2020 NBA draft.
The Daily Telegraph understands if Ball and Hampton are excelling at Illawarra and New Zealand halfway through the season, their agents are leaning towards pulling them out to start training camp in America.
If this becomes reality it would be a bitter blow for the NBL, given they are pinning much of the 2019/2020 NBL season around the two star Americans.
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LaMelo Ball has brought a lot of eyeballs to the NBL already. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images
Ball and Hampton have attracted record social media numbers while their presence has helped the NBL strike a deal with Facebook Watch to live stream 52 NBL games into the US involving the gun teenagers.
In a big boost, Ball Family’s reality TV show, Ball in the Family, will carry a link to the live NBL games on their Facebook page which has over a million followers.
At this point, the NBL expects Ball and Hampton to play a full season before leaving to prepare for the draft.
The 2020 NBA draft is on June 25, at least four months after the NBL season finishes.
However, history has shown that draft prospects regularly don’t complete full seasons in the lead-up to being selected.
RJ Hampton is projected to be a top ten pick in next year’s NBA draft. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images
Agents have traditionally preferred to put their players in training camp to prepare for the draft.
It’s understood this scenario is being considered for Ball and Hampton depending on form during the NBL season.
Despite this, Breakers CEO Matt Walsh expects Hampton to remain at the club for the duration of his contract.
“All I can say is that RJ and his family have been amazing and we expect him to be a Breaker all season,” Walsh said.
Hampton is a projected 2020 first-round pick, currently sitting at No. 6 in mock drafts.
The point guard from Little Elm High School in Texas has top scored for the Breakers in two of the franchise’s three pre-season games.
Ball is also excelling at Illawarra.
Ball’s outstanding debut for the Hawks in front of an army of NBA scouts at the NBL Blitz in Tasmania last week has vaulted the teenager to become a likely top three pick in next year’s NBA Draft.
ESPN on Tuesday moved Ball up more than 20 places on its mock draft to third spot and did not rule out the 18-year-old going number one.
Ball’s 19 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists for the Hawks against the Perth Wildcats at the NBL Blitz in Hobart was performed in front of 27 NBA scouts.
LaMelo Ball shines in first pre-season game
NBL: Highlights from the Hawks vs Wildcats pre-season game.
It was a dream start for Ball and the NBL, which has established itself as a legitimate alternative for America’s best young players who want to skip US college, turn professional, sign shoe deals and raise their draft stock.
“If he keeps this up, I don’t see any way he isn’t in the conversation for the number one overall pick,” one NBA executive told ESPN after the Hobart game.
“He completely changed my perception of the type of prospect he is, and all of the background info I gathered here from his coaches and teammates paint a very different story of what I thought about him off the court as well.”
Another scout told ESPN: “He reminds me of (Dallas Mavericks NBA Rookie of the Year) Luka Doncic. Just in terms of his size, his feel and his creativity”.
Originally published asFears Ball, Hampton could walk out on NBL mid-season
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