NBA

Could LiAngelo Ball Actually Make It in the Oklahoma City Thunder Organization?

LaVar Ball is no stranger to making predictions. Although some, like Lonzo becoming a Laker, have worked out, plenty of his statements have turned out to be nothing but hot air. While it doesn’t look like all three Ball brothers will be playing in Los Angeles 2020, LiAngelo might be taking a tiny step towards the association after all.

The middle Ball brother recently joined the Oklahoma City Thunder organization as a G-League practice member. Does he really have a shot at making it to the big club?

LiAngelo Ball’s early basketball career

While LiAngelo Ball doesn’t quite have the star power of Lonzo and LaMelo, he followed a similar developmental path.

LiAngelo played high school basketball at Chino Hills High School and quickly made a name for himself. Playing alongside Lonzo, the freshman started pouring in points; a Los Angeles Times write up at the time called the Ball brothers “quite a duo.” Following his second high school season, LiAngelo committed to play NCAA basketball at UCLA.

At the start of the 2015-16 season, LaMelo joined the squad, making all three Ball brothers teammates. Chino Hills kept winning, and LiAngelo kept scoring; before long, the New York Times ran a story about the trio. While Lonzo graduated after that season, LiAngelo held down the fort, dropping over 30 points per game. MaxPreps named Ball an honorable mention on their 2016-17 high school All-American team, calling the guard “arguably the country’s most explosive scorer.”

A rapid fall from grace

While LiAngelo Ball wasn’t a marquee recruit, he still headed to UCLA to play collegiate hoops. He would barely see the floor for the Bruins, though.

During the team’s preseason trip to China, Ball and two other teammates were arrested for shoplifting. While the teenagers returned to America amid a minor political spectacle, the damage had been done; LiAngelo was suspended from the basketball program, and, in December 2017, he withdrew from the school.

LiAngelo and LaMelo then went to Lithuania, where they played BC Prienai. While the brothers put up solid numbers, their time abroad ended abruptly when LaVar, brought them back to the United States before the season concluded. Despite an unconventional early career, LiAngelo still entered the 2018 NBA draft. No teams came calling; rather than playing in the Association or even the G-League, the guard suited up for the Los Angeles Ballers in his father’s Junior Basketball Association.

Does LiAngelo Ball have any shot with the Oklahoma City Thunder organization?

While LiAngelo Ball isn’t an NBA player yet, his career recently took a tiny step forward. The guard joined the Oklahoma City Thunder organization as a G-League practice player; while he’s not on the roster, he has been working out with the minor league club since earlier in December.

The agreement is definitely a step in the right direction, but Ball will have to prove that he can actually play at a high level. Even his Junior Basketball Association stats, which surely came aginst some iffy competition, leave something to be desired; the guard scored 48 points in one game, for example, but took over 50 shots in the process.

While he clearly has talent, LiAngelo Ball hasn’t been good enough to earn a spot on a G-League roster, let alone an NBA one. A minor league practice deal is a step in the right direction, but it’s hardly a free ticket to success.