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Zagoria: Nets among NBA teams doing due diligence on LaMelo Ball

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NBL Rd 1 - Illawarra v Brisbane Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Back in 2015, the San Antonio Spurs had the 26th and 55th pick in the NBA Draft, but their assistant GM at the time, Sean Marks, reached out to D’Angelo Russell as part of the Spurs draft due diligence. DLo wound up the No. 2 pick, taken by the Lakers.

Two years later, Marks, now with the Nets, traded Brook Lopez to L.A. for Russell. He felt comfortable going after DLo. The trade ultimately led to the Nets getting Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. So ya never know.

As of now, the Nets won’t have a pick higher than 20. They don’t have their own pick, but do control the Sixers pick, lottery protected, and the Warriors pick, top 20 protected. But apparently, that’s not stopping Marks for doing his due diligence again, this time on LaMelo Ball, who like his brother Lonzo, looks like a top pick.

Adam Zagoria, writing for Forbes, reports...

The Blazers, Pelicans, Nets and Raptors have reached out to executives at Spire Academy in Ohio where the 6-foot-7 Ball played last season before joining Australia’s NBL for the 2019-20 season. The Cavaliers have also evaluated the youngest Ball, sources said. With his strong play overseas, Ball is now in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Zagoria interviewed the man the Nets etc have been in touch with and heard nothing but positive things about the youngest Ball brother, a 6’7” point guard now playing for Illawarra Hawks and wowing everyone who’s seen him play.

“LaMelo is a 6-foot-7-plus playmaker who sees the floor at an elite level,” Justin Brantley, the academy director at Spire, told me. “He makes everyone around him better and has shown that his game tends to get better as the level of competition rises around him. He plays above the rim, has more than serviceable range and although his form is ‘unorthodox,’ he shoots the ball well from 3. He has become a more motivated defender and has shown the work ethic, dedication and desire to get better and be an elite guard in the NBA.”

Brantley also pointed out that LaMelo has 4.9 million followers on Instagram, 700,000 more than Zion Williamson, this year’s No. 1 pick.

That the Nets would reach out, based on their history, shouldn’t surprise. Things change in the NBA. Moreover, the Nets almost certainly have a good read on what he’s doing down under. Marks, of course, is from New Zealand, the core of the Nets performance team is Australian, and the Sydney Kings, the NBL’s iconic franchise, is now coached by Will Weaver who spent three years with the Nets, the last as the head coach in Long Island.

Should we get excited about LaMelo? Probably not now, but, again, ya never know.