It’s been a long wait for both of the Ball brothers to play against each other. Last night, Lonzo and LaMelo Ball faced each other for the first time in what will likely be numerous matchups for years to come. Lonzo, the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, and LaMelo, the No. 3 overall pick in 2020, have been dubbed raw players with raw superstar potential. With the help of his father, LaVar, hyping them up, many fans and media members believe there is a high ceiling for these two players.
Who has the higher ceiling though? Both are highly-touted lottery players and are still at a very young age. Despite LaMelo having a small sample size in the NBA, he has a few years of professional basketball under his belt. Who is the better brother in basketball?
Scoring - LaMelo Ball
Out of Lonzo and LiAngelo, LaMelo has the highest expectations starting with a franchise. Ever since Ball scored 92 points in high school, NBA teams have waited for this moment for Ball to prove he can be a dominant scorer on the highest stage. You can look at his 25% three-point shooting clip in the NPL and shake your head. However, he played only 12 games and has played international basketball in the last two seasons. Thanks to higher volume, Ball is going to get a chance to find a rhythm. When he does, the rest of the league better watch out.
Lonzo has a career average of 11.2 points per game in three complete seasons. He is not known as a three-point shooter and doesn’t typically take more than 12 shots a game. This is a category that his brother has him beat.
Athleticism - LaMelo Ball
At 19 years old, the younger brother has a higher ceiling. Through 30 games, primarily coming off the bench, Ball is averaging 14.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 6.1 assists. Lonzo is averaging 14.3 points through 27 games, which would be a career-high for him. However, LaMelo is performing better in field-goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, and steals.
Lonzo is 23 years old and has three years of work in the league. LaMelo is putting up these numbers in small sample size, so it’s fair to say that LaMelo is ahead of the game. During the preseason, LaMelo was setting up his teammates with some wicked passes and playing some decent defense. The best part is that there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Defense - Lonzo Ball
Lonzo has been a productive defensive player for three years. In every season, Lonzo has finished positive on defensive win shares. His defensive rating last season was a career-high 111, which is considered above league average.
Again, it’s a small sample size, but LaMelo’s defensive win shares are significantly low (0.4), and his defensive rating is lower. With LaMelo’s offense and Lonzo’s defense, this would be a great one-on-one game.
Clutch - LaMelo Ball
Let’s paint the scenery. The Hornets or the Pelicans are trailing by three points with 5.2 seconds left on the clock. There is only time for one shot to tie the game. Who do you feel more comfortable taking that shot? If your answer is Lonzo Ball, then you haven’t seen enough Pelicans games or that ugly three-point jump shot.
It should be said that neither player would likely take the last shot on their respective teams. The Pelicans have Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, while the Hornets have Gordon Hayward. However, if we had to pick, the answer is LaMelo. He has a streaky outside shot that has a higher percentage going in than Lonzo.
Leader - Lonzo Ball
Lonzo commands the offense in New Orleans. Last season, he assisted on over 29% of the team’s offense. This year, one-fifth of the team’s offense involves him touching the ball. He has always been a natural point guard that can set up his teammates. The point guard is the floor general on the court and Lonzo fits that description well.
LaMelo is blocked by Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier. Both guards are playing solid but that leaves LaMelo to come off the bench. Plus, LaMelo doesn’t have enough experience to earn the respect of his teammates yet. Sure, he played in Australia last season but his story is well-known. His dad proclaimed he was the best player of his class, pulled him out of the college portal, and went overseas with him after he was 16. The NBA doesn’t listen to rookies unless they come out playing like Kevin Durant, Luca Doncic, or LeBron James. Respect is earned.
Basketball IQ - Even
If we want to be technical, both players have spent about the same amount of time in the pro league. Lonzo enters his fourth season in the NBA. LaMelo has played in Lithuania and Australia. Lonzo technically has one more season of play for when he played at UCLA but that is about it. Both players are extremely smart because they have lived and breathed basketball.
It would be unfair to say that Lonzo gets the upper hand because he has more experience in the NBA. Ever since LaMelo left high school, he has played professional basketball with some of the top talents in the international league. This is easily a push.
Impact - LaMelo Ball
Statistically speaking, LaMelo is already doing that. He has better averages on nearly every major statistical category through just eight games. He can shoot, rebounds, or pass. This is all coming off the bench too. LaMelo could be a starter by the end of the season, but for now, it appears he will be someone that starts out sitting and ends up finishing the game.
Lonzo is potentially the third or fourth-best player on his team. The same could go for LaMelo but he has more of a chance to change the outcome of a game more than Lonzo with his ability to shoot from deep. Any team will allow Lonzo to shoot from a foot behind the line. Because LaMelo can make that shot, team defenses have to shift, which opens up opportunities for other players.
1 on 1 Game - Even
LaMelo can make the shots but Lonzo can guard it. LaMelo hasn’t proved that he can create his shot. For now, he has to wait for someone to get him the ball. However, Lonzo could make a move and drive to the rim. It’s hard to say what would happen.
Both are equal in their physique too. LaMelo is 6-foot-8 and 180 pounds, while Lonzo is 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds. This would be a pure toss-up of who has the better offense or better defense that afternoon. With no physical advantage, this is a push.
This Season - LaMelo Ball
Despite not starting consistently, LaMelo is having the better season in terms of scoring, rebounding, and assists. His triple-double performance, which set a record for the youngest player ever, is going to be a highlight of the season. His ability to score and make his teammates better has helped Charlotte contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
As for Lonzo, this is the best season of his career but he is not doing much to help New Orleans contend for a playoff spot. Not to mention, Lonzo has been a consistent mention among trade rumors. There is a very good chance he is going to be traded because this is a contract year. With a new team, maybe he will produce even more.
LaMelo Ball vs. Lonzo Ball 5-2