Charlotte Hornets

2021 NBA Summer League: Is LiAngelo Ball carving a path to the NBA with his performance?

LiAngelo Ball isn't just the brother of Lonzo and LaMelo.

A member of the Charlotte Hornets Summer League team, LiAngelo is making a name for himself in Las Vegas, proving that he wasn't simply a novelty addition to the summer squad of his younger brother's franchise. With limited opportunity, Ball has proven that he can hold his own at the Summer League stage, turning in double-digit performances in each of his first two games.

MORE: LiAngelo making most of opportunity with Hornets

But could it translate to a concrete opportunity in the league?

LiAngelo, the middle of the three Ball brothers, has taken a unique path to get to this point, but his profile isn't that far off of a typical NBA player. Coming out of high school in 2017, 247Sports ranked Ball 226th among high school seniors, ahead of current NBA players in McKinley Wright, Nicolas Claxton and Chris Duarte.

While he only took the floor for an exhibition game in Westwood, Ball's standing as a prospect is a reminder that UCLA doesn't just offer anyone a basketball scholarship.

Four years later, Ball is looking to crack an NBA roster, and he's got the measurables to do it.

On the Hornets' Summer League roster, Ball is listed as a 6-foot-5 forward that weighs in at 230 pounds. Of roughly 60 NBA players that measured around 6-foot-5 last season, Ball's measurements are most similar to those of Kelan Martin of the Indiana Pacers and Abdel Nader of the Phoenix Suns.

Aside from their measurables, Martin and Nader are similar in that they each shot over 40 percent - albeit on low volume - from beyond the arc in the 2020-21 season, in addition to providing some value on the defensive end.

A shooter by trade, LiAngelo has the smoothest jump shot in the family, putting his jumper on full display by shooting 5-for-8 from deep in his summer debut. In today's NBA, there's always a place for shooting, but given his size, Ball's release might not be speedy enough for him to be a 6-foot-5 specialist at the NBA level like the 6-foot-7 Duncan Robinson or 6-foot-10 Davis Bertans, both all-world shooters, to boot.

This isn't to say that Ball can't develop into that calibre of a shooter - Robinson's break came after an impressive showing in the 2018 Summer League - but it is a reminder that there is a stark contrast to going 6-for-12 in two Summer League games and shooting at a similar clip over the course of an 82-game season.

With that in mind, Ball's best bet to carve a path to the league is a commitment to being a difference-maker on the defensive end to work himself into the mould of a 3-and-D player. Ball's athleticism won't blow you away, but he has the strength to hold his own and the basketball pedigree to be a smart defender, something that can cause teams to give him an attentive look.

But from what teams? And what would that look even amount to?

Let's start with Charlotte.

The Hornets believed in LiAngelo Ball enough to extend him the Summer League invite, and he's made the most of the minutes he's been granted by coach Dutch Gaitley, but Charlotte's NBA roster is pretty crowded at all positions.

After a busy offseason, the Hornets have 17 players on a standard NBA contract, while their two Two-Way slots have been filled by 2021 draft pick Scottie Lewis and 2018 draft pick Arnoldas Kulboka. Rookie DJ Carton signed an Exhibit 10 deal with the franchise, which ensures a training camp invite and an incentive-laden pathway to the franchise's G League affiliate, the Greensboro Swarm, should he be cut by the Hornets ahead of opening night of the 2021-22 NBA season.

Provided Charlotte doesn't trim down its roster over the next eight weeks, it could have its 20-man group for training camp already set.

That being said, LiAngelo Ball could still end up on a G League contract with the Greensboro Swarm, which is commonplace for Summer League standouts, even those that don't receive Exhibit 10 deals. Goodwill with the Hornets franchise could facilitate such a deal, which could also be a fast-track to a spot to join the roster at some point during the season.

Should a member of the Hornets' 15-man roster get traded or waived, a spot would become open. The same applies for the Two-Way players, each of whom could either be waived or see their contracts converted to a standard NBA deal, which could open a Two-Way contract.

Around the league, Ball's performance in the Summer League also doubles as an audition for 29 other teams. To keep things in the family, the Chicago Bulls have a number of roster openings, including both of their Two-Way spots.

LiAngelo Ball also has preexisting familiarity with the Detroit Pistons and Oklahoma City Thunder organizations, signing a deal with the Thunder's G League affiliate in March of 2020 and signing a training camp deal with the Pistons in December of 2020.

All this to say, it's not uncommon for teams to be enamoured with a player to the point that they sign them away from other teams during the Summer League.

It's becoming clearer and clearer that LiAngelo Ball isn't as far off from being an NBA player as many may have perceived, but there are still just 510 roster spots total, with thousands vying for each one of them, many of whom never suit up for a preseason game, let alone make a difference on the Summer League stage.

While it appears that the 23-year-old's best basketball is ahead of him, the path won't be any easier. This summer is proof to the world that LiAngelo Ball at least has a shot.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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