Steve’s Round 1 Mock Draft 1.0

The national championship has concluded and if your NFL team has not made the playoffs then congrats, it’s DRAFT SZN! This is the debut of my very first actual mock draft. Sure I’ve gone through hundreds of mock simulations this season, but now that half the draft order is finalized, we can truly get to work. No trades in this mock, that’ll come later once we can truly get a lay of the land.

Without further ado…

*I used PFF and The Draft Network’s top team needs as well as my own knowledge to base these picks.

1.01 Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

The no brainer here. For anyone thinking that he may not go first overall, just stop, there’s no point. Then again, it’s Jacksonville, who the hell knows with them.

1.02 New York Jets – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio St.

This is up in the air for me. Personally, I think Sam Darnold has shown enough to think that he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. The big question will be is if he is better than who is available when the Jets are picking. I think not. So my QB2 Justin Fields is the pick here and Darnold will be moved to another team.

1.03 Miami Dolphins – Penei Sewell, OT Oregon

I foresee the Dolphins trading back from this spot to a QB hungry team but I’m skipping trades for now. If the Dolphins stay put and figure they want to give Tua another year (they should) Sewell is the obvious choice to the anchor a O-Line for the future.

1.04 Atlanta Falcons – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

Supposedly, Arthur Blank may ready to move on from Matt Ryan and even Julio Jones to begin a total rebuild. If this happens the rebuild should start with BYU’s Zach Wilson. He’s got all the arm talent in the world and could be just the fresh start that Atlanta is needing.

1.05 Cincinnati Bengals – Jamar Chase, WR, LSU

Bengals will be upset they’ve missed the Sewell sweepstakes but teaming Joe Burrow up with his former LSU teammate Jamar Chase will be a great consolation. Chase is my WR2 but you can’t really go wrong with any of the top 3 WRs.

1.06 Philadelphia Eagles – Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Philly needs weapons, in a bad way. Devonte Smith more than fits the bill. My WR1 is the 2nd receiver taken in the class to reunite with former Bama (and Oklahoma) quarterback Jalen Hurts.

1.07 Detroit Lions – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn St.

Parsons has dominated from the linebacker position and gets to the ball with great speed. His ability to blitz from the 2nd level is impressive and has many believing he can play off the edge in stints. Detroit could use a dynamic player like this on that end of the ball.

1.08 Carolina Panthers – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota St.

The Panthers quickly found out the hard way that Teddy Bridgewater isn’t the answer at QB for their team. Trey Lance had a meteoric rise in 2019 posting insane film and numbers. 28 TDs and 0 INTs is nothing to be scoffed at regardless of what level you’re playing it. ESPECIALLY when you’re as aggressive with the ball as Lance is. He may be the most raw QB in this class but since they’ve contractually tied themselves to Bridgewater so there doesn’t have to be a rush to start him immediately. (even though they probably should)

1.09 Denver Broncos – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan

You can never have enough pass rushers. Broncos already have Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, one of which is 32 and coming off an injury and the other who’s due for a pay day after 2022. Get young and stay productive on the defensive line and you will have very few problems.

1.10 Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama

Dallas has felt the loss of Byron Jones heavily as they’ve ended up having the worst pass defenses in the league the past year. The best cornerback in this draft won’t fall out of the top 10 and slips to Dallas in my first mock, and can hopefully be a cure to their issues.

1.11 New York Giants – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

Giants spent last years pick on a LT this year they look to upgrade the weapons around Daniel Jones in what I think will be his last chance as a starter this season. Jaylen Waddle is thought of by many to be the best receiver in this class but with the rise of his teammate Devonta Smith and Jamar Chase a likely top 5 pick, Waddle slips out of the top 10 and into the Giants hands.

1.12 San Francisco 49ers – RaShawn Slater, OL, Northwestern

San Fran could use an upgrade at the line position, they traded for Trent Williams last season who has been on IR but could use some refreshing at other slots as well. Slater has played both tackle positions and is seen as a guy who could easily be worked to inside to play guard and even center. A jack of all trades if you will for the 49ers.

1.13 Los Angeles Chargers – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

Chargers have their quarterback in Justin Herbert and they already have weapons in place, now it’s time to protect him. They traded their LT, Russell Okung, away last year to bring in guard Trai Turner, so drafting a tackle in the first round makes sense in what appears to be a solid class.

1.14 Minnesota Vikings – Alijah Vera-Tucker, iOL, USC

Minnesota is pretty stout on offense but could really use some work upgrading their interior line. With Slater off the board they take the next best versatile linemen in Vera-Tucker. Another guy who’s played LT and is being seen as a true guard at the next level.

1.15 New England Patriots – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Long story short. The Patriots may have the worst skill group in the league. The hope is that one of the big 3 receivers falls to them but in this mock they get arguably the best “pass catcher” in this draft anyways in TE Kyle Pitts. Belichick loves his tight ends so it’s a natural fit in that regards and if they keep QB Cam Newton, he’s had his fair share of success with a tight end as his #1 options as well.

1.16 Arizona Cardinals – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

Arizona’s got some questions all over the roster and how they missed the playoffs is beyond me, they’ll go BPA here with Caleb Farley who I think is a top 15 pick. Patrick Peterson may be on the wrong end of 30 and even if he isn’t getting another lockdown corner is never a bad thing!

1.17 Las Vegas Raiders – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami

Raiders need pass rushing help. Maxx Crosby lead the team with 7 sacks which is solid but I think there is still more to be desired there. Unfortunately this isn’t a deep pass rusher class on the face but Rousseau is a raw prospect who has high potential to be a solid pass rusher.

1.18 Miami Dolphins – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

Miami elected to protect Tua with their first pick and now they’ll look to get him a weapon with their 2nd. This receiver class looks to be quite deep and Bateman is one of the best the group. Him being WR4 is pretty crazy but that’s just how good the top 3 are supposed to be.

1.19 Washington Football Team – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama

The Football Team played themselves out of a Top 4 QB in this draft but that can be addressed in FA. If it is look for the Team to go O-Line. Again a rich tackle class this year will have plenty of QBs happy this year.

1.20 Chicago Bears – Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas

The Bears got problems. Do they keep Trubisky? Do they need more weapons? I got no clue, so we’re going O-Line. Maybe this helps Mitch if they keep him around.

1.21 Indianapolis Colts – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

Unsure what the Colts will do here with QB being a big question mark going into the offseason. I do know that they need CB help so that’s what we’ll slot them for now until they truly enter the QB sweepstakes.

1.22 Tennessee Titans – Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas

Like the Raiders the Titans need to find some more sacks. They’ll take a shot on a EDGE this draft hoping he can be that guy. Tennessee is usually strong defensively but this where they’ve been lacking for the past couple seasons.

1.23 New York Jets – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio St.

The Jets went with Fields here with the 2nd pick, so we’re gonna be cheesy and give him his best friend on the field, Chris Olave. Jets start early with surrounding their franchise QB with weapons.

1.24 Pittsburgh Steelers – Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame

Another tackle needy team, Pittsburgh also has some questions surrounding themas it relates to their historic QB. For now we’ll assume Big Ben is staying, so Pittsburgh will look to keep him standing for one more season.

1.25 Jacksonville Jaguars – Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan

Jags got their man with Lawrence, now they have to keep him up right so he can use that golden arm of his. Look for them to dip into this tackle rich class.

1.26 Cleveland Browns – Christian Barmore, iDL, Alabama

Barmore made himself some money in the National Championship. How much money is question but for now he’ll be the first iDL taken in what seems to be an iffy class. Browns add a good player to a already strong defensive line.

1.27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

Tampa Bay finds themselves in that weird limbo of having a old as hell QB and being stuck at the end of the rounds because he’s so good. So they’ll need to hit on a late round QB. Mac Jones has probably played his way into the first round and some even have him as a top 10 pick (Lol). Maybe he’s Brady’s successor in Tampa.

1.28 Baltimore Ravens – Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU

Somehow the Ravens need weapons. That sounds really weird because most people fear this team as is, but really it’s Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews and that’s about it. Hollywood Brown has his flashes but he’s a true #1, he’ll need a running mate.

1.29 New Orleans Saints – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa

Saints need LB help so who better than the dude who just picked up the Bednarik and Nagurski award.

1.30 Buffalo Bills – Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia

Bills know what they’re doing, and they know they could use some cornerback help. Best available here is Stokes out of Georgia.

1.31 Green Bay Packers – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

Green Bay has finally done it. They’ll get Aaron Rodgers a first round receiver. Davante Adams is obviously a supreme stud but having a gadget guy like Toney who can work the slot will be wonderful for a team built like the packers.

1.32 Kansas City Chiefs – Wyatt Davis, iOL, Ohio St.

Chiefs don’t need much, but they could use a guard, Wyatt Davis seems like a guy who can slot in and start for 12 years.

2020-21 Season Preview: PJ Washington

After an extremely promising display in his rookie season with Charlotte, the expectations for PJ Washington going into his 2nd year are very high. With an increased role and the addition of elite playmakers on the roster, Washington should be primed to continue his development in a positive direction this season with the Hornets.

Last season PJ did just about everything well enough to convince us that he was an excellent draft pick who could do just about everything and fit the bill of modern day power forward. Shooting 46% from the field, 37.5% from three, 18th and 8th among rookies respectively. Not only did PJ display the ability to shoot effectively, but he showcased an arsenal of ways to put the ball in the hoop. Just simply watch the below video to see with your own two eyes.

The best part about is that he did so efficiently and with consistency. Ultimately he was robbed from the 1st team all rookie team. They put Eric Paschall on there instead of PJ, I mean cmon.

While Washington proved to be an effective player on the offensive end of the ball, on the defensive end he became a solid player as well. While he’s not the greatest interior defender or rim protector he can get the job done in a stint. His defensive ability has many believing (wishing rather) that we’ll be seeing a lot more small ball this season with Washington at the 5. If this tactic works that would be huge for a young team like the Hornets who like to get up and down the court with a sense of urgency.

So far this season we’ve had a roller coaster of a season from Washington that have had many concerned and calling for him to benched. On bot ends of the ball he was not up to standard and looking flat out lost on the defensive end.

The start of this season was a whole lot of that and instead of a whole lot of this.

We’re only three games in now so whoever was calling for PJ’s job was sort of jumping the gun with that, but I can understand the concern. The PJ Washington we saw in preseason and in the season opener against Cleveland was not the same Washington we saw last season or in the past couple games for that matter. However after the past two games against OKC and Brooklyn it looks like we’ve got our PJ back.

This season I’m looking for Washington to just continue his development in the path that it’s going. The team is going to ask a lot from him, he’s going to be looked at to do just about everything on the court, shoot, distribute, anchor a defense, rebound, small ball 5, and if he’s able to step up to plate and seize the opportunity then what we already know will be written in stone. He’ll be a good. maybe great player in this league for a very long time.

2020-21 Player Preview: Terry Rozier

When Terry Rozier was brought over to Charlotte in the sign-and-trade deal last season involving Kemba Walker, I won’t lie, I was salty about it. I didn’t like it at all, especially the contract, and as the season went on I was never truly impressed with what Rozier brought to the table. This season however is a completely different case. At the time of writing this though it’s only been preseason (EDIT: 42 points in the first game LOL), Rozier’s approach to this season has me believing that we have a confident player who’s ready to show that he can be a pivotal piece on a good team.

Rozier’s catch and shoot ability has really jumped off the page to me so far this season, he’s got good shot selection and is making difficult shots. He’s also doing so with extremely high confidence. Last season he shot a personal best 40.7% from three on about 7 attempts per game. During the preseasons 4 games he went 12/22 from behind the arc, thats 54.5% and it looks wonderful. He’s looking like he can score from every level.

Transition 3s.


Middy pull-ups.

Tougher middy pull-ups.

Impressive reverse finishes around the defense.

Rozier is doing it all so far this season, and you just have to love it. You have to wonder what’s in the Hornets gatorade at times with how some of these guys are developing as shooters. We saw it with Kemba Walker, Devonte’ Graham, Caleb Martin’s form has improved, even Miles Bridges has become a capable shooter. Maybe this is nothing because it’s not like these guys were particularly bad shooters in college and maybe we’ve lucked out on development but it is interesting nonetheless.

Especially if you’re a contending team in need of a guy who is specializing in catch and shoot that could provide a scoring spark off of your bench. This piece was published on The Charlotte Observer questioning Hornets fans who think it’s a good move to trade Rozier. Sure those points are valid. Rozier could be seen as a veteran mentor to our young guys and losing him could stifle the development of LaMelo Ball who appears to work well with Rozier.

True points. I’ll look at it from the other side though. Say we wait until the trade deadline which isn’t confirmed yet, but is being targeted as March 25th. At that point in the year what if Ball has found his comfort zone and is creating his own shot and doesn’t need a guy like Rozier on the court to succeed. Wishful thinking, maybe? Charlotte still has Devonte’ Graham who I think can excel even more with more catch and shoot opportunities, and now theres pieces such as Gordon Hayward who we can lean on, Miles Bridges, PJ Washington, Jalen McDaniels, Cody and Caleb Martin to a lesser extent all can be competent three point shooters at a lower volume. Maybe you’re grasping at thin air with some of those names but it’s possible. Rozier isn’t unmovable is the point I’m willing to make.

Rozier’s contract is pricey, floating at around $18 million for the next couple of years. If Charlotte sees the development they like from their young guys, and they can move Rozier for an expiring deal, young assets and draft capital I think you just have to do it. On the other hand It may end up being another point guard that gets traded though with Graham being on the final year of his contract. Maybe it makes more sense to just keep Rozier and move Graham, that way you don’t need to bring in a bad expiring deal and you still get a good package in return.

Only Mitch Kupchak knows what will happens, but while he’s on this team I think we can all be excited for what Rozier is bringing to the table this year. He’s passing the eye test, stat test, and he’s wins before the game even starts with his pre-game attire. Consider me a fan.

2020-21 Player Preview: Bismack Biyombo

Is Bismack Biyombo looking a little..different.. this year to anyone else? I mean that in the most positive way possible. The Hornets were in desperate need of some veteran leadership this year and Biyombo was glad to stay. After finally getting through his massive 4 year $72 million deal, Big Bis was brought back to Charlotte for the year on a team friendly, 1 year $3.5 million deal. That contract alone makes me like Biyombo a lot more than I did a year ago.

As Hornets fans we know what Bis is bringing to the table at this point, and honestly, it’s not that much. We’re going to get a guy who most would consider to be undersized for a “center” and isn’t going to anchor your defense with any sort of regularity. However, where he lacks in size, he makes up for in pure athleticism, the reason Charlotte drafted him back in 2011. This doesn’t tend to translate into crazy numbers or really anything satisfying to the eye when watching him play, but he brings the energy every night he steps onto the court.

From the outside looking in it appears he has really taken on this leadership role this season. He’s always been a leader on and off the court but this year in particular it’s really standing out to me. Maybe that’s just because the media team is taking more photos of him with his arm around LaMelo Ball, but either way. That’s something you like to see. This young squad needs that.

Moving into the basketball side of things. This preseason it seems like he may finally be figuring out how to catch the basketball, however, it seems that only seems to be the case when the ball is coming from Ball. So maybe, he hasn’t figured that out, but if you’re going to catch from anyone it might as well be the potential superstar of the team. This Ball-Biyombo duo has actually intrigued me during the preseason. In LaMelo’s player preview, I talked about Ball’s ability to take a quick glance and toss a football pass down court. Biyombo was on the other end of that a couple times, the early chemistry is there. It also seems like when used in a short roll action, Biyombo has been somewhat decent in being able to find open guys, see below.

Ball isn’t the ball handler here, he’s actually the shooter, but you see where this action could have James Borrego more willing to give Biyombo some extra minutes.

He gets the hockey assist above. Again being able to make some magic happen out of the short roll and get that ball to PJ Washington could prove to be very beneficial to the team moving forward. I’d go as far to say if he can do this with any sort of consistency he could find himself in the starting lineup. As I said, It seems he already has some chemistry with Ball and he may be better defensively than Cody Zeller. I don’t say that with actual certainty, but wouldn’t doubt if it is indeed the case.

I wouldn’t expect much change from Biyombo this year. We can only hope he truly learns how to catch the ball and becomes a better finisher around the rim. This short roll development however is very intriguing and something that we should all be keeping our eye on as we head into the season. I think at the very best we could see Biyombo get some starts during the season if Zeller doesn’t perform to standard.

Carolina Panthers GM Candidates

The time has finally come (again). Panthers fans around the globe; Twitter GMs, Teddy Bridgewater lovers, Ford F150 fans, and Cam stans alike can all come together (again). For the Carolina Panthers and Marty Hurney have agreed to part ways (again). The man who has held this team down in mediocrity for just about as long as I have been alive is finally gone (again).

We shall not bag on Hurney, enough of that has been done. We will only move forward to new beginnings. Starting with this article. It’s time to get familiar with some names who David Tepper should be looking at, and no, Louis Riddick will not be on this list. I do not understand the hype, sure he’s on ESPN, helped build Philadelphia’s “dream team” (for what that worth), dashing fellow, but this is the same guy who said Kyle Allen was the future here, thought Eli Apple was a better prospect than Jalen Ramsey, and also thought Solomon Thomas should have been picked over Myles Garrett who he thought should have gone 3rd. Everyone has misses but those are obvious gimmes, and he’s loud about it. I’m OK!

Moving on, when I’m thinking of who our next GM should be, I want someone from a winning organization, or at least an organization that has been trending in the right direction. Along with Tepper we want someone who will be analytically focused but there’s not really any way for me to know if they are or not, if any of these names hate analytics then I will scratch them off. Also, Tepper just wants the best of the best. So with that said let’s look at some names (in no particular order).

* denotes a minority candidate. New NFL rule rewards 3rd round comp picks.

Lake Dawson* – Assistant Director of College Scouting – Buffalo Bills

Mr. Dawson may be a name that rings a bell to Panthers fans as we interviewed him back in 2018 after Hurney’s return as interim GM. Obviously, we stuck with Hurney. Other experience for Dawson includes VP of Football Ops for the Tennessee Titans from 2011-2015, not the best years in Tennessee but the work he’s done in Buffalo since then has been excellent and with over a decade of experience and recent success, Dawson is sure to be one of the hotter names this year.

Terry Fontenot* – VP/Assistant General Manager-Pro Personnel – New Orleans Saints

Could we see Tepper dip into the Saints organization yet again? Last year we saw former Saints coach Joe Brady, brought in to be Carolina’s offense coordinator, and Teddy Bridgewater was signed to be the teams placeholder at QB for the season. Fontenot has been with the Saints for 16 years now, and yes as Panthers fans, we hate him for it. BUT, there is no denying the part he has played in helping New Orleans build a successful franchise. A pro scout for seven years, before being promoted to his current position Fontenot has played a crucial role in the Saints success, he even helps the Saints advance scout their opponents. I would not be surprised if he were on the Panthers shortlist.

Brandon Hunt – Pro Scouting Director – Pittsburgh Steelers

Hunt will be another top candidate during this years GM carousel. He’s been with the Steelers for a decade now and has been instrumental in rebuilding the defense into the respectable unit that is today. What I love the most is that Hunt was the driving force for the Steelers to go out and trade for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is already a 1st team All-Pro in his young career. Someone who is not scared to make savvy trades is a big bonus for me. Tepper, being from the Steelers organization, may be one of the first to look Hunt’s way.

Mike Borgonzi – Director of Football Operations – Kansas City Chiefs

Touted as Kansas City’s secret weapon, Borgonzi has supposedly been a key player in building the Chiefs into the dominate force that they are today. At his best he is a supreme talent evaluator and plays a big part in the draft. Patrick Mahomes and that armada of weapons? That’s him. If Tepper wants the best of the best then there’s no better place to look than the Chiefs organization. He is the right hand man to GM Brett Veach and nothing gets done without Borgonzi knowing about it. If you’re in rebuild mode like the Panthers are, you would want a guy like Borgonzi leading the charge.

Luke Kuechly – Pro Scout – Carolina Panthers

Too soon? 100%. Would I love it? Absolutely. In my short, 25 years of life. Kuechly is the smartest defensive player I have ever seen play the game. Maybe the smartest overall. However we have no idea what a Kuechly draft pick (or really any Kuechly move) looks like as he was only signed to the scouting department back in June, but I would bet on him knowing what a good football player looks like. Tepper already has a cap expert in place to help with that end of things since Kuechly has no experience there. If you think age is a problem. Browns GM Andrew Berry is the youngest GM in the league at 32 (now 33). He was actually being looked at by Carolina just last year but Hurney was in place with that weird minimized role yet still the GM mumbo jumbo. Kuechly isn’t that much younger Berry, he’ll be 30 in April, the idea isn’t THAT crazy. You get someone who is close to the team and already understands the direction, loved by the fans, and just flat out knows ball. I would bet that Kuechly will be the GM of a team within in 5 years, and it might as well be this team.

2020-21 Player Preview: LaMelo Ball

Well it appears the cat has finally caught the mouse. The cat being the Charlotte Hornets and the mouse being a player that we may consider a face of the franchise that is. Hornets fans around the globe will remember the 2020 draft night for a long time. For the first time in forever(?), things finally went our way and for most people, we got the guy who we thought was the best player in the class. That player being LaMelo Ball of course.

The question at hand is, can he live up to this hype?

Personally speaking, while I do have high expectations for Ball, I recognize that he also has his limitations and may not be a true #1 option on a contending team, feel free to prove me wrong of course. I think he’s your #2 guy. This isn’t a bad thing, all I’m saying is he may not be THE guy who you can look to when it’s a 1 point game with time expiring. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the potential to be an absolute stud. He does. It’s weird. I’ll break it down some more in the later paragraphs.

We all know his story by now, if you’re a basketball fan and you don’t, then you’ve been living under a rock. At just 19 years of age the kid has 6x the amount of instagram followers as the actual Hornets instagram account. Thats also more than Mavs superstar Luka Doncic, also right on the heels of back to back MVP Giannis Antetokoumpo. While only playing four preseason games, this kid can already be considered a “star” in terms of media presence. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Hornets highlights on big media sites this often before. Again, four preseason games. He hit back to back 3s the other day and that YouTube video has more views than Kemba Walkers best scoring highlights.

However this isn’t an article about Ball’s instagram followers and how many likes he can get the Hornets on Twitter. This is about what he can bring to the court and what we should expect this in his rookie season. Already laying the foundation of his stardom, it’s easy for some people to be blinded by who he is as a player. Talking to some people, you can infer that they haven’t seen Ball play since he was in high school. Thinking that he’ll have easy success from three point range, or that scoring at an extremely high clip is to be expected from him.

When in reality, most of us probably understand that just isn’t his game anymore. Although… he may think that it is at times. The first exhibition match against Orlando showed that he is not afraid to put some shots up and it truly was a joy to watch. He posted 18 points on 41%, going 4-9 from deep. That’s not too bad at all. It seems with each preseason game he’s got more of a feel for the pace of an NBA game.

In his first game against Toronto we saw him command the boards and dazzle us with his passing ability. Reeling in 10 rebounds and adding 4 assists. His ability to attack the ball at its highest point and immediately transition that into a fast break is extremely elite. Apologies for the quality, but it’s the only clip I could find. See below.

Raptors do a good job of getting back on D there but, he’s going to catch plenty of teams off guard starting breaks like that. Through these four games, Ball hasn’t exactly jumped off the stat sheet in terms of assists, but that’s not really his fault. Preseason sloppiness and unit rotations are likely playing a big role in that, once he inevitably gets into the starting lineup box score watchers may be very pleased. He processes what’s happening in the game very quickly. You can see on those football passes he just takes 1 quick glance and knows where to place it.

I’m not entirely sure he knows how to pass without adding flair to it.

The behind the backs and the alley-oops have all just been fun, and I love it. Scoring is probably the main that thing that I have some concern over. This is the reason why I stated he may not end up being a true #1 primary initiator, but it may not be as bad as I initially thought. He may not be lethal (yet) but in these past couple games, especially in the first Orlando game he’s shown that when he is set, he can get his shot to fall, as I said earlier, knocking down 4 deep balls.

Playing with Devonte Graham and Terry Rozier more than in the first two games worked pretty well for Ball. Having a guy on the court like Graham forces the defense to pay him more mind than Ball at the moment, giving him openings like above. The below 3 instances are probably the closest thing we have so far to him “creating” his own shot. Michael Carter-Williams lets him take that 3 pretty much but I’ll personally count that as a shot off dribble.

While everyone raved about that ugly jumpshot falling, I was more impressed by these three finishes at the rim.

Those are three layups that I honestly expected to see in games 1 and 2. While Ball was in Australia, I felt like I had seen enough to believe that he could be an OKAY finisher around the rim even though most people thought otherwise. With such a long and skinny frame he’s able to manipulate his body into odd angles to allow him to finish such difficult layups, but other factors cause him to not be able to create more of these opportunities. I feel like those layups should NOT go in, but he’s able to make it work and has done so before.

This may be what propels him into actual stardom. When that shot isn’t falling, can you still find other ways to score? So far, his floaters look horrible. It’s okay, we’ll work on that, but having the ability to get layups like those to go at such a young age I think is huge. Hopefully he can do so with some consistency.

Moving over to the defensive side of the ball I’m actually pleasantly surprised with him so far. Labeled as unwilling to play defense coming into the draft (for good reason), so far he has at least shown that he is willing to buy into James Borrego’s system and try on defense. It hasn’t been pretty at times and I feel he tries to play hero ball resulting in some open looks, but you can say for certain that he is active. He plays defense like he’s a high school free safety.

Loved this sequence from the Orlando game.

So that’s pretty much what I mean when I say he tries to play hero ball on defense. He’s over-helped and left Cole Anthony who was cooking from 3 wide open in the corner. He did this plenty of times during this game and got burnt for it. On this occasion it works and he gets the offense moving full speed in transition. If Cody Zeller doesn’t trip up that’s probably 2 points. On one hand I love the aggression but he has to be careful with who he tries to bait down there. Leaving MCW wide open in the corner is one thing, Cole Anthony is another.

He’s also been horrible in navigating screens, but that’s something we can work as he bulks up and just get more PT. Overall though, much better than anticipated. You would have to believe that his high basketball IQ allows him to play defense the way he does. Knowing when to swipe or knowing when to get in lanes can be beneficial, but smart players will kill him. He can’t leave a man like that playing against the leagues best. Also at 6’8 I would bank on him being at the very least a capable on-ball defender, being able to guard both the 1 and 2 and hopefully the 3 later into his career once the weight starts to come.

So what can we expect this season from LaMelo Ball? I would say what you already know. Get ready for a fun year. It’s going to be flashy, it may not be pretty at times, but this will be a league pass favorite for some non-hornets fans. His ability to push the ball quickly, extravagant passes and crafty finishing will leave many mesmerized.

On the other hand box score watchers may be put off. I wouldn’t expect a high scoring average from him. I could see around 12-14 PPG, 6 assists, 5 rebounds. I think that’s a pretty solid rookie season. I am in the camp that thinks he’ll win rookie of the year, but that may just be me homering. I think there’s going to be games where he just goes ballistic and drops an absurd amount of points, which will have voters making their minds up off of those few performances. Again, it’s only the preseason and his highlights are EVERYWHERE.

With all that said. Where can I buy some Big Baller Brand gear?