Earlier today, ESPN’s list of the best under-25 players in the NBA based on future potential was announced. Perhaps the biggest surprise to emerge from the list was the presence of 19-year-old LaMelo Ball in third position. He is out with an injury for the rest of the season, but was the clear favorite for the rookie of the year award before getting hurt.
The list includes some bonafide future NBA stars and has the Dallas Mavericks’ 2-time All-Star Luka Doncic at number one. The rankings were based on individual ballots by ESPN’s NBA front office insider Bobby Marks, Kevin Pelton and draft analyst Mike Schmitz.
The list came up for discussion during the latest episode of ESPN’s talk show First Take, which is hosted by Stephen A. Smith, Molly Qerim and Max Letterman. The former ended up going on a rant against the list, as he did not agree with LaMelo Ball’s position.
ESPN needs to drug test anybody who has anything to do with this list: Stephen A. Smith
ESPN’s list of the best under-25 players was based on future potential. LaMelo Ball found himself third and fourth on the individual lists that Schmitz and Pelton came up with, while he was ranked 8th by Bobby Marks. This was deemed enough for an overall 3rd position in the list. LaMelo Ball ended up being ranked higher than the likes of Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum and Devin Booker.
This brought forth a long rant by Stephen A. Smith, who thought that LaMelo Ball did not deserve to be higher than the other stars mentioned above. Smith was asked whether he thought Ball deserved such a high position on the list, and he had a rather straightforward answer.
“Hell no. I love LaMelo and he would have been my rookie of the year had he not gotten hurt. I think this kid is a future star in this league. I love LaMelo, but it is stuff like this that diminishes the credibility of ESPN.”
Stephen A. Smith went on to talk about multiple players who he thought deserved to be better ranked than LaMelo Ball. He spoke at length about Ben Simmons, and said that he is a contender for the defensive player of the year award. Smith was surprised by Simmons’ absence as well, and said that he can do everything apart from shooting the basketball.
“ESPN needs to drug test anybody that has something to do with this list. Makes no sense, LaMelo Ball before Devin Booker? Really? LaMelo Ball before Donovan Mitchell? LaMelo Ball before Jayson Tatum? I mean what the hell is going on?”
While ESPN’s list of the best under-25 players this season has certainly come under severe scrutiny from Stephen A. Smith, Max Kellerrman had a different take on the matter. He talked about how the list deals with players based on future potential, and said that LaMelo Ball has the potential to become the MVP in the future.
While Stephen A. Smith did not agree, he did concede that he understood what Kellerman was talking about. However, he still had multiple problems with the list, and said that Devin Booker's presence at 8th, was reason alone to reject it. Both Kellerman and Smith were of the opinion that Booker was more deserving than LaMelo Ball to be in the top 3.