LaMelo Ball has already joined LeBron James and Luka Doncic, but his head coach expects last season’s rookie of the year “to take another step”.
LaMelo Ball won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award last season, despite having only played 51 games. For the first time since Michael Jordan got rid of The Bobcats, the former Illawarra Hawks star has rightly given Charlotte Hornets fans something to be really excited about.
Ball’s statistics were impressive for a 19-year-old. He became the youngest player in league history to record a triple-double only 10 games in his career. He was one of the rookie leaders in points, assists, steals and rebounds.
The third overall pick in the 2020 draft was better than announced last year, but it is now expected to take another leap and make the Hornets return to the postseason for the first time since 2016.
Ball averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists in its debut season. He was elected Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month three times and was only the 12th rookie in league history, averaging at least 15.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.5 steals since, according to NBA.com of the 1973-74 campaign.
Ball led the 2020 draft class in assists and steals and finished second in points and rebounds. He became the youngest player in NBA history to score a triple-double after losing 22 points, 12.0 rebounds and 11.0 assists to the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 9.
Melo, who was not expected to become a great shooter heading to the league, scored seven 3-points in a game against Houston less than a month after his triple-double and finished that night with 24 points, 10, 0 assists and seven rebounds.
Yet another insane stat: the 6-foot-6 point guard had at least 10 games with 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists, putting him in a category with Luka Doncic and LeBron James as the only teenage rookies with as many 20- 5-5 games.
To be on the safe side, he also stood alongside Jason Kidd and Stephen Curry as he scored 20 points, 10 assists and five rebounds while scoring seven 3-point points as a rookie.
Minnesota Timberwolves Guardian Anthony Edwards was also in discussion for Rookie of the Year, but Ball’s stats and all-around game at the age of 19 were just too impressive for voters.
The youthful playmaker wasn’t in the starting XI at the start of his debut season, but before half-time Borrego realized his rookie was too good to get off the bench.
Ball put on all-time stat lines in his first season in the NBA and helped the Hornets to 33 wins, 10 more than Charlotte the previous season. Now the challenge for the 20-year-old is to translate his stats into even more wins – hopefully in the playoffs too.
Borrego said this was his expectation for the heart of the franchise in a story by AP News:
Ball said he was ready for the challenge and had poured the entire off-season on films learning the intricacies of Borrego’s system.
“That’s a point guard,” he said. “I will definitely lead. All my life I have led. So it’s a great position for me. ”
Jordan – not known for his ingenuity since it acquired a controlling stake in the organization in 2010 – has unearthed a gem in Ball. There were questions about LaMelo’s coaching ability, shooting and lack of competition coming into the league, but he proved doubters wrong on all three fronts.
Ball is a playmaker at heart. He showed that last year. Rather than being the selfish gamer as some saw him after his year-long pro game in Australia, his selflessness and ability to create for others were his standout qualities as a rookie.
The next step is to become the quarterback, and team principal Borrego wants to be him. If he does that, there are no limits for Ball as a player and for the Hornets as a franchise.