May
06
2021

Is It Too Little, Too Late For LaMelo Ball ROY Push?

LaMelo Ball, potentially the fastest growing name in the NBA today. Thanks a lot in part to his father Lavar Ball, who has never been one to shy away from a chance to gloat about his talented trio of sons. However, do not fall victim to Lavar stealing the spotlight. While Lavar has done a great job positioning his sons for success, his boys are the ones deserving of the fame and bright lights. LaMelo, the youngest Ball brother (19), is doing just that and is taking the NBA by storm in his rookie season.

The LaMelo Ball hype coming into the NBA was met with mixed reactions. Some predicted LaMelo to be the best brother of the three and that he would enjoy the most NBA success. Many felt strongly that the young guard was far too immature and was destined to be a major bust.

Personally, I have always been a big LaMelo believer and am pleasantly surprised how quickly he has transitioned into the NBA flow. Whether you love him or hate him, get used to hearing the name as LaMelo has proved he is here to stay.

MJ is a believer, as he has found his franchise PG moving forward

It is no secret that Michael Jordan owns the Charlotte Hornets. It is also no secret that Jordan’s success in the front office resembles nothing of his playing days, not even the slightest. Jordan boasts a perfect 6-0 finals record as a player while being considered the GOAT by millions. In 11 seasons as the majority owner of the Hornets, the team has only made the playoffs three times, never advancing past the first round.

Now obviously, the role of a star player compared to that of a majority owner differs drastically when it comes to on-court success. But, MJ’s shortcomings as an owner have sparked debates in the past, mainly questioning his motives.

LaMelo Ball was drafted with the hope of silencing this chatter and redirecting the franchise into contention. The youngest ball brother has done just that and more. The rookie point guard has solidified his spot and has been the recipient of some high praise from MJ himself. MJ was quoted saying, “I think Melo has adjusted to the NBA game better than any of us thought this early in his career, he has exceeded our expectations so far this season.”

This is a big deal for an owner to say this about their most recent #3 overall pick. Being a lottery pick, in general, at times creates unworldly expectations, but this is a testament to how talented LaMelo Ball really is. The sky is the limit for LaMelo and MJ seems beyond pleased for Ball to call Charlotte home.

Rookie of the Year Runaway Favorite Pre-Injury

Success at every level has come quickly for LaMelo Ball throughout his basketball career; the NBA has been no different. Ball has thrived, especially since February when the Hornets have left no choice, but to promote LaMelo to the starting lineup. In 24 games as a starter, Ball has averaged 19 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 6.2 APG while leading the Hornets to an above .500 record of 13-11.

For the entire season (44 games), LaMelo has posted 15.9/5.9/6.2 averages on 45/37/79 shooting splits. Very respectable numbers especially considering efficiency was one of LaMelo’s biggest question marks when it came to his scouting reports. Ball, the main contributor to the Hornets’ unforeseen success this season, had the Hornets poised and in a position to make a return to the NBA playoffs.

Pre-injury, it seemed LaMelo was leaving other impressive rookies (Anthony Edwards and Tyrese Haliburton) in the rear-view mirror in pursuit of that ROY award. His on-court performance was incredible, and his fluidity breathtaking. Unfortunately for Ball, his rookie campaign was put on pause due to a fractured right wrist injury. Ball was forced to be sidelined for 21 games, giving Timberwolves the #1 overall pick Anthony Edwards new life in pursuit of the award.

Edwards deserves some shine

Anthony Edwards, the #1 overall pick of last year’s draft, has also made quite the name for himself around the league. Between his on-court play and his entertaining postgame interview antics, Edwards has simply been a joy to watch grow.

Edwards, like Ball, has enjoyed quite the statistical rookie season. Edwards, in 65 appearances this season, has posted averages of 18.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 2.8 APG. Great numbers for a rookie and signs of a promising future. However, the transition to the professional stage has been more noticeable with Edwards than with Ball.

Edwards has struggled to find rhythm and consistency offensively, something almost all players deal with early in their careers. This is one of Anthony’s biggest criticisms early in his career. Edwards shoots an abysmal 40% from the field on 16.7 attempts a contest. 40% from the field has the young rookie ranked 400th in the NBA in FG%.

Edwards not only struggles from the field but has also been slow to adjust to the NBA 3 point line. Edwards attempts 7.1 threes per game, while only shooting 31.7%. I expect these numbers to rise over time as Edwards has shown his enormous promise talent-wise moving forward. But for now, these numbers are an eyesore approaching the final stretch of his rookie campaign.

Does LaMelo have enough time to become ROY favorite again?

Many factors go into determining the ROY winner, the same way every award in the NBA has its own set of credentials and peaks to meet. ROY award race comes down in my mind to three main factors: (1) on-court performance, (2) individual impact on team success, and lastly (3) media narratives. Edwards definitely has the edge on Ball when it comes to games played, but in my opinion that is truly it. With seven games remaining for Ball and the Hornets, my money is on LaMelo to take home the hardware.

Statistically across the board, LaMelo has outdone Edwards significantly and on much less volume. LaMelo has excelled in his role and looks mature beyond his years on the court. His basketball IQ is leaps and bounds ahead of Edwards, who instead relies heavily on his athletic abilities. LaMelo’s impact has been much more noticeable when it comes to team success as well.

As I mentioned earlier LaMelo, is the main reason why the Hornets are sitting in playoff contention. His unselfishness and ability to control an offense have sparked a resurgence throughout the Hornets franchise. Edwards, on the other hand, while his play has been great for the most part individually, has unfortunately not transitioned into much team success. The Timberwolves are on the brink of making yet another lottery pick in next year’s draft.

Lastly, media narratives. While Edwards has been a comical star of many recent NBA interviews, LaMelo Ball is the real headline of this rookie class. Ball earned star treatment from the media dating back to his freshman year at Chinos Hills High School. The media notoriety has continued to surge.

LaMelo Ball is practically the poster boy for Overtime, a well-known social media outlet that highlights sports-related content. Ball has never been shy of the bright lights, and he continues to display that on the NBA front. Despite missing 21 games, LaMelo Ball has done enough in my mind to check all the boxes. LaMelo Ball deserves to be the NBA Rookie of the Year award winner, no questions asked.