LaMelo Ball is a prodigy, and he has already put himself in the company of LeBron James and Luka Doncic. However, his head coach expects him to “take another step” this season.
Despite just appearing in 51 games last season, LaMelo Ball was named NBA Rookie of the Year. For the first time since Michael Jordan got away of the “Bobcats,” the former Illawarra Hawks star has given Charlotte Hornets supporters something to be excited about.
For a 19-year-old, Ball’s stat line was remarkable. Just ten games into his career, he became the youngest player in league history to achieve a triple-double. In terms of points, assists, steals, and rebounds, he was among the rookie leaders.
Last year, the third-overall selection in the 2020 draft performed better than anticipated, but this year, he’ll be expected to take another step forward and help the Hornets return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
(Disclaimer: Charlotte was the Eastern Conference’s 10th seed previous season and lost in a play-in game to the Washington Wizards.)
In 2020-21, LaMelo Ball was named NBA Rookie of the Year.
During the third quarter of a game against the Memphis Grizzlies, LaMelo Ball of the Charlotte Hornets looks on. | Getty Images/Jared C. Tilton
In his first season, Ball averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 6.1 assists. According to NBA.com, he was awarded Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month three times and was just the 12th rookie in league history to average at least 15.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.5 steals.
Ball topped the 2020 draft class in assists, steals, and points, while finishing second in rebounds and points. After scoring 22 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 11.0 assists against the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 9, he became the NBA’s youngest player to achieve a triple-double.
Melo, who was not considered to be a terrific shooter when he entered the league, made seven 3-pointers in a game against Houston less than a month after his triple-double, finishing with 24 points, 10.0 assists, and seven rebounds.
Another interesting tidbit: the 6-foot-6 point guard has at least 10 games with 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists, placing him in the company of Luka Doncic and LeBron James as the only adolescent rookies to have as many 20-5-5 games.
He also placed himself in the company of just Jason Kidd and Stephen Curry as a rookie, averaging 20 points, 10 assists, and five rebounds while hitting seven 3-pointers.
Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves was also a contender for Rookie of the Year, but Ball’s numbers and overall game at the age of 19 were just too outstanding for voters.
James Borrego, the head coach of the Charlotte Hornets, wants his star to improve this season.
Borrego recognized his youngster was too talented to come off the bench before the midway point of his rookie season, and he put him in the starting lineup.
Ball produced career-high stat lines in his debut season in the NBA, leading the Hornets to 33 victories, ten more than the previous season. The task now for the 20-year-old is to turn his impressive numbers into even more victories, including, perhaps, some in the playoffs.
In an AP News article, Borrego said that this is his expectation for the franchise’s centerpiece:
“I want him to be in charge of this show.” He’s the quarterback, the floor general, and if we’re going to take the next step, he’ll have to lead this club not just on offense but also on defense.
“Intuition and feel played a big role in his success last year.” The next stage for him is to manage who we are, the people around him, and the league in general. So far, we’ve spoken about our team, our strengths, our beliefs, and how to comprehend his colleagues.
“I anticipate him to have a great year and take another step this year.”
James Borrego, the head coach of the Charlotte Hornets, discusses what he expects from LaMelo Ball in his second NBA season.
Ball said he’s ready for the task and that he’s spent the summer studying video and understanding Borrego’s system.
He said, “That’s a point guard.” “I’m going to take the lead. I’ve been in charge my whole life. As a result, it’s a fantastic opportunity for me.”
If the Hornets want to regain their relevance in the NBA, Ball must set the tone.
Jordan, who hasn’t been renowned for his drafting skills since acquiring ownership of the team in 2010, found a treasure in Ball. Coming into the league, there were doubts about LaMelo’s coachability, shooting, and lack of competition, but he proved his critics wrong on all three counts.
Ball is a natural playmaker. He demonstrated this last year. His unselfishness and ability to create for others was his outstanding characteristic as a rookie, rather than being a selfish player, as some perceived him to be after his one year of professional play in Australia.
The next stage is for him to develop into the “quarterback” and team leader that Borrego envisions. If he does this, Ball’s career as a player and the Hornets as a franchise will be unstoppable.
All statistics are courtesy of Basketball Reference unless otherwise stated.
RELATED: Examining the 2018 NBA Draft: The No. 1 Overall Pick Remains Irrational, and the Luka Doncic-Trae Young Trade Remains a Crucial Part of Recent NBA History