Ball has helped guide the Charlotte Hornets to a 3-1 start, placing them as the number two seed in the Eastern Conference. The 20-year-old’s combination of style and substance has impressed many, including a former NBA veteran who issued an interesting comparison.
LaMelo Ball looks like an All-Star
Even with coming off of the bench in his first 20 games, Ball’s rookie stat line was solid. The 2020 third overall pick averaged 15.7 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.9 rebounds in 28.8 minutes.
Now, although he’s earning just half a minute more per game, LaMelo is seeing sizable increases in almost all areas. The young point guard is averaging 22.8 points per game while increasing his field-goal percentage from 43.6% to 47.2%. He has also drastically improved from beyond the arc, going from 35.2% to 50.0% on eight attempts a night. Ball is also averaging 6.8 assists, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.8 steals.
LaMelo’s best performance came in Charlotte’s opener against the Indiana Pacers, where he netted 31 points to go with nine rebounds and seven assists. He was also impressive during the Hornets’ 140-129 overtime loss to the Boston Celtics, adding 25 points and nine assists.
JJ Redick is impressed by LaMelo Ball
If Ball continues his current trajectory, he is sure to gather even more praise and attention. But JJ Redick is already impressed by what he’s seen from the second-year guard, comparing him to a former pass-happy teammate.
“It’s a little like J-Will [Jason Williams], ‘White Chocolate’, who I played with in Orlando,” Redick said. “LaMelo, at this point, we can comfortably say is going to be more prolific. He’s going to win more accolades than J-Will, but J-Will was a great NBA player. But that’s sort of what I see.”
Williams was known for his dazzling passes and carefree style on the court. While it did lead to some seasons averaging seven to eight assists a night, it also led to plenty of high-turnover outings. The “risk-reward” style is something Redick pointed out and appreciated when it comes to Ball (h/t: The Old Man and the Three).
“The daring, the risk-reward value proposition that [Ball] takes, literally on a play-by-play basis, is something to behold. The confidence and the courage to make those plays, it’s awesome. It’s fun to watch. He’s one of my favorite players to watch right now in the NBA.”JJ Redick
The reward has certainly exceeded the risk most of the time. However, Ball is still prone to the turnover bug. The Hornets star had a season-high six turnovers against Boston before fouling out in overtime.
Ball makes his Hornets teammates better
Ball’s three-point shooting and overall scoring make him a more well-rounded player than someone like Jason Williams. However, his strongest quality is one White Chocolate was heralded for: placing teammates in a position to succeed.
The biggest beneficiary of having LaMelo around is Miles Bridges. The fourth-year forward has shot up from 12.7 points last season to 25.0 points in 2021-22. Whether it’s finishing Ball’s pass at the rim or attempting one of his career-high seven threes, Bridges has become an excellent player alongside the star point guard.
In addition, Gordon Hayward and Kelly Oubre Jr. are averaging 17.0 and 16.8 points, respectively. Both are also hovering around the 40% mark from deep, as Ball finds a way to draw defenders away from his shooters to the outside. And more help is on the way, as Terry Rozier looks to return from a sprained ankle. With a rookie LaMelo last season, Rozier averaged a career-best 20.4 points on 45.0% shooting.
Ball has become the primary catalyst for a Hornets team ranked second with 121.5 points per game. Should he continue to grow, Charlotte should continue to push for a playoff spot in the East. But either way, year two appears to be LaMelo’s ascent to stardom.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.