LaMelo Ball returned to action for the Charlotte Hornets on May 1 after sitting out the previous 21 games due to injury. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft defied the odds and came back sooner than expected after a severe wrist injury threatened to keep him out the rest of the season.
Ball’s return resulted in a 107-94 win over the Detroit Pistons. This is great for the Hornets, a team currently fighting for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. His return is also good news for anyone who bet on the first-year player to win Rookie of the Year honors.
LaMelo Ball was having a fantastic rookie season before the injury
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Before Ball hurt his wrist, he was having a phenomenal season. The point guard was averaging more than 15 points and six assists, as well as almost six rebounds a game. More importantly for Charlotte, he was helping lead the team toward its first NBA playoff berth since the 2015-16 season.
These statistics, combined with team success, made Ball the odds-on favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award. That all changed with the possible season-ending injury Ball suffered. The question became, did Ball do enough in his first 41 games to take home the hardware, or would another rookie come and steal it from him?
Anthony Edwards took over as Rookie of the Year favorite
The 2020 NBA draft was not considered a particularly strong one. It didn’t seem to have the star power or depth that the last class had or that the coming crop will. Surprisingly though, several of these 2020 sections have shown a good deal of promise. Immanuel Quickley, Tyrese Haliburton, Tyrese Maxey, Patrick Williams, and even the lightly-regarded Aleksej Pokusevski have all demonstrated the potential to become above-average players or possibly even stars.
The player who overtook Ball as the favorite for Rookie of the Year though, was No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Edwards. While Edwards’ on-court success hasn’t translated to team success like Ball’s has, his numbers are undeniable. The former Georgia Bulldog is averaging 18.5 points to go along with his 4.6 boards and 2.8 assists.
These raw numbers propelled Edwards to the top of the Rookie of the Year futures betting odds. According to Fanduel Sportsbook, Ball was an overwhelming -550 favorite for the award, with Haliburton in second at +600 before the injury. When the injury happened in March, Edwards took over as the presumed winner with -175 odds. With the rumors of Ball’s return, Edward’s odds slipped to -125. Now, Ball is back to basketball and back in the lead. Bettors are currently looking at getting Ball at -650 and Edwards at +600.
Ball will likely win Rookie of the Year now, but he hopes for more
While winning Rookie of the Year is a prestigious honor, the award alone doesn’t guarantee a stellar NBA career. For every LeBron James or Damian Lillard that has won the award, there are plenty more players like Michael Carter-Williams and Andrew Wiggins. Winning games is what cements legacies in the NBA, and that is Ball’s focus is now that he is back.
After his return to the court, which was highlighted by an incredible underhand, full-court assist, Ball was asked if he was thinking about winning the rookie award. He told ESPN he was focused on, “Mostly winning. Definitely, it would be playoffs first. But mostly, just winning.”
This might be easy to say with the Rookie of the Year already locked up, but for a franchise and fan base that haven’t seen much winning or awards in recent years, quotes like these have to sound good.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference