The future is bright for LaMelo Ball and the Charlotte Hornets. The young point guard came into the league with a lot of baggage and expectations, and has knocked it out of the park. The numbers LaMelo has produced this early in his career are reminiscent of The Kid from Akron, LeBron James, who had his own hype train rolling from a young age.
Since his first game in the NBA, Ball has displayed maturity and game smarts that are advanced for his age. LaMelo’s impact is reflected in the Hornets’ 19-17 record this season, which is much better than expected and puts them in the playoff picture in a much stronger Eastern Conference.
The fans are excited, and the players are having fun on the floor. Clearly, Charlotte has drafted well under Mitch Kupchak and Michael Jordan's franchise is headed in the right direction.
As the Rookie of the Year winner last season, heightened expectations were put on Ball’s shoulders this year. Sophomores in the league sometimes struggle to live up to the hype, but not LaMelo. The former Chino Hills star is averaging career-highs across the board, which is a big reason why fans finally have reason to believe that the Hornets are for real. Ball’s game has been impressive to the point of making history, and it deserves special recognition.
Comparable to the MVP
There are only two players in the league who lead their teams in points, rebounds, assists and steals this season, per Basketball-Reference. One is the reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokić, and the other is Ball. LaMelo is averaging 19.7 points, 8.0 assists, 7.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals as a 20-year-old player. If he continues this fine display, Ball is on track to become the youngest player in NBA history to achieve this sensational feat.
When it comes to young stars carrying their teams, LeBron James comes to mind. When he was a 20-year-old, James averaged 27.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game in Cleveland. James led the team in points, assists and steals in that span, but Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Drew Gooden grabbed more rebounds than him.
Context makes LaMelo’s case even more impressive, as his supporting cast is undoubtedly better than LeBron’s was in Cleveland at the time. To stand out in all four categories without having the entire team designed around him, as the Cavs were for LeBron, is a credit to LaMelo’s versatility.
Someday, we may look back at the 2020 NBA Draft and wonder how Ball slipped past two teams and into Charlotte's hands. Could you imagine LaMelo next to Steph Curry and Draymond Green in Golden State? That would’ve been a sight to see.
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