NBA Rookie Of The Year Ladder: Charlotte Hornets’ LaMelo Ball Suffers Season-Ending Injury
LaMelo sustains unfortunate season-ending injury
Charlotte Hornets prized rookie LaMelo Ball has sustained a wrist injury that will keep him out for the rest of the season. It is a very unfortunate setback for the 6-foot-8 point guard, especially with how well he is playing for the Hornets this season.
Ball, the third overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft, is currently putting up an impressive all-around stat line of 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.6 steals per contest. On top of these exceptional numbers, Ball is also producing an excellent 37% clip from the three-point line.
There is just no doubt that Ball has exceeded even the loftiest expectations for him. We already anticipated that he is going to be a great playmaker, which he has definitely fulfilled this season. But Ball is not only living up to the hype of being an exceptional passer. He has also been efficient in his shooting percentages, especially from beyond the arc. That was a weakness that many people predicted he would have, but Ball has shown that he also has an adept long-range marksmanship ability in his bag of tricks.
Ball suffered the wrist injury during the Hornets’ 27-point loss at the hands of Paul George and the Los Angeles Clippers. Ball played through the injury, but it was obvious that he was hurting in each possession. He finished the contest with a stat line of 13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals.
The injury would surely have implications in Ball’s firm hold of the frontrunner position for the Rookie of the Year award this season. It is of no secret that he is ahead of his peers in that race, but that will definitely change now that he will be sitting out the rest of the season.
As per Jacob Rude of the Lonzo Wire, Hornets veteran big man Cody Zeller could not help but be impressed by how the rookie point guard is carving his niche in the NBA. Zeller says that Ball is a unique player, and that he has already gained the trust of his teammates.
“It’s crazy how quickly he’s picked up on stuff. As a rookie, even the first couple of years, you don’t really know what to expect from a guy. It takes a while to get used to the NBA. But you’ve seen his progression even over 40 games. He’s a confident kid. He has a short memory. Regardless of whether he plays well or plays bad in a game, we have confidence that he’s going to come back to play well the next game. He’s been great. It’s been really impressive to see his growth even through a short season so far.
He’s unique. He’s a lot of fun to be around as well. So he’s been great for our team just (because) he’s always a happy kid, he’s always in a good mood, he always brings a lot of energy to the building. And then on the court, obviously he opens up so much for us with his passing ability, and then he’s been able to score even better the last 15 or 20 games. The sky’s the limit. It’ll be fun to see him kind of move forward and progress.”
On top of his individual brilliance, he has also helped the Hornets put up a surprisingly good season so far. The Hornets are currently sporting a decent record of 21 wins against 21 defeats, which is good for the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
What’s more interesting is that the Hornets are ahead of more perennial contenders like Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics, and Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors. That speaks to how great of a work head coach James Borrego is putting in this season, but the team’s excellent record is also an indicator of their overall chemistry and camaraderie.
There is also the fact that the Hornets have been a great passing team all season long. They are currently ranked third in total assists per game (27.1), and they have been doing that thanks to their bevy of exceptional ball handlers and playmakers. Turnovers are still a problem of the team, but their willingness to move the ball should be a great indication of the high level of trust they have for each other.
As for Ball, his accolades this season speak of the hardwork that he puts in every day. He became the youngest player to tally a triple-double stat line in NBA history, and the oozing confidence that he has each game is just unmatched. Hornets assistant coach Jay Triano has heaps of praises for the rookie point guard, saying that Ball really reads the game well, especially on the offensive end of the floor. (as per Paolo Uggetti of The Ringer)
“He said, ‘That’s crazy, coach. It’s crazy how this all works because he was also the no. 3 pick in the draft. He’s such a good reader of the freelance style of the game and just finding space. He just seems like he’s bouncing on top of the world all the time.
We haven’t had a guy that has been able to make that type of a pass the last couple years. It happened immediately. It wasn’t like, ‘I need to play with these guys to figure out what they’re going to do,’ he just kind of read it right away.”
So it is really unfortunate that Ball cannot finish the rest of the season. With the Hornets positioning themselves for a coveted ticket to the postseason, it could have been intriguing to watch Ball perform in the more important games in the playoffs.
Without Ball the rest of the way, the Hornets will be relying on their veteran perimeter players to hold down the fort. Gordon Hayward, who they acquired via a sign-and-trade deal with the Boston Celtics last offseason, is currently putting up All-Star worthy numbers of 20.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.3 steals per contest.
Terry Rozier is also living up to the hype of being a great scoring guard. He is currently norming impressive averages of 20.2 points 3.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.4 steals per contest, including an efficient 41% clip from the three-point line. The Hornets would look to get more from their other backcourt players, particularly from point guard Devonte’ Graham and shooting guard Malik Monk, who is having a nice season off the bench.
P.J. Washington has also had good games this season, and it remains to be seen if the high-flying combo forward Miles Bridges can produce more on the offensive end of the floor.
Can Anthony Edwards race to the top of the ROY Ladder?
With LaMelo Ball sitting out the rest of the season, the Rookie of the Year plum is now up for grabs. One of those rookies who will be in strong contention for the award is Minnesota Timberwolves scorer Anthony Edwards.
After struggling with his shooting percentages early into the season, Edwards is finally living up to the billing of a top overall draft pick. The 6-foot-4 combo wing is now putting up 16.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.0 steals per contest for the Timberwolves.
More importantly, the confidence that he is showing as of late will help him carve a niche in the NBA. As per ESPN, Edwards emphasizes that he will always demand for the ball whenever the team needs a bucket or two. Edwards also put in a comment on his famous poster dunk over Toronto Raptors forward Yuta Watanabe.
"No matter if I'm playing good or bad, if it's time for a big-time shot, I always want the ball no matter what. That's just who I am, but it just happened to be a good game. I was just telling them to give me the ball and get out of the way. I be smiling every time because I know people don't wanna jump because of what they saw a couple weeks ago or like a month ago. So, I just try to, you know, power dunk it every time to put even more fear into them so they don't want to jump at all.
It's just crazy, but I feel like we can go on a large, tremendous winning streak. If we just stay locked in and engaged on everything that we're doing, we can go on a winning streak."
It is without a doubt that Edwards is quickly finding his identity on the offensive end of the floor. He put up a 34-point performance in the Wolves’ two-point win against Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers last March 14. He then followed it up with 29 points against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, the came up with an even more impressive 42-point outing in a four-point win against Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns last March 18.
That 42-point outburst was his best scoring performance in his rookie year so far. There were doubts whether the Wolves front office made the right decision of selecting him as the top overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft, but it is now safe to say that those doubts have already been crossed out.
Edwards’ recent exceptional play is a bright spot in the Wolves’ collective woes this season. The team currently has the worst record in the NBA as they are sporting a measly slate of only 10 wins against 33 defeats. It is an underwhelming performance for a team that has a brilliant superstar in Karl-Anthony Towns. However, it is also true that the team has had their own share of injury woes, particularly on star point guard D’Angelo Russell, who has only played in 20 games this season.
So Edwards’ rise to prominence is exactly what this ailing franchise needs to have something to look forward to next season. Britt Robson of The Athletic recently detailed out how “The Ant-man” has elevated his player, especially right after the All-Star break.
The most obvious area of improvement since the start of the season is the one most in sync with Ant’s signature virtue—getting to the basket. His free throw attempts per game have risen every month from December to March, a tribute to his shot selection, body control, and a persistent aggression that has increasingly earned the respect of the refs despite his rookie status. He has also begun to gauge the enhanced size and speed of NBA opponents—the timing and loft of his shots at the rim and in the paint are less hurried and more finessed. The game has also slowed down enough for him to pass the ball more presciently and to build up a catalog of moves and countermoves in the ongoing chess match with opposing defenses.
As Ant has grown more accustomed to the rigors of NBA life on and off the court, the surrounding personnel has become much more conducive to his comfort level. The return of KAT in mid-February dovetailed with the knee injury to DLo, ensuring that Ant would see a lot more court time beside both Towns and Rubio. KAT is a big man who must be accounted for with a laser-like focus from opponents when the Wolves are in the half-court offense, freeing space up for the wings. A willing passer, Towns has already started to develop a fearsome high-low game dishing from the elbow or the top of the key to a cutting Edwards. Meanwhile, Rubio is a more creative and willing passer than DLo, and operates at a higher tempo that also suits Ant’s skill set. The result is more shot opportunities in better rhythm.
Still, Edwards and the Wolves have their work cut out in front of them this season. They might not have the chance to compete in the play-in tournament for the last two playoffs spots in the stacked Western Conference, but they can still play well in an effort to build a momentum moving forward.
The Wolves have lost their last two assignments, but they could still bounce back in their next several games. They will finish their current four-game home stand with contests against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, followed by a mini two-game series against John Wall and the Houston Rockets.