The Charlotte Hornets selected LaMelo Ball with the third overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft knowing that they are drafting the cornerstone and face of this iteration of the franchise.
While knowing this, head coach James Borrego and the reset of the Hornets’ coaching staff decided that it would be best to develop Ball slowly-letting him come off the bench and get run in the second unit. However, Ball has been outperforming expectations. Since becoming the youngest player to record a triple double with his 22 points, 12 rebound and 11 assist performance against the Hawks, Ball has continued to excel and let his play dictate this conversation. Here are the main reasons why the Hornets should start Ball now.
Again, I understand why the Hornets want to gradually develop Ball. They want to get him comfortable and acclimated to the league. In Australia’s NBL, Ball was posting triple-doubles and putting up numbers, but the concern was Ball’s ability to replicate the same production at the NBA level. But here’s the thing: Ball’s NBA production is mirroring his NBL production because of his ability as a playmaker.
Even when Ball isn’t scoring and shooting the ball well, he still has the ability to impact the offense as a facilitator and as a willing rebounder. Against the Knicks for example, Ball scored eight points on 23 percent shooting. However, he finished the game a plus 4 in plus/minus due to his 14 rebounds and 7 assists. In their first game against the Raptors, Ball recorded a 14 point 11 assist double-double.
These performances indicate that regardless of what kind of shooting night Ball has and despite being streaky, his strengths are knowing when to make the correct reads, pass and hustle on the boards.
The key for Ball is to keep his three point percentage in to the 30’s. In the NBL, Ball shot a horrid 25 percent from deep. Currently, he’s at 33 percent. If he continues to shoot 33 percent or above, he will command enough of attention from opposing defenses to open up opportunities for others.
Last season, Devontae Graham emerged as not only the Hornets best player, but also as player who some believed was robbed of the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award. He lead Charlotte last season in minutes played, points, assists, made threes and steals. A bit of a drop off was to be expected, but no one could have been expecting this kind of drop off from Graham. On the year, Graham is is shooting 29.3 percent from 3 and does most of his work against reserves.
With that said, why not start Ball with Terry Rozier?
The lineup with Ball, Graham, Malik Monk, Bismark Byombo, and Miles Bridges averages 15 points per game. Ball’s playmaking is an asset to this lineup. Swaping him for Graham is worth exploring since the struggles continue. In Ball, there’s another playmaker out there who is willing to hustle for rebounds and will keep a defense honest with his willingness to shoot.