LaMelo Ball can play. That's the takeaway from the first 26 games of his career. The youngest Ball brother is already a really good NBA player and, at 19 years old, he'll only improve. His success is making all of his doubters look silly -- and there are a lot of people on that list.
When the Charlotte Hornets made Ball the third pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, many believed the franchise would bring him along slowly. Things started out that way, and the first game of Ball's career didn't go as planned. On opening night he played 16 minutes, didn't score and went 0-of-5 from the field and 0-of-3 from 3-point range. He had three assists against three turnovers. He looked terrible.
Ball opened the season on the bench and struggled with some up-and-down performances. Then something clicked and he hit his stride in January. The kid from Chino Hills hasn't looked back.
In January, Ball averaged 12.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.7 assists in 26.3 minutes per game. He shot 42.7 percent from the field, 25.0 percent from 3-point range and 74.4 percent from the free-throw line. He was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month. He also became the youngest NBA player to record a triple-double back on January 9 with a 22-point, 12-rebound, 11-assist performance.
Since moving into the starting lineup on February 1 after an injury to Devonte Graham, Ball has played six games and his numbers have gotten even more impressive. In his six starts, Ball is averaging 21.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.3 steals in 33.2 minutes. He's shooting 45.2 percent from the field, 48.8 percent from 3-point range and is hitting 88.9 percent of his free throws. When given more responsibility he's stepped up and exploded.
Ball currently leads all rookies in points (14.3), assists (6.1) and steals (1.4) per game. He's also leading in PER (18.43) and is second in rebounds (5.8). While putting up great numbers, he's also filling up highlight reels at a rapid pace:
This shouldn't surprise anyone. Back in April, I told you Ball was the best player in the 2020 NBA Draft class, but many failed to listen. I get why they didn't, as anything associated with the Ball family feels like a future flop. LaMelo's odd development path spanned from Chino Hills to Lithuania and then to Australia. It was circuitous and off-the-radar and people didn't trust it. I get it. But while in Australia playing for the Illawarra Hawks a funny thing happened: he got much better. He suddenly grew into his body and the enormous promise of his pure talent.
Australia's National Basketball League doesn't feature the best competition in the world, but there are legitimate professionals playing there. Ball was 18 years old and facing men in every game. He won NBL Rookie of the Year, averaging 17.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game. More than that, he showed incredible vision and court awareness, along with a knack for scoring. I know, his shot still looks goofy, but you can't argue with the results.
As we've seen during his brief NBA career, Ball's passing and ball-handling are already elite. His basketball IQ and feel for the game are lightyears beyond his age. And the fact that he's got great size (6-foot-8, 190 pounds) helps tremendously. He's an all-around great point guard and he's only going to get better as his career progresses.
Due to his last name and the crazy turns his basketball career has taken, LaMelo Ball was doubted by many. He's proving them all wrong so far.