LaMelo Ball eligible for rookie extension

LaMelo Ball will reportedly be eligible for a five-year, $202.5M contract extension next offseason, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

If extended, Ball would become the first Charlotte Hornets player signed to a rookie max extension since Michael Jordan took over as the majority owner of the franchise in 2010.

For a team that has been in the draft lottery more often than not, the Hornets have not had great luck with landing top draft selections. Ball represents the highest draft pick in Charlotte since Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was selected second overall by the then-Bobcats, and Cody Zeller, selected fourth overall in 2013, is the next-highest selection in the time since then.

It goes without saying that Ball has lived up to his draft position thus far. He has led the Hornets in assists and steals in both of his campaigns, and his numbers improved across the board this past season. His efficiency has also improved, as his true shooting percentage went from 53.9% in 2021 to 55.4% in 2022. Improved three-point shooting was a key catalyst for this increase, as Ball shot 38.9% from beyond the three-point line in 2022 as compared to 35.2% in 2021.

Ball’s on-court performance has been rewarded with accolades already, as he became the third Charlotte player to win the NBA Rookie of the Year award in 2021. He followed that up by becoming the fourth-youngest All-Star in NBA history in 2022, marking the third different Charlotte player to be named an All-Star since the franchise returned in 2002.

With Ball’s ascension expected to continue, there is a realistic possibility of him being named to an All-NBA team in two seasons’ time. If that happens, Ball would then be eligible for a supermax contract, raising the deal from a five-year, $202.5 million pact to a five-year, $243 million figure.

A price tag cannot be put on LaMelo Ball’s importance to the Charlotte Hornets

While a $243 million contract certainly triggers some sticker shock, it is important to remember just how much value a player of Ball’s stardom adds to a franchise.

In December of 2021, Sportico reported the value of the Hornets at $1.6 billion, a 6% increase from the prior year. For a small-market franchise without a great history of winning, a star on the level of Ball not only represents Charlotte’s best chance for on-court success, but he also represents an important asset as it relates to the overall value of the team.