The NBA has fallen in love with oversized guards in recent years. This trend creates players who have the potential to do a lot of things on the court, as well as switching between the one and two guard spots. In the 2021 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Hornets got their hands on, perhaps, the holy grail, of this in-demand prototype.
LaMelo Ball is a 6-foot-8 offensive virtuoso for the Charlotte Hornets
There have never been more eyes on the Hornets than in the LaMelo Ball era. He is a superstar on-court and off it. His free flow, flashy, streetball playstyle puts buts on the seats and eyes on the TV — last season, over 90% of Hornets’ season ticket holders renewed their deal and 2,200 more fans decided to join in.
Ball was a very polarizing prospect even before he was drafted. He scored 92-points as a 15-year-old sophomore, was gifted a Lamborghini for his 16th birthday, had a signature shoe while in high-school, and was a part of “Ball in the family” — a reality TV-show documenting the personal and professional lives of the Ball family. Ball has always had a lot of doubters (and frankly, haters) because of his father and luxurious lifestyle, but his talent as a basketball player was unquestionable.
Nowadays, the consensus is that Ball is well beyond his years when it comes to in-game ability. He is one of the highest-ceiling young players in the league right now and can legitimately be the face of a franchise. Naturally, he can work on some areas of his game, including being a more efficient finisher, but he has the tools necessary to be a perennial All-NBA player.
Below are five plays that perfectly summarize the LaMelo Ball experience.
Some people like to say that LaMelo’s playmaking is flashier than it is good or valuable. If you watch the Hornets, you know that’s not true.
Ball does make risky passes. Sometimes they work and it’s the number one play on SportsCenter. Sometimes it doesn’t and it’s a turnover. I’m ok with that. Ball is a 21-year-old and far from a finished product, maturity and poise will come. In the meantime, let’s enjoy plays like this one.
Ball has two options: hit Montrezl Harrell for the lob or take the layup himself. He takes the first one, throwing a picture-perfect between-the-legs lob to Harrell who finishes with authority.
It’s a bird? It’s a plane? Nope.
It’s just Montrezl Harrell.
Game-Tying Three in Milwaukee
It’s about time Ball is taken seriously as one of the league’s premier “limitless range” shooters.
This past season, only three players attempted more three-pointers from 30+ feet than Ball, who attempted 53 total shots from that distance. He was taking these deep threes in high school and Australia as well so it’s not surprising that he has the confidence to launch from logo range.
What is surprising, however, is how efficient Ball has been from deep, connecting on 42.2% of his corner threes, and 38.9% overall. The volume is there too, attempting 7.5 threes per game.
In a game most fans remember as Ball’s scoring career-high, he also had his clutches moment in purple and teal so far.
Down three, and with less than nine seconds remaining, Ball used two screens to ditch the Jrue Holiday matchup, found a way to get the ball, and then sank a breathtaking three.
Even if the game ended in heartbreaking fashion for Hornets fans. At least for these few seconds, everything was just right.
The Cody Martin Airball
This play did not result in points, but if it had been a pass from LaMelo Ball to LaMelo Ball, the outcome might have been different.
After getting past Kyle Lowry with a beautiful pinpoint spin, Ball fooled not one, not two, but three Miami defenders before finding a wide-open Cody Martin in the right corner.
Eric Collins was right — Cody had to hit it, but one could argue that the miss made the “near-highlight” even more remarkable, so let’s move on.
No Look Behind-the-Back Pass
Here, Ball beats two defenders to the ball and then awkwardly twists his body in the air to find an open Mason Plumlee for the easy dunk. A mid-air no-look behind-the-back pass kind of has a Globetrotter flair to it, doesn’t it?
Ball is really making a run for the “eyes in the back of his head” cliché. It’s as if he has a sixth sense in some of these plays.
The Self Alley-Oop Attempt
This time we see Ball getting the pass off the fast break with nobody in striking distance. Instead of going to the basket and scoring the easy layup, Ball decided to bounce the ball off the floor and try the ever so glamorous self alley-oop, which he missed.
Now, the Hornets were ahead and went on to win the game, but Ball was immediately benched by James Borrego and will probably leave self alley-oop attempts to Bryce McGowens in the near future.
It’s easy to forget that Ball is only 21 years old when watching him play. Fortunately for us, there are plays like this one where LaMelo reminds us that he’s still just a kid.