When the news broke about LaMelo Ball’s fractured right ankle, the writing was on the wall. Now, the writing is in ink. Shams Charania announced today that Ball would be done for the season. Ball joins PJ Washington and Cody Martin on the injured list for the Charlotte Hornets. He was previously on it this season for left ankle sprains, which caused him to miss significant time.
The one-time All-Star’s season is done. And with the injuries to him and other pillars of the roster, it can feel like fans were robbed of seeing the league’s most creative passer truly spread his wings. There were a few instances where Hornets fans got to see a glimpse of what the young man could do.
Charlotte Hornets’ LaMelo Ball’s season by the numbers
One of the most heartbreaking things about Ball’s injury is the fact that he was just starting to develop chemistry with Mark Williams. While Plumlee had a specific role to fill on offense, Williams already appears to have filled a slightly different one. Ball is sixth in pick-and-roll possessions per game (10.2) but has the lowest point per possession (.81) out of the top ten most frequent ball handlers in that play type.
Williams could have changed that. He’s obviously young, but his shooting touch makes him a threat as a screen and roller regardless of whether he gets all the way to the cup. Additionally, his size, athleticism, and touch will make him a better finisher around the basket than Plumlee. The Williams and Ball pairing will have a lasting impression on opposing teams for some time to come.
Ball’s willingness to get in the paint and finish at the rim also improved. He shot a career-high 59.8% at the rim. He also had more drives per game this season (14.7) than at any point previously. He ranks 16th in the NBA in that category, which would also be the highest of his career. It’s important to keep in mind that he did all of this while averaging more three-point attempts per game (10.6) than he ever has in the NBA.
Essentially, Ball’s shot profile is changing. He’s finishing better at the rim, taking fewer midrange shots, and putting up video game numbers from deep. His scoring will really increase once he’s able to consistently get to the line.
According to Basketball Reference, of the 51 players averaging 20 or more points per game, only four other players attempt fewer free throws per game than Ball’s 3.4. Given that he’s a career 82.8% free throw shooter, he could be even more devastating as a scorer with more trips to the charity stripe.
Charlotte Hornets fans weren’t able to see Ball’s full arsenal this season. But there is plenty to be excited about if you’re rooting for the purple and teal.