There are certain NBA players who just have that certain something when they step on the court, and that applies to Charlotte Hornets star point guard LaMelo Ball. Since being selected as the third overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Ball has shown a prodigious scoring ability paired with elite passing has led to nightly highlights on television and social media. Even with the highlight-worthy play on the court, there are still some areas in need of refinement. This was pointed out by ESPN’s Zach Lowe in his 5 Most Intriguing Players article (ESPN+ subscription required).
Ball has seen his assist average increase every year since entering the league, going from 6.1 as a rookie to 8.4 in his most recent season. But the problem is not with his skills as a passer or his assist total, but rather how often he shoots the ball. Lowe describes Ball as “shot happy”, noting his high volume of shot attempts and his disappointing low free throw attempts per 36 minutes last season.
"“For a passing savant, Ball became a little shot happy; he was the only rotation player leaguewide to jack more than 20 shots per 36 minutes while earning fewer than four free throws.”"
A contributing factor to this is Ball continues to take shots further and further away from the basket. The percentage of Ball’s shot attempts inside three feet has dropped every year since coming into the league, with last season’s 16.9% being a career-low. Meanwhile, Ball’s three-point attempts have increased every year with 2023’s 53.1% being nearly 15% higher than that of his rookie year. Lowe would point out Ball’s ability from deep, although he could be a bit more selective in those attempts, or at least work the clock a bit more.
"“His pull-up and step-back 3s are weapons, and Ball has unteachable guile in opening space for those shots — faking toward picks and then rejecting them, tipping defenders off-balance with liquidy hesitation dribbles and snappy crossovers. But too many high-wire 3s early in the shot clock can be demoralizing for teammates.”"
The interesting thing about all of this in Lowe’s eyes is that Ball’s method of attack is backward. Ball’s relative youth and overall inexperience in the grand scheme of things are clearly a factor, but it appears there is an issue when it comes to having a feel for the offense as someone who is supposed to be the Hornets’ floor general.
"“Ball approaches the basket in a rush, sometimes overeager to get rid of the ball before even touching the paint. That is the paradox of Ball: Dishing it early can be healthy, but there is such a thing — even for point guards — of dishing it too early, too often. Ball chases shots when it might be best to keep the ball moving, and moves the ball when it might be best to keep searching.”"
There were not many things that went right for the Hornets last year, and that includes a less efficient season from Ball than the year that preceded it. But this is not a reason to panic. At just 22 years old and with only 162 career games under his belt, Ball has plenty of time to improve in these areas. The young star point guard has a ton of raw skill, but it is now about refining a few areas of his game which should hopefully result in better results for Ball and the Hornets organization.