There is a world where the Charlotte Hornets are significantly better than expected this season. But for that to happen, they are going to need star point guard LaMelo Ball to lead the way. This not only starts with contributions being his standard baseline production but also being able to make a sizable step forward as a player.
It does appear that there is a belief that Ball could make this happen. Ball made an appearance on a list from The Athletic’s John Hollinger (subscription required) that identifies a selection of players who could make a big jump in 2023-2024. After mentioning Ball’s talent level and what he has accomplished thus far, Hollinger notes a couple of areas in which he could improve.
"“Despite that, this feels like a big year for Ball. There has always been the slight whiff of unseriousness about his game, dating back to his goofy season in Australia, and he needs to lock down on some of the finer elements: Digging in on defense rather than gambling for steals so much, becoming a more efficient 2-point scorer (45.0 percent last year — blecch) and drawing more fouls.”"
Ball’s defense has always been an area in need of improvement, and it is not a surprise to see it mentioned here. Yes, gambling for steals, as Hollinger puts it, can lead to highlight-worthy plays. But more consistent play on that end of the court with fewer chances being taken should lead to a better overall defensive performance and ultimately take pressure off of everyone else on offense, but most notably Ball.
While this year is not necessarily career-defining for Ball, it would provide a bit more clarity into what exactly the Hornets have in who is supposed to be their franchise player. Perhaps Ball is nothing more than the inefficient highlight reel player he has shown to be so far, but if he can harness everything and put it all together, he can take that leap into superstardom that most feel is a very real possibility. It is up to Ball as to whether or not he will be able to realize that potential.