Thompson: Three reasons LaMelo could be a ball for Hornets

Danny Thompson

The Charlotte Hornets leaped from the eighth spot in the NBA Draft Lottery to ending up with the third overall pick. Charlotte has the ability to draft a player that has the potential to be a key player for the future. The pressure on general manager Mitch Kupchak to make the right pick is enormous. 

With plenty of options available, let’s take a look at one of the players that could be available for the Hornets-- Illawarra Hawks (Australia’s National Basketball League) guard LaMelo Ball. 

Here are three reasons why Charlotte should take Ball-- and one reason why they should not-- if he is available. 

NO. 1: COURT VISION

One thing about the Ball brothers is that they have outstanding court vision. LaMelo’s oldest brother Lonzo is a prime example. His ability to run the fast break and get open shots for teammates is one of the best in the NBA. LaMelo’s vision is almost as good. He averaged 6.8 assists a game (2nd in the NBL).

His ability to find the open man from any angle will make the current group of Hornets a dangerous group. Also his ability to create with the outlet pass will be key especially when he has players like Miles Bridges and Cody Zeller. Both can run the floor very well.

Charlotte struggled in creating open shots last year from the point guard position. Terry Rozier III and Devonte Graham are solid at point guard, but they are more of a scoring point guard instead of being a pass first point guard.  

If you watch the highlights, the opening two situations are perfect examples of his court vision.  

On the first (:04), Ball was able to grab the offensive rebound and instead of attempting to put up a shot over a solid defender, he threw a perfect pass to one of his teammates for the easy 3-pointer.  

The second play, Ball used the pick-and-roll to perfection. After the switch on defense, Ball was able to put the ball in a place where only his teammate could get it for the easy slam dunk. That play could be Ball and Zeller doing the same thing in Charlotte this upcoming season. 

NO. 2: CREATION SKILL 

When you look at the roster at the current moment, the team lacks a true creator. Even though Graham and Rozier had to create shots with separation, the team did not have a player with size who can cause problems with getting into the paint. Drafting Ball would change everything for head coach James Borrego.  

Ball stands at 6-foot-7 and because he is a much bigger point size-wise, it allows him to read defenses at a different vantage point. Having Ball on the court will increase the number of wide-open shots for Rozier and Graham. Rozier shot 46.9% when he had defenders 6-feet and further away and Graham shot 42.9% -- a full 3% higher than any other distance in the 2019-2020 season. 

NO. 3: MOST READY NBA READY 

When it comes to all of the prospects not named R.J Hampton (played in the NBL with Ball) and Deni Avdija (played in Israel and the Euroleague), Ball has played against better competition than the rest of the class. Playing with and against former NBA players on a regular basis will help Ball in his transition into the league.

Unlike Hampton, Ball played professionally in Lithuania for a short time, gaining more experience against older and better players. Playing in these places will help Ball in his transition to the NBA, because he has already played with older players and established head coaches. He knows the ins and outs of being a professional basketball player.  

Ball's coaches in Australia praised him for his professionalism and self-confidence. As the season grew and he became more comfortable, his numbers and all-around play became his story.

ABOUT HIS ALL-AROUND DEFENSE 

There have been moments throughout his time in Australia and other leagues where Ball’s defense has been a huge concern. He has the ability to defend and is long enough to cause serious problems. He averaged 1.6 steals a game last season and he had four games where he had two or more steals.  

But at times Ball has shown that defense is not an important part of his game. He struggles against players who are more athletic. While watching film on him, players in Australia had an easy time getting around Ball and into the lane for easy baskets. The other part that can be a red-flagged is that he’s not very good against the pick-and-roll (0 percentile in the NBL) and in the post-up (4% percentile in the NBL).

When you look at the Ball’s numbers overall in Australia, things like his shot percentage and 3-point percentage numbers are lower than you would want from a player of his caliber. 

But remember, he was an 18-year old playing in one of the best leagues in the world. The best way to watch LaMelo Ball is to watch his final four games before a foot injury ended his season. He had three games of more than 20 points, three games with nine or more assists, two games more than 10 rebounds and a triple-double. 

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