LaMelo Ball has won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year honors

By Chase Whitney

June 16, 2021

Photo: Jacob Kupferman / AP

It’s been a long time coming, but Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball has been named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year for the 2020-2021 season after averaging 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game on 43.6/35.2/75.8 shooting splits.

Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards and Sacramento’s Tyrese Haliburton were the second and third-place finishers. Edwards made a late push for the award, putting up 23.8 points per game post All-Star break, though his performance in those months was in stark contrast to his 14.9 points per game on 46.6 percent true shooting pre All-Star break. Haliburton had a stellar rookie year as the 12th pick in the draft, although he went down for the season on May 2 with a knee injury.

Ball was the only Rookie of the Year finalist whose team made the postseason, and he was a huge factor in that. He was the first player in the last 60 seasons to lead all rookies in total points, rebounds, assists and steals at the All-Star break despite not starting a game until February 1. There were only seven other NBA players that met his per-game averages (15.7 PPG, 5.9 REB, 6.1 AST), six of which were All-Stars this past season, with the other being Russell Westbrook, who averaged a triple-double. When extrapolating those numbers across a per-36 minute basis, only five others make the cut, with Ball second in steals and second-lowest in turnovers per game. 

Let’s be honest; Charlotte fans knew this was coming for a while, but it’s nice to finally see a Hornets player recognized by the NBA for his accomplishments. Ball’s rookie season was statistically impressive, but what’s most promising was his ability to positively impact a competitive team, something most rookies aren’t able to do in such a prominent role. His ceiling as a player is higher than even his biggest supporters imagined before the season started, and there’s not a discernible limit as to just how good Ball can be yet– his natural feel for the game of basketball at its highest level is rare among 19-year-olds. 

He exceeded expectations from the jump, coming into the league as a more than respectable shooter and playmaking defender, despite the poor reputation that preceded him in those areas during his NBL and high school career. The Charlotte Hornets were lucky enough to make their first-ever lottery leap from the eighth-best odds to the No. 3 overall pick. The Hornets organization and fans alike can thank their lucky stars that the No. 1 player in the Draft fell to them when they selected LaMelo Ball, the 2021 NBA Rookie of the Year.

The next time Hornets fans will be able to participate in an NBA-related event is the draft lottery, which takes place on June 22.

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