Charlotte Hornets: LaMelo Ball’s NBA preseason debut

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 12: LaMelo Ball #2 of the Charlotte Hornets looks on during the first half of their game at Spectrum Center on December 12, 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 12: LaMelo Ball #2 of the Charlotte Hornets looks on during the first half of their game at Spectrum Center on December 12, 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

The Charlotte Hornets No. 3 overall draft pick LaMelo Ball has impressed many and dazzled all in his first NBA preseason game. Is LaMelo Ball as advertised?

LaMelo Ball was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the third overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft. Ball came into the draft touted as an other-worldly passer with issues in his shot selection and defensive effort.

So far in one preseason game LaMelo Ball has been as advertised – so, let’s overreact to his 16 minutes of action in Game 1.

Ball came off the bench playing 16 minutes total with a stat line of zero points (going 0-of-5 from the field), four assists, 10 rebounds, and four turnovers. The biggest takeaway is that LaMelo Ball has marginally changed his game since playing his last game in the NBL back in November of 2019.

So, what was the good, the bad, and the ugly with LaMelo Ball’s preseason debut?

LaMelo Ball’s debut: The good  

LaMelo Ball lit up NBA Twitter, minutes after the game ended the word “LaMelo” was trending with 45 thousand tweets (and it’s still increasing at the time of writing this.)

The Twitter-verse was impressed by Ball’s playmaking — it was the biggest trait highlighted in every draft profile going into the 2020 NBA Draft. 

Ball did put on an absolute show in his first preseason game – Behind the backs, full-court passes and over his head pick and roll dimes.

Ball displayed a knack for rebounding (seven boards a game) in the NBL, and Ball has carried over his rebounding ability in an NBA setting.

Ball grabbed 10 boards with many of them being Russell Westbrook-esque, coast-to-coast boards where Ball can drive or dime while running the full court. However, Ball is doing it more organically and in flow, not purposely hunting for triple-doubles.

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Another thing that stood out as a positive is his mentality, there were no questions coming into the draft about LaMelo Ball’s confidence and he proved that in the game. Ball drove with speed and purpose to the rim. It wasn’t effective, only going 0-of-5 from the field but rookies can often be hesitant — Ball quickly proved this wasn’t the case.

The bad from LaMelo Ball’s debut

Now that we are getting into the negative, I must stress that this is a singular preseason game sample. It’s still worth analyzing because many of the concerns brought up in his draft profiles were displayed in this game.

Ball drove twice, the first time he got pushed in the air and because of his slight frame, he flew straight into the baseline. His lack of muscle was also an issue in the NBL — however, It’s a typical rookie issue and with Ball being 6’8″ and only 19 years old this won’t be an issue for much longer.

The second time was an offensive foul driving into Aron Baynes, this wasn’t a great display of what his potential is as an around the basketball finisher. In the NBL Ball scored 17 points per game, with a majority of them at the ring – so it was a “bad” first impression but not a concerning one.

As you may expect Ball’s defense wasn’t spectacular, for a majority of the game he was guarding Matt Thomas in the corner – that was a conscious choice by Hornets coaching staff.

When he was switching on the perimeter, he often got caught defending the back of Fred VanVleet, who utilized the poor switching with screens to get open shots for the Raptors.

Other moments included reaching for the ball on the fast break, which made Ball look like an aircraft marshal directing an airplane into a hanger. Including some poor body positioning in a man-to-man situation (all things that can be improved, and not overly worrying considering he’s 6’8″ and athletic.)

Again, something that was bad but not concerning was his turnovers. Ball had as many turnovers as he had assists in the game, that is something rookie guards always struggle with and it’s especially the case for Ball — Ball is often performing high-risk high-reward passes, which led to his turnovers.

Ball averaged seven assists per game and 2.5 turnovers per game in the NBL,  it will take time for Ball to become an efficient passer… Speaking of efficiency, the shot selection is ugly.

The ugly from LaMelo Ball’s debut

Arguably the biggest red flag when analyzing Ball as a draft prospect was his shot selection. Ball shot 37.0 percent from the field and 25.0 percent from three in his 12 games in the NBL.

His percentages tanked because of his shot selection, in particular his early shot clock, multiple feet behind the line 3-point attempts. There were only two “bad” shots in his first game but it’s still a concern going into this season, and his career frankly.

Final thoughts

The synopsis is that LaMelo Ball in his first NBA preseason game did the exact same stuff he did in the NBL, but he did it on an NBA court, with better teammates and with a much larger audience.

The only real improvements I saw compared to his NBL season were that he was moving off the ball more frequently and communicating better on the defensive end. The passing is still jaw-dropping, the rebounding is still good and the overall defensive capabilities and shot selection were still concerning.

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