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Top 25 NBA Players Under 25: No. 9 – LaMelo Ball

LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets

LaMelo Ball is entering his fourth year in the NBA with the Charlotte Hornets. Last season, Ball had his best statistical output on a per-game basis. He averaged 23.3 points, 8.4 assists, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game on 41/38/84 shooting splits. Unfortunately, his season was limited to only 36 games due to a fractured right ankle. The years prior, Ball was the Rookie of the Year in 2021. He also made his first NBA All-Star appearance in 2022.

Top 25 NBA Players Under 25: No. 9 – LaMelo Ball

Last season, according to FiveThirtyEight, he had a plus 2.2 offensive RAPTOR rating, compared to a negative 1.0 defensive RAPTOR rating. Ball’s 6-foot-7 frame makes him an extremely versatile offensive guard. He’s one of the best rebounding point guards for his position and one of the best passers in the entire league. His size, ballhandling, and court vision make him a true point guard who can effectively create open looks for others.

Areas of Improvement

While he’s a great passer, Ball still has room to improve his shot selection. At times, he forces low-percentage looks. However, it’s fair to question how much of this is on Ball and how much is a result of the Hornets lacking outside weapons outside Ball. As he and the Hornets’ roster both continue to develop, look for Ball to take that next step in his game as someone who plays more under control.

While he averaged over a steal per game, Ball still needs to improve defensively. He often gambles too much, which explains the above-average steal rate relative to his below-average defense. At 181 pounds, Ball isn’t the most switchable defender either, despite his length. Ball’s size and basketball IQ in terms of anticipating plays could translate to being around an average defender as he continues to develop in the NBA. However, as is, he’s a net negative.

Building Around LaMelo

The Hornets must build their team around Ball by surrounding him with 3-and-D players. Now paired with the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, Brandon Miller, the Hornets finally have a dynamic duo and multiple foundational pieces to build around. Miller is a two-way forward who can nicely fill in the gaps for Ball, as Ball is more of an offensive-minded guard. Still, they need to continue surrounding Ball with pieces that complement his unique play style.

Last Word on LaMelo Ball

Unfortunately, the Hornets project to be at the bottom of the Eastern Conference yet again heading into this season. However, if Ball can take that next jump to a consistent NBA All-Star level player on a yearly basis, and Miller is a solid two-way starter, then they have reasons to be excited about their future roster outlook.

The No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft has been living up to the high draft capital expectations. At 22 years old and finally getting healthy, all signs point towards Ball having his best season yet.

Ball should be a favorite to make his second All-Star game this upcoming 2023-24 NBA season. He just needs to put together a similar average output as last season while playing close to an entire season.

ALSO READ: 2023-24 NBA Power Rankings Offseason Edition: No. 30 Charlotte Hornets


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