DimeMag

The Hornets Should Embrace Being The LaMelo Ball Show This Season

The Charlotte Hornets enter the 2020-21 season with a few new faces on the roster, most prominently Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball. The former was brought in to raise the floor of this team, providing a sense of professionalism and stability to the wing. The latter, though, will be the player that determines Charlotte’s ceiling for years to come, and, even in a somewhat crowded backcourt rotation, he should be given the reins in his rookie season.

In his first preseason game, Ball wowed with his preternatural abilities as a facilitator, never afraid to spice things up with a behind-the-back or no-look pass, but almost always finding his target with precision no matter how much sauce comes with it. He also showed the benefits of having a 6’7 point guard with his abilities on the glass, where he immediately turns an opponent’s miss into a fast break opportunity going the other way.

Ball didn’t score in his preseason debut, but pulled down 10 rebounds and handed out four assists, leading the team in both categories. There will be those that overreact on both sides to Ball’s preseason performance, but basically this was what most expected from the young hopeful star. His shot remains spotty at best and he has a long way to go to become an efficient scorer, but the way he sees the floor is like very few ever and he has the dexterity to make just about every pass possible and put it on target with pace.

Hornets players are already learning to be prepared for a pass at all times from Ball, which is something that injects so much life into an offense because it keeps everyone engaged all the time. On top of that, in lineups with either Terry Rozier or Devonte’ Graham and Gordon Hayward on the floor, there’s plenty of scoring punch around him — and quality secondary creators who can build on the initial action Ball initiates. Charlotte is in a strange spot this season — clearly hopeful of a return to the playoffs sooner than later, evidenced by the Hayward signing — but with a talent many felt was the top player on the board in this year’s draft who fell to them at No. 3 overall.

With the play-in tournament, there’s certainly an opportunity for the Hornets to be among the 10 best teams in the East, but this is a franchise that has been a fringe playoff contender before. They know what that’s like and if there’s any player on the roster with the potential to lift them to heights beyond that, it’s Ball. It took one preseason game for there to be floods of “LaMelo is in” alerts flying around Twitter every time he checked back into the game, as his mere presence raises the excitement level around this Charlotte team.

The hype may fade away eventually if the production on the court doesn’t match up to expectations, but the Hornets need to recognize they have the potential for something special with LaMelo that they haven’t had in a very long time. Ball has a national profile like no Hornets player…maybe ever? And while that’s not a reason to definitively say he’s their star of the future, it is reason enough to hitch their wagon to him right now and see where he can take them.

There’s going to be bumps in the road with Ball on both ends of the floor. Defense is going to be a work in progress that requires his commitment to constant effort, but one would think with his basketball IQ and length he could at least become serviceable on that end. Becoming a better scorer would open even more things up to him offensively, but those are all things that extended playing time can help create answers for. It’s possible Ball never develops into a superstar, but right now he’s the Hornets’ best shot. On top of that, even at worst, he’s an exceedingly fun player to watch, even if there will be some extremely frustrating moments.

Steering into being fun and exciting when you’re in the bottom half of the conference is a pretty good idea, and Charlotte fans deserve that. Ball might not give them the best chance to scrape into the play-in (and maybe earn a date for a 4 or 5-game series with the Bucks), but he’s the player that will ultimately determine how bright their future is. That’s worth investing heavy minutes in now and hopefully reaping the rewards of that development this season and beyond.

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