Just 10 games into his rookie season, Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball had 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists against Atlanta, becoming the youngest players in NBA history to record a triple-double.
It was his only triple-double of the season, but his all-around performance was not an anomaly.
Ball averaged 15.7 points, 6.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds – one of nine players and the only rookie to post at least 15-6-5.9 per game – in 51 games for the much-improved Hornets. Ball also shot 43.6% from the field and a respectable 35.2% on 3-pointers.
For this production, Ball was named 2020-21 Rookie of the Year on Wednesday.
“He’s brought us a jolt of energy and a passion for the game that’s very genuine,” Hornets coach James Borrego told USA TODAY Sports earlier this season. “He ignites our locker room, he ignites our huddles. The positivity and joy more than anything on the floor has been a great jolt to our program. He’s a real joy to coach. He’s been fantastic in his play. I love having him.”
Ball sustained a wrist injury that forced him to miss 21 games and gave Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards a window to close the gap with his rookie performance.
Ball finished with 465 points in the voting, edging Edwards, who had 309 points. Sacramento’s Tyrese Haliburton finished third with 114 points, and Detroit’s Saddiq Bey finished fourth with three points.
Had the 19-year-old point guard averaged a fraction of a rebound more, he would’ve been the fifth player in NBA history to average at least 15-6-6.
Ball, the younger brother of New Orleans’ Lonzo Ball, is a big part of Charlotte’s improvement and future alongside Gordon Hayward, P.J. Washington, Miles Bridges, Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham.
The Hornets became one of the more enjoyable teams to watch as Ball developed chemistry with just about anyone he was with on the court – find Hayward cutting to the rim, Washington and Rozier at the 3-point line and Bridges at the rim for spectacular alley-oops.
“His playmaking, passing ability and vision is very contagious,” Borrego said.