Should the Hornets be Concerned with LaMelo Ball?


The Charlotte Hornets signed their 22-year-old All-Star point guard to a five-year, $260 million deal this past offseason.

Fans in Buzz City were excited to see the youngest Ball brother extended, but LaMelo has yet to live up to it to start the season. Should this really cause Charlotte to feel concerned?

Availability is the Best Ability

Since entering the league in 2020, the young guard has dealt with two major injuries— a wrist injury that caused him to miss significant time during his rookie campaign, and a nagging ankle injury that caused Ball to only play 36 games last season.

The wrist injury hasn’t seemed to affect him long term, but the ankle is starting to become a concern.

LaMelo relies on his speed to make plays for himself and his team, which is well known. At times so far this season, however, it seems as if LaMelo is almost timid to use his natural abilities. Is the ankle injury still bothering him, or is he just nervous that he may reinjure himself if he’s too aggressive on it?

Either way, it’s something to consider. LaMelo just doesn’t look like himself out there. His explosiveness looks completely toned down, and fans are starting to take notice. Fans are also noticing a significant change in his statistics, and they’re not good.

A Troubling Start

To start the 2023-2024 season, Ball is averaging 17.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 9.3 assists per game. While that doesn’t seem terrible, his efficiency has been a major issue. After Sunday’s game, Ball boasts a .340 field-goal percentage, while shooting .319 percent from beyond the arc. With the Hornets starting the season 2-4, it’s been disheartening to see their star player start this slow.

Ball’s playmaking ability, however, hasn’t declined in the slightest. His 9.3 assists per game would mark a career-high average. He’s still setting up great looks for others. This is definitely reassuring, as his ability to read the floor has always been his biggest strength. 

After missing extended time during the course of last season, it’s easy to point the blame at simple rust. That seems to be the route Ball himself is taking, attributing his struggles to conditioning issues. We’ll have to wait and see as the season progresses if this was the truth or an excuse, but LaMelo has to improve if the team wants to win— plain and simple. 

So how does LaMelo correct these issues? 

Aggression Is Key

At 6’7, Ball towers over most of his matchups at his position. This should mean that he’s able to bully his defenders into easy baskets in the paint and draw fouls, but so far this season, his aggression has been severely lacking. Could this be attributed to him being nervous about reinjuring his ankle? Maybe, but this has been the story with LaMelo for a while now. 

Bottom line, he must be more aggressive. He can’t be scared of contact. Outside of an outlier game against Detroit where Ball shot 12 free throws, he hasn’t shot more than four in their five other games. To avoid contact, he often opts for his signature floater instead of getting closer to the rim.

Teams are starting to catch onto this, and that’s not good news. 

With how inconsistent the team around him has been to start the year, the Hornets need Ball to be the leader that he’s shown before that he can be. Until he gets back into form, it’s hard to see the team improving much off an already-slow start. With LaMelo struggling, it’s important to understand he’s not the only one at fault.

The Team has to start Capitalizing On the Plays he Makes

The Hornets themselves can help improve LaMelo’s play, and that comes with confidence. His confidence isn’t going to improve when he’s constantly setting up teammates for great looks at the basket, and they can’t take advantage. The team simply cannot shoot to start the season, especially from behind the three-point line.

Charlotte as a team is shooting just barely above 30% from three, a truly concerning stat. When Ball creates a great look at the basket for a teammate and they can’t convert, that only serves to lessen his confidence. An unconfident and timid LaMelo Ball isn’t what the Hornets want, so those shots have to start falling. 

When a team like the Hornets have little to no spacing due to their lack of shooters, it allows the defense to focus more on defending closer to the rim. So, even if LaMelo wanted to get to the rim more, could he even? Should an early injury history combined with personal and team struggles cause the Hornets to be concerned with Ball?

No Cause for Panic… Yet

It’s easy for Charlotte fans to hit the panic button already, but really they shouldn’t. Players go through slow spells throughout every season that they play, and LaMelo is no exception to that rule. This just seems to be in the light more for multiple reasons. The extension, the 2-4 start, and so far being outshined by an incredible start to the career of Brandon Miller

While the injury history is certainly eye-raising, unless he is truly still being hampered by his ankle, LaMelo shouldn’t change his style of play in fear. The team needs him to be his true, explosive self. Without his aggression and speed, the Hornets as a whole tend to slow down and settle for bad looks on offense.

LaMelo is a strong-minded player and a great leader. Fans of the team shouldn’t have a doubt in their minds that he will improve, as this is first regular season action since fracturing his ankle in a game against the Detroit Pistons in February. The game will slow down for him again, and his scoring production will return. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

That previously mentioned when might be now, after a tremendous effort in crunch time Monday against the Mavericks. Entering the third quarter with only seven points, Ball exploded for twenty-three fourth quarter points. Although the Hornets went on to lose, their star player finally found his groove. This performance came only one night after locking down Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton to seal an impressive win in Indiana. The confidence is finally starting to return to him, and he now looks to put the slow start behind him to put all concerns to rest.

The team at The Lead still considers Ball to be a top-50 player in the league, though, coming in at 40 in our rankings. Check out the rest of the list here to see where he matches up against your favorite player!

The Lead’s Top 50 Players for 2024

Larry Johnson Hornets Grandmama Bobblehead!

You’ve never seen a Grandmama dominate on the hardwood like this before. Show some respect for your elders with this Larry Johnson Charlotte Hornets Grandmama Bobblehead.

About Sage Kimbro

    Recommended for you

    Powered by themekiller.com