Add Wednesday night’s Dec. 1 game between the Charlotte Hornets and Milwaukee Bucks to the list for games of the year so far. The defending champion Bucks pulled out a 127-125 victory on a go-ahead deft layup by two-time MVP and reigning Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. That was after Hornets second-year guard LaMelo Ball hit a ridiculous step-back three.
Bridges half-court heave.
What an ending in Milwaukee. pic.twitter.com/hx8JCAriAw
— NBA Fantasy (@NBAFantasy) December 2, 2021
It was a career night for Ball despite the loss. In his duel against Giannis, the younger Ball Brother scored a career-high 36 points on 12-for-22 shooting, including 8 of 5 from three. That’s a Steph Curry-type of shooting night. Ball added five rebounds, nine assists, and three steals to his stat line.
It wasn’t a bad night for Giannis either, as he finished 40 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists.
After the game both players swapped jerseys and gave each other respect after a tremendous battle.
Giannis and LaMelo swapped jersey’s after what was a crazy ending to an insane game last night.
The Bucks beat the Hornets 127-125.
— The Sporting News (@sportingnews) December 2, 2021
This was an impressive showing from LaMelo. The No. 3 pick in the 2020 NBA draft and last season’s rookie of the year is showing why many people were high on him coming into the league. He has size, tremendous skill, and a flair for the dramatic. He is also a good teammate and it looks like Charlotte has a possible future MVP on their hands.
Hornets legend Muggsy Bogues is impressed with the youngest Ball.
“LaMelo is infectious, the guys love playing with him,” Bogues told Quentin Richardson and Jamal Crawford during the NBA Hooper Vision live broadcast of the Hornets game against the Bucks on NBA League Pass.
“It’s a treat to see a guy come in with that type of humbleness and willingness to want to uplift his teammates and I think him playing overseas last year allowed him to grow to play against those type of professional players and gave him a head start coming in to blend in with these guys and it’s been very noticeable from last year to this year.”
— NBA (@NBA) December 2, 2021
The Hornets are 13-11 and rank 12th in adjusted net rating, with the fourth-toughest schedule in the league.
Last season, as a rookie, Ball was +0.1 in offensive estimated plus minus and -1.2 in defensive estimated plus minus for an overall -0.8. That’s not surprising for a rookie point guard. The NBA game is a whole different level of speed, physicality and nuance. It takes time to adjust, especially at the point guard position.
This season, through 24 games, Ball is +4.0 in offensive EPM and +0.1 in defensive EPM. He is an overall +4.1 in EPM. That’s in the 95th percentile of the entire league. That’s an incredible improvement.
LaMelo is ahead of Ja Morant, his brother Lonzo, D’Angelo Russell and Damian Lillard. Just to name a few. The only point guards ranked above him in EPM are James Harden, Donovan Mitchell, Trae Young, Chris Paul and Steph Curry.
We are only a quarter of the way through his second season, and his rookie season was cut short after 51 games due to injury. It’s safe to assume we can expect to see some more improvement over the next few years. He’s 20 years old.
The Hornets are already a playoff contending team and in two years Ball will be eligible for his rookie extension. In all likelihood it will be a max. He is trending towards All-Star, All-NBA, and MVP level.
If you didn’t know it already, the Hornets have a star.
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