After missing 21 games this season due to a fractured wrist, Charlotte Hornets’ LaMelo Ball returned and totaled 11 points and eight assists in his return against the Detroit Pistons. The performance was followed up with 14 points, six rebounds, and five assists versus the Miami Heat on Sunday.
With the regular season coming to a close, there is speculation on whether Ball should be viewed as the favorite for the annual Rookie of the Year award. The closest competition at this time would be Minnesota Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards, who is averaging 18.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per contest.
Prior to the injury, Ball was once a -775 favorite for the Rookie of the Year award in March. He was averaging 15.9 points, 6.1 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals per contest. After being named the full-time starter in the Hornets lineup earlier this season, those statistics increased to 19.5 points, 6.2 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.
At the time of Ball’s injury, Charlotte was holding onto the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. The team had missed the playoffs in each of the previous four seasons. Currently, the Hornets sit with a 31-32 overall record; eighth in the conference.
Despite Edwards’ hot second half of the season, we can’t forget the impact Ball has made this season. At the All-Star Break, the 19-year old was leading all rookies in points, assists, rebounds and steals.
The lowest amount of games played by an NBA Rookie of the Year winner was Patrick Ewing during the 1985-86 season. Ewing played in 61 percent of games, averaging 20 points, nine rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per contest. If Ball can remain healthy and play at least 50 games during the shortened 2020-21 season, his percentage of games played would sit at roughly 69.4 percent.
Ball was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Month during the months of January, February, and March, despite playing only eight games during the final month.
All of the numerical and logical factors favor Ball as this year’s Rookie of the Year. With a particularly weaker NBA rookie class, the missed time should not play a role in whether Ball takes home the award this season.