NBA Rookie of the Year Prediction: LaMelo Ball

As the Charlotte Hornets prepare to host the Indiana Pacers tonight for the second time in three days, it’s the perfect time to take a temperature of not only tonight’s contest but also Charlotte guard LaMelo Ball’s chances of being named NBA Rookie of the Year. Regardless of the team’s recent slide and current 7-11 record, the Hornets in general and Ball in particular still offer plenty of value on the betting scene.

Breaking Down Ball’s ROY Chances

Ball, the No. 3 pick in the last NBA draft, was terrific out of the gate this season. He became youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, doing it at age 19, 140 days in just his 10th NBA game when he recorded 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in a Charlotte win over the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 9.

“He’s a special player. He’s not fazed by the moment. It’s like he’s been doing this for a number of years already,” Hornets coach James Borrego told reporters in the wake of that outing, according to The Sporting News. Borrego later added, “A 19-year-old rookie does not look like this. This is just rare what you’re seeing.”

“It’s just basketball, and I’m doing what I love,” Ball told the Hornets TV broadcast in a postgame interview after posting the triple-double. “I’ve been doing this ever since I was three, so it comes quite easy to me.”

So no big deal, right? That game in particular but also other flashes quickly made Ball the early NBA Rookie of the Year betting favorite. But in the back of his coach’s mind, Borrego had to know there would be bumps in the road ahead for Ball, as with any rookie.

And that is exactly what has happened.

A rash of turnovers in Chicago led to Borrego playing Ball only 16 minutes and afterward pointedly telling reporter Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer after the game that anyone who turns the ball over like that “better be bringing something defensively,” where Ball’s game has noticeably been lacking.

Please Note:
That and recent struggles with his outside shooting recently led respected NBA.com writer Steve Aschburner to drop Ball from No. 1 on his list of top rookie performers behind Golden State’s James Wiseman last week. This despite some interesting numbers: Ball, a 6-foot-8 point guard, is tied with the 7-foot Wiseman in rebounding (5.9 per game); tied for third in scoring among rookies with Sacramento’s Tyrese Haliburton (11.1 points per game) behind only No.1 overall pick Anthony Edwards (13.0 ppg with Minnesota) and Wiseman (12.2 ppg); and first among all rookies in assists (5.8) and steals (1.4).

So is Ball still the favorite to win ROY? According to Betonline, he is. Ball currently is listed at -155 to win the award, followed by Haliburton (+250), Edwards and Wiseman (+450), and Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey (+2500). And here is a key underlying factor as to why: Ball still isn’t getting as many minutes on the court as most of the other top rookies. As the season goes on, he’s likely to at some point replace the struggling Devonte Graham in the starting lineup and get a significant bump in playing time, after which his overall numbers are likely to take a leap forward as well.

The Futures Pick to Win NBA Rookie of the Year:
LaMelo Ball
Joe Menzer / Author

Joe is an award-winning writer and editor who has covered the NBA, NFL, NASCAR, golf, various collegiate athletics and other sports for newspapers, Turner Sports, Fox Sports and ESPN. He has been on the beat for seven Super Bowls, six Daytona 500s and numerous NBA playoff series and All-Star Games. He once was dispatched to Rome, Italy to spend time with an NBA draft choice who opted to play overseas, after which he produced an award-winning series of stories. He also is passionate about fantasy sports and breaking down games in ways that even novice gamblers can use to make their most intelligent wagering decisions.