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The chosen one: LaMelo Ball spices up Charlotte Hornets draft class
Top pick adds playmaking and big name to roster
 
Published Thursday, November 19, 2020 9:14 pm
by Herbert L. White

SUBMITTED PHOTO
LaMelo Ball's passing skill and size puts him in position to play in multiple lineups for the Hornets, who drafted him third in Wednesday's NBA draft.

LaMelo Ball fits neatly into every box for the Charlotte Hornets.

Their top draft pick can play three positions and his passing skill should demand he gets opportunities to play in multiple lineups, a critical asset in today’s NBA. Charlotte general manager Mitch Kupchak said Ball’s flexibility made him an attractive prospect at guard or wing. The 6-7 Ball agrees.

“I feel like I fit anywhere real good, and definitely the point forward I feel like could work because it's definitely positionless basketball now,” he said Wednesday during a media availability. “You can just get in and go, so Mitch is definitely saying the right stuff.”

Another selling point, Kupchak, said, is Ball’s maturity, honed after two years of professional competition against players twice his age.

“To play against grown men in Lithuania and in Australia, that tells you something,” Kupchak said. “To those guys, it’s not like it’s a pick-up game. They all are playing for money, they want to win a spot, they want to win a game, so they’re play for real. And you’re talking about guys anywhere from 22 to 38 years old. So, yeah it tells you something. It gives you an indication to some degree that he can compete and that he can hold his own against grown men – which is what he’s going to be facing in the NBA.

Said head coach James Borrego: “We love the pick. We’ve studied him a tremendous amount, I got to see him last week in LA and just a high-level kid. First of all, [he’s a] top tier playmaker with size, versatile, can make plays for others. To me what the league is nowadays is playmakers, at the guard spot, at the wing spot. Guys that can make plays for others, make the right play. He makes it look effortless, he’s a hell of a talent. I’m thrilled to have him, and I think he fits our style of play. …I think it’s a heck of a pick for our franchise, for our organization, for our city.”

Ball, the third pick overall, joins a young team that was playing its best basketball when the coronavirus prematurely ended the Hornets’ season. The starting backcourt of Terry Rozier and Devonte Graham return, but Ball is a bigger option at guard and can move out to small forward and make plays. Ball’s NBA-ready passing assets opens new possibilities in Charlotte, where Borrego is putting emphasis on picking up the pace offensively and creating mismatches through versatility.

“He’s a guy that can rebound at his position,” Borrego said. “He’s got size, he’s a great outlet guy, he can bring it on his own, he sees the floor, his kick ahead game is elite. He’s going to start a number of our fast breaks. The ball’s going to be in all of our guys hands, it’s not just going to be in LaMelo’s, it’s going to be in Devonte’s, Terry’s, Miles [Bridges], P.J. [Washington]. This is an offense where the ball is moving – he’s an elite ball mover, he wants to share the ball, move the ball.”

“Definitely,” Ball said. “I love transition. I would love that the team would be in transition, and I feel like it's going to be fun this year.”

In a draft in which there was no consensus top prospect, Ball was in the mix as the No. 1 pick along with Anthony Edwards of Georgia, who went to Minnesota and Memphis’ James Wiseman, who was picked by Golden State. Ball isn’t stressed about winding up with Charlotte, which also drafted a pair of centers in Vernon Carey Jr. and Nick Richards as well as College Charleston point guard Grant Riller.  

“I definitely feel great falling [to] them,” he said. But the way I've fallen down, I never looked at it like that because, like I say, whatever happens, happens, and I feel like it's God's plan. So, wherever He wanted to put me, that's where He put me, and I feel like He's going to let me blossom there.”

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