LaMelo Ball entered the NBA with many of the same question marks that have dogged his older brother Lonzo. The two were both transcendent passers entering the draft, but would it matter if defenses didn’t think they could score? The elder Ball brother has struggled to overcome that flaw throughout his entire career. LaMelo, on the other hand, is quickly turning into a long-range sniper.
Ball suffered through some early career jitters as a shooter. After making over half of his attempts in a shortened December, LaMelo hit only 23.2 percent of his 3-pointers over his next 15 games. His last six, however, have been a different story. The Hornets rookie had made 14 of his last 28 long-range attempts entering Monday, but he took things to another level in a 119-94 victory over the Houston Rockets by making seven of his 12 looks from behind the arc.
Ball became the youngest player ever to make seven 3-pointers in a single game at 19 years, 171 days old. Only three other teenagers in NBA history have matched the feat: Luka Doncic, Coby White and Anfernee Simons. Yet Ball was the first of the group to do so in a double-double. His 10 assists topped any of his predecessors, as did his seven rebounds.
That is the important takeaway from this performance. The longer Ball shoots like this, the more defenses will have to defend him as a scorer first and a passer second. Lonzo has never been able to earn such respect from opponents, but if LaMelo does, his passing becomes all the more dangerous.
That will eventually entail more than long-range shooting, and Ball still has work to do elsewhere. Ball shot 0-for-6 attempts from inside the arc in this game, and he’s been up-and-down in that area overall. A rookie hitting 54.5 percent of his shots in the restricted area would qualify as a decent launching off point, but he has made only 35 percent of his other 2-pointers, struggling specifically in the paint.
But no rookie is perfect, and no two rookies develop at the same rate. Ball is already making the most valuable shots on the floor. If he starts making the rest of them, he’s going to be an All-Star in the near future.