Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball was announced as a finalist for the award alongside Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton and Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards last month.
After briefly playing in Lithuania and Australia, the Charlotte Hornets took a chance and selected him third overall in the 2020 draft, with his potential as an NBA player a bit of an unknown.
Ball started the season coming off the bench, but eventually grew so productive that he became a starter and led the Hornets back into the postseason for the first time since 2016.
In his first 21 games as a starter, he averaged 19.5 points on 42.6 percent three-point shooting, 6.2 assists and 5.8 rebounds. He suffered a fractured right wrist on March 20 against the Los Angeles Clippers that required surgery. Ball averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game for Charlotte this season, shooting 35.2% from 3-point range.
Despite missing 21 games because of the injury, Ball’s arrival elevated the Hornets to at least being respectable in the Eastern Conference. They had more wins through 47 games this season (24) than they did in 65 games in 2019-20 (23). They lost in the play-in round there to the Indiana Pacers, but reached as high as No. 4 in the Eastern Conference standings before injuries to Ball and Gordon Hayward derailed Charlotte’s season.
Ball gave the Hornets (33-39) an identity and a legitimate star talent to build around after years of trying to chase the seventh or eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. He is the first player in franchise history to win this award since Emeka Okafor 16 years ago.