In the preview of TSN 2021-22 Southeast Division, Kyle Irving’s bold prediction was that Hornets LaMelo Ball would be the star of all stars this season.
It doesn’t look so brave anymore.
Ball, who is nearing half of his second-year campaign, is doing a pretty All-Star case for himself, leading the Hornets with an average of 19.3 points, 7.8 assists, 7.4 rebounds and 1.7 thefts per game. For perspective, incumbent MVP Nikola Jokic is the only player in the league to lead his team in each of these four statistical categories. Ball approaches and Hornets lags behind Miles Bridges (19.6).
Reminder: Ball is only 20 years old.
ALL-STAR: Summary of the first returns of fan voting
Not only does Ball revive Charlotte’s fan base with its game, but it also plays a big role in making the Hornets reappear as a contender for the Eastern Conference playoffs. Sure, Charlotte is just over 0.500 at the moment, but she’s doing well despite having one of the NBA’s toughest plans this season. The Hornets remain at the center of the playoffs in the East, although 24 of their 40 matches so far are outside Charlotte (including two Western Conference road trips), the reward is that they now have one of the easiest remaining programs in the league.
Ball played a key role in their success at the start of the season.
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In addition to his All-Star caliber numbers, Ball shows the All-Star position each night.
Whether it’s his ability to pass the world:
Its improvement as a finisher:
His commitment to growth as a shooter:
Or his fearlessness in the clutch:
Ball passes the All-Star eye test, but does that guarantee selection?
MORE: How to vote for the NBA 2022 All-Star Game starters
Last season, six Eastern Conference guards were selected for the All-Star Game. Assuming the same number of guards will be selected in 2022, the question arises as to whether Ball has established itself as one of the top six guards in the East.
Here he ranks among the guards of the Eastern Conference:
- 10. in the number of points per match
- Fourth in the number of assists per match
- Second in the rebounds per match
As for the Rangers in the East, it is fair to consider the castles of the Bulls duo, DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, as well as James Harden of the Nets, who are working on their tenth All-Star selection in a row. After these three, Ball will compete with people like Bradley Beal, Jaylen Brown, Darius Garland, Tyler Herro, Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Trae Young for what could be the last three guard posts.
In the first returns of the fans’ vote, Ball was fifth among the Eastern Conference guards behind only DeRozan, Harden Young and LaVine.
Due to the difficulty of their schedule, the Ball’s Hornets looked as good as the Beal’s Wizards, VanVleet’s Raptors and Young’s Hawks up to this point of the season, if not better. The Celtics were better at spurts, but Brown could be defeated by missing a bit of time due to injury. Garland, on the other hand, has played an integral role in the Cavaliers’ success this season, but his numbers are not quite the same as Ball’s.
It’s no secret that Miami has the potential to become a title candidate, but it’s highly unlikely that both Herro and Lowry represents Heat in the All-Star Game. Due to the impact that does not always appear in the statistics, Lowry feels like the most likely candidate.
With Ball, who controls all All-Star criteria, he builds a case stronger than many of his peers at the Eastern Conference.
The All-Star bid in 2022 would be the first of many.