As the end of the 20/21 NBA regular season is getting closer, the rookie of the year race is getting more heated. There are several exciting rookies in this class, but two definitely stand out from the rest. Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball and Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards are leading this year’s rookie class. As the season went on, these two players kept exchanging the number one position, and by now, it’s clear that one of them will be the ROTY.
Let me bring you to speed on the two outstanding talents that took the NBA by storm. Anthony Edwards is a 19-year-old, 6-4 shooting guard coming from Atlanta, Georgia. After high school, Edwards went to the University of Georgia for one year before progressing to the NBA. He was one of the best players on that team, and in one year he played college basketball, he averaged 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. Edward’s outstanding performances in his freshman year led up to him being named southeastern conference freshman of the year.
On the other hand, LaMelo Ball had a different path than Edwards. The 6-6 point guard, from Anaheim, California, was born in the same month and the same year as Edwards didn’t play college basketball and searched for his affirmation through other ways. So, after playing basketball for Chino Hills high-school where he once scored 92 points in one game, LaMelo ball decided to take the path less traveled and make his name overseas.
His journey started in Lithuania, where he became the youngest American ever to sign a professional basketball contract. After the Lithuania episode, LaMelo played a short time for Los Angeles Ballers in the Junior Basketball Association, the league his dad started as an alternative to NCAA. The last stop before Charlotte and the NBA was Australia, where young LaMelo played for Illawarra Hawks and was named NBL rookie of the year.
Many people saw LaMelo heading to Minnesota as the number one pick of the 2020 draft. However, the Minnesota Timberwolves picked Anthony Edwards. So instead, LaMelo went to MJ’s Charlotte Hornets as the third pick.
Both Lamelo and Edwards did some fantastic stuff in a short time playing in the NBA. Anthony Edwards became the third-youngest player with 40+ point games at 19 years and 225 days. Only two players that did that younger than him were Kevin Durant and LeBron James, but only Edwards and LeBron did it twice. In addition, Edwards is the first teenager to score 100+ points over a three-game span, and he is only a teenager who dropped 40+ points and 5+ threes in a single game.
His rookie of the year opponent LaMelo became the youngest to record a triple-double at the age of 19 years and 140 days. LaMelo Ball also became the second-youngest player to drop 7 threes in a single game, and only LaMelo, Steph Curry, and Jason Kidd dropped 7 threes and 10+assists in their rookie years. Before the all-star break, LaMelo Ball was the leading rookie in points, rebounds, assists, and steals, and he is the only player in the last 60 seasons to do that.
Despite playing different positions, let’s compare LaMelo’s and Edward’s stats. Anthony Edwards played more games than LaMelo due to LaMelo’s injury. As a result, Edwards averaged more minutes, more blocks, more points, makes less turnover and personal fouls, and is shooting better from the free-throw line.
LaMelo ball edged out Edwards in fg%, 3pt%, assists, rebounds, and steals. We should also add that LaMelo played his first year on a team with Hayward, Rozier, and Bridges — and simply didn’t get the keys to the bus and the green light to carry his team. At the same time, Edwards showed us that he can carry his team and be the first option in some games.
LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards played two games against each other this season. Charlotte won both of these games, and this is how they performed. In the first game, Minnesota lost 114-120. Both players played decent games, but LaMelo was statistically better than Edwards. Ball played more minutes, had more rebounds, more assists, and shot better from the field. A few weeks later, Charlotte won again in their second game, abd this time by a 27 point margin.
Edwards played more minutes; they scored the same points and had the same amount of steals. However, LaMelo was better in assists and rebounds, and he had better fg% and 3pt %. In this second game, Edwards had a very poor 3pt% as he shot only 1 out of 10 threes. If we sum up both games, LaMelo beats Edwards in rebounds, assists, steals, fg% and 3pt%. However, Edwards played more minutes in these two games, scored one point more than LaMelo, and had fewer turnovers.
Both players did some extraordinary things in their first year in the league and broke some NBA records. Now, let’s see their career highs are. Anthony Edwards beat LaMelo in 5 out of 7 categories. He has a bigger career-high in minutes, points, steals, blocks, and three-pointers, while LaMelo is better in rebounds and assists.
Both LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards are having an excellent rookie season. So it is not strange that their game found approval from basketball fans and experts. While putting up great numbers and breaking NBA records, they made this rookie of the year award very interesting, and whoever wins this time around — will definitely deserve it.