To put it simply, LaMelo Ball is ballin' out of his mind.
The Hornets' rookie point guard had a monster night in Charlotte's 119-94 win against the Rockets, who had won five of their past six road games. He finished with 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 10 assists on 7-for-12 from behind the line, which tied the Hornets' rookie record in single-game three-pointers.
Ever since he was inserted into the starting lineup, the younger Ball brother took his game to the next level. Over the last five games (all starts), Melo is averaging 22.6 PPG compared to 12.2 PPG in the first 20 games he came off the bench. He's also putting up 6 RPG and 6.6 APG over the stretch, building a strong case for the Rookie of the Year award even this early into the season.
The latest Kia Rookie Ladder had Ball at No.1 after the Warriors' James Wiseman briefly snagged the top rung on the previous Ladder. Melo already has a Rookie of the Month to his name and is a clear-cut favorite for another one assuming he can keep the same level of play.
What would help his ROY case even more, is the Hornets' success as a collective. They currently have the sixth-best record in the East (13-12) and look good enough to make it into the postseason. If they get there, a lot of credit will be given to Lamelo, who his teammates describe as the initiator of many positive things within the Hornets locker room.
It starts with Melo. He just brightens up the day, man. Always saying something crazy, always saying something funny, so that just brings joy to everybody. He always have us laughing. It's always good to play happy.
Twenty-four games into the season, Lamelo is averaging 13.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 6 assists on .436/.339/.794 shooting while playing with a high-school-like swag and contagious energy. If he keeps the level of production he's had since becoming a starter, the ROY award is a lock, and so is the NBA stardom.
It seems Lavar was right about Melo all along -- the kid really is special.