With the playoffs approaching in less than a month, LaMelo Ball’s return could not have come at a better time. The Hornets are fighting for playoff positioning out east and are currently the eighth seed. Due to the new play-in tournament, they would play the Miami Heat for a chance to secure the seventh seed if things stand as they currently are. Whether the Hornets have to take part in a play-in tournament or not, the Hornets are a scary team when Ball plays. There are a lot of teams that should be terrified about playing a scrappy team like Charlotte in a first-round series. Here are three teams that would not look forward to a match-up with the Hornets after LaMelo’s return.
The Hawks have been red hot ever since Nate McMillan took over as the interim head coach. The Hawks are 8-2 in their last 10 games and should be able to carry that momentum into the post-season. However, they have lost the season series to the Hornets 2-1. The Hornets may not have as much size as the Hawks, but their versatility on defense seems to be a thorn in Atlanta’s side when they match-up. Ball may not be an elite defender, but his 6’8 frame drapes over Trae Young, who is the Hawks leading scorer. Ball also carved up the defense the last time he matched up against the Hawks by posting a triple-double in 31 minutes.
The Celtics defeated the Hornets in one matchup so far this season, but they have to play two more games in the regular season against one another. Ball did not have the opportunity to play in the first matchup, but he should circle the next meetup on his calendar because they should kill the Celtics in transition. Ball speeds up the pace of the offense and is always looking for the easiest shot by launching out half-court dimes. Despite having great two-way players on their roster, Boston does not have a real defensive presence around the rim. The offense of their two young stars in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum has kept them afloat in the Eastern Conference, but that will not stop the Hornets from getting good looks at the rim.
The reigning Eastern Conference title winners have not had their season go like many might of expected it to. It could potentially be a lot worse if they have to face the Hornets in the play-in tournament. The Hornets have won both games that they have played against the Heat and have one more regular-season matchup with Miami. The Heat are a great defensive team when healthy, but can miss some easy shots down the stretch of games. The Hornets should have a shot to outlast them as long as they move the basketball on offense. Having Ball on your team prevents you from keying in on one guy because he is such a talented playmaker. If they play against Miami in the post-season, the Hornets will need their floor general to pull out a gutty win against Jimmy Butler and his squad.
LaMelo Ball’s impact on the court should not be taken lightly by opposing teams. They have all seen how talented he is and how he seems to elevate his game in clutch time. About 3 games separate the four-seeded team from the eight-seeded team in the Eastern Conference currently. Fortunately for Charlotte, getting back Ball could help close ground on a higher seed and spoil some team’s playoff aspirations. It is a safe bet that LaMelo will be ready to do whatever is needed to keep his team relevant by the time the postseason rolls around.