LaMelo Ball has been the face of the Charlotte Hornets ever since they drafted him third overall in 2020. A franchise that has not found much success through the years, LaMelo has been one of the Hornets' only bright spots, and he continues to evolve into a superstar talent at the point guard position.
Off to a great start this season and playing in all 15 of Charlotte's games to this point, Ball is set to miss his first game of the year on Tuesday night against the New York Knicks due to what the team is calling a right ankle strain. Ball appeared to suffer said ankle injury against the Orlando Magic on Sunday after landing awkwardly on a layup attempt over Paolo Banchero. The Hornets guard had to be helped to the locker room and did not return to the game.
Hornets star LaMelo Ball needed to be helped to the locker room following this play.
Hoping he’s okay 🙏🤕
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) November 27, 2023
To make matters worse, Tuesday night's battle in New York is the Hornets' final NBA In-Season Tournament group play game. With a 1-2 record in the tournament, the Hornets are still technically alive, but their chances of advancing have just taken a massive hit.
This season, Ball has averaged 24.7 points, 8.2 assists, and 5.5 rebounds per game while shooting 38.8 percent from three-point range. LaMelo currently ranks seventh in the league in total assists (123) and tied for eighth in total threes made (52).
LaMelo is always responsible for bringing the ball up the floor and he opens up his team's offense tremendously due to his ability to break down opposing defenses. Without Ball, Terry Rozier figures to be the team's lead guard with Brandon Miller likely filling out the final starting spot. Miles Bridges, Gordon Hayward, and Mark Williams will likely be the other three starters.
At 5-10 on the season, Charlotte is still waiting to see things come together. While they definitely have at a talented roster with impactful players at every position, the Hornets have struggled mightily on defense. Through 15 games, the Hornets have given up 122.2 points per game to their opponents and are allowing teams to shoot 38.6 percent against them from deep, both of which rank 27th in the NBA.
Offensively, the Hornets have not been bad. Charlotte has shot 47.4 percent from the floor as a team, which ranks 12th in the NBA, and they are averaging 114.1 points per game, 14th in the NBA.
Not having Ball against the Knicks will be tough for the Hornets due to how impactful LaMelo has been on offense this season. New York is one of the better defensive teams in the league, which is why every little bit of offensive production is vital for a team like the Hornets.
Coming off a loss on Sunday night to the Magic, the Hornets will be looking to win their final in-season tournament group play game on Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden without Ball.