Hornets will have to be patient after LaMelo Ball's scoreless debut
The NBA's most hyped rookie made a debut.
LaMelo Ball saw its first NBA action when the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated their Charlotte Hornets (121-114) in Wednesday's season opener. His playing time was limited. There was his contribution to the court.
In 16 minutes Ball recorded zero points, three assists, one rebound, two steals and three turnovers. He missed all five of his field goal attempts. It is certainly not what Hornets fans were hoping for from the number 3 in the draft.
This makes him the only top three picks in NBA history, along with Greg Oden, Hasheem Thabeet and Otto Porter Jr., to go goalless on his NBA debuts - not exactly an elite company.
Why all the hype about LaMelo?
Thanks largely to his status as a ball and his detour to the NBA, which bypassed college and made pit stops in Lithuania and Australia, the Hornets rookie has more buzz than Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman, who were selected in November in the draft before him.
He's also a legitimately compelling basketball prospect. Ball is a 6-foot-7 guard with highly skilled handles and elite playing skills. He has the advantage of one of the most dynamic point guards in the game.
LaMelo Ball struggled to contribute and find game time on Wednesday. (Jason Miller / Getty Images)
But his game has notable limitations that have kept him from being the # 1 consensus in its class. Scouts rate him as the average NBA athlete. And his jump shot is similar to that of his brother Lonzo. That means - it takes work.
This one not ready for the prime-time jumper was seen on Wednesday when Ball made 3-point attempts and missed.
He has also been criticized for playing less than enthusiastic defense at times. Collin Sexton had little trouble blowing past him in an isolation game in the third quarter.
Ball never returned to the pitch after that game when the Hornets tried and failed to recover from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter. Any sign of defensive liability will limit his playing time under head coach James Borrego.
LaMelo is a project
This is a sample size for a game, of course, and doesn't necessarily indicate how Ball will perform as a fully trained NBA player. But it should slow down the hype train.
Fans expecting Ball to take the NBA by storm will need to be patient. The hornets clearly have no intention of throwing him into the fire.
They held Terry Rozier amid speculation on the draft that he would dangle in trade talks. And there are good reasons for that. Rozier started on the back seat on Wednesday and was by far the Hornets' strongest weapon on Wednesday. He scored 42 points and hit 10 of 16 3-point attempts.
Gordon Hayward - Charlotte's other high profile off-season acquisition - recovered from a broken little finger, scoring 28 points and seven assists on his Hornets debut.
It wasn't enough to beat the cavaliers in the street. And Ball is not ready to make a difference in such games.
He may be one day. But Hornets fans shouldn't hold their breath in the meantime.
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