A few years ago, the lure of playing for the Charlotte Hornets was perhaps the chance to play for owner Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time.
But if you ask draft prospects today what they think, they’ll mention one of the team’s current players: LaMelo Ball.
Ball is a pass-first point guard, with Magic Johnson-like ability, who makes his teammates better.
In today’s NBA, where scoring point guards are far more common than pass-first point guards, Ball is a unicorn. And for young prospects hoping to hear their name called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver at this week’s NBA draft, the opportunity to play with Ball is enticing.
“He makes everybody look better around him, and doing that he makes himself look good,” said former Arkansas guard Moses Moody. “He moves the ball, he can play with the ball, he can score, he can knock down shots, so he’s really a point guard who can do a lot of different things.”
The Hornets drafted Ball No. 3 overall in the 2021 NBA draft. In 51 games with the Hornets last season, he averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists. He also won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award, and is the foundation the Hornets hope to build around for many years.
“Melo is fearless,” said Isaiah Todd, a former No. 1 prospect, who played high school basketball in Raleigh before playing a year in the NBA’s G League last season. “Melo is amazing on the court. That’s enough said.”
Ball was often shown on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays because of his creative passes and alley-oop passes — whether to Miles Bridges or another teammate.
“Any time you can get with an unselfish guard who can pass the ball and who is looking to make plays for others, it’s a blessing because he’s going to look out for you,” said former Texas forward Kai Jones, who worked out with the Hornets on July 18. “He’s going to make you look good and you’re going to make him look good.”
The Hornets finished 33-39 during the 2020-21 season, missing the playoffs by two wins. They won 10 more games than they did the previous season, despite playing in 10 less games. And with Ball, Bridges, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward and PJ Washington returning next year, the Hornets should be better.
The Hornets have the No. 11 overall pick, as well as the 56th and 57th picks in Thursday’s draft.
When asked whether he’s thought about possibly playing in Charlotte, Jones smiled and said he had, adding that he’d enjoy playing with Ball.
“I’m sure the people here in Charlotte would be excited to see that. It would be like Showtime,” Jones said, referencing the run-and-gun style of basketball played by the Lakers in the ‘80s.