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Trending Hornets: LaMelo Ball made a huge leap in Year 2

Orlando Magic v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

The Trending Hornets series evaluates the career trajectories of Charlotte’s players based on two advanced stats - Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) - as provided by Basketball Reference.

PER measures per-minute production standardized such as the league average is 15. A PER above 15 means a player contributed above league average. As a frame of reference, among last season’s PER leaders, the Top 20 players were 21.8 and higher while Nos. 21-40 ranged from 18.9 to 21.6.

VORP is a box score estimate of the points per 100 team possessions that a player contributed above a replacement level player. A VORP of 1.2 means the team was 1.2 points better off per 100 possessions with this player on the floor versus a league average player. Among last season’s VORP leaders, the Top 20 were 3.5 and higher and Nos. 21-40 ranged from 2.2 to 3.4.

This week we’ll look at the trajectory of LaMelo Ball.

Mick Smiley, At the Hive

2021-22 results and league ranks

PER: 19.7; ranked 35th overall

VORP: 3.3; ranked 22nd overall

Career trend overview

While two data points hardly make a trend, LaMelo Ball made a noticeable improvement in his advanced stats this past season when compared to his 2020-21 Rookie of the Year campaign. Last year his 19.7 PER ranked 35th in the league while his VORP of 3.3 ranked 22nd overall and Ball was rewarded with All-Star honors.

On a per-36 minute basis, LaMelo saw his statistics improve in nearly every meaningful category last season when compared to his 2020-21 rookie campaign. His scoring jumped from 19.7 points per-36 minutes to 22.4. While his scoring improved, so did his Effective Field Goal percentage which rose from 50.4% to 51.7%. His rebounding held firm at 7.4 per-36 minutes while his assists nudged upward from 7.7 to 8.5. LaMelo’s turnover percentage (an estimate of turnovers per 100 possessions) decreased from 16.3% as a rookie to 15.3% last year.

From an advanced stats perspective, LaMelo Ball took a phenomenal rookie and got even better in Year 2.

What this means for the Hornets

LaMelo Ball’s improvement this past year should make Hornets fans positively giddy. He’s already one of the most versatile, entertaining players in the entire NBA. He approaches the game with an infectious joyfulness, makes his teammates better, and he’s only getting better.

Believe it or not, but LaMelo is still about two months shy of his 21st birthday. There’s no telling how good he can get in the coming years.

One of the most promising developments in LaMelo’s game this past year was his 3-point shooting which improved from 35.2% on 5.1 attempts per game as a rookie to 38.9% on 7.5 attempts last year. He’s getting dangerously close to becoming a 40%-plus shooter from downtown which would further unlock his game as both a scorer and facilitator. If new head coach Steve Clifford can help him mature as a defender, LaMelo has All-NBA potential.

Two data points hardly make a trend, but things are clearly charting in the right direction in the short career of the Charlotte Hornets brightest star.