LaMelo Ball has taken his game to another level since becoming Charlotte's starting point guard.
In his last 11 games, all of which he's started in, Ball is averaging 19.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists, up from the 12.2 points, 6.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds he averaged in the 20 games he came off the bench to start the season. He's even been more efficient. While his field goal percentage has remained almost the same, he's gone from making 29.9 percent of his 3-point attempts as a reserve to 40.8 percent as a starter.
It's no surprise that Ball has already established himself as one of the most electric passers in the league, but his shooting has been much better than advertised.
So ... how has he done it? Let's take a closer look.
A new baseline
Perhaps the biggest questions about Ball's game entering the NBA revolved around his jump shot.
In his one season in the NBL, Ball attempted 6.7 3-pointers per game and connected on 25.0 percent of those opportunities. He showcased the ability to shoot from a standstill and off the dribble, but he lacked consistency and had a tendency to settle for incredibly difficult shots.
To boot, Ball doesn't exactly have the most traditional release.
Here's what NBA.com's Eric Fawcett wrote about his shot form ahead of the draft:
Ball's jump shot is broken and needs to be demolished and rebuilt from the ground up. Right now it's a pushed, two-handed release that was likely developed from him trying to shoot from too far from the hoop when he was too young to have the strength to shoot correctly.
Ball still doesn't have a picture perfect form, but it looks a little smoother and it's hard to argue with the early returns.
According to NBA.com, almost a quarter (23.1 percent) of Ball's field goal attempts have been catch-and-shoot 3s. He's knocking them down at a 35.6 percent clip, which is an encouraging mark for a rookie whose jump shot was seen as a weakness not long ago. It has eased Ball's fit next to Terry Rozier, Devonte' Graham and Gordon Hayward in particular, because he doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective. He is still at his best when he's in control of the offence, of course, but he has shown that he can play off-ball and make his defender pay if they help off of him.
The more he improves as a spot-up shooter in the years to come, the easier it will be for the Hornets to build around him.
Ball has even had some success as a shooter off the dribble.
According to NBA.com, Anthony Edwards (92) and Immanuel Quickley (82) are the only rookies who have attempted more pull-up 3s than Ball (70). He's knocking them down at a 37.1 percent clip, once again an encouraging mark for a rookie whose jump shot was questioned entering the NBA.
Those pull-ups are an important weapon for anyone to have in today's NBA, guards especially. Not only does it give them an answer to defenders ducking underneath screens in pick-and-rolls...
...it gives them an answer to defenders dropping back in isolation.
On a very simple level, the more teams have to respect his ability to do this:
The more driving lanes will open up, because defenders won't be able to give him as much space.
Working in Ball's favour is that he's a bigger guard, standing at 6-foot-6. It gives him the size to shoot over most defenders. He isn't afraid to shoot from deep either.
According to Stathead, Ball is 13-for-31 on 3-point attempts from 28-feet and beyond. (For reference, the highest point of the 3-point line is 23-feet, 9-inches away from the basket, so we're talking about a few feet back here). Only two players in the entire league - Damian Lillard (47) and Stephen Curry (37) - have made more shots from that distance and only three players - Lillard (121), Curry (90) and Fred VanVleet (39) - have attempted more shots from that distance.
There are still times where he settles for a deep 3-pointer early in the shot clock, but he's making them at a much higher rate in the NBA than he did in the NBL.
We're still working with relatively small sample sizes, so it'll be interesting to see if Ball can continue to make pull-up 3s a solid rate this season. Beyond this season, it'll be interesting to see how much of a weapon it becomes for him. Is he someone who can punish teams for giving him space or is he someone teams can't afford to give space? The answer to that question will go a long way in determining his ceiling as a scorer.
Things get a little dicier for Ball as he ventures inside the 3-point line.
He has actually been a decent shooter from midrange, but he's an unconventional shooter from that distance. His go-to isn't a pull-up or a step back. Rather, it's a floater.
It's another important weapon for a guard to have in today's NBA, but I'm not sure I've ever seen someone take as many deep floaters as Ball does. Again, he's made a decent amount of them, but it's hard to imagine him ever becoming much of a midrange scorer with that as his primary weapon. (Maybe he will, in which case I'd gladly take an L).
And while he doesn't necessarily need to become a big-time midrange shooter to become a good scorer, not having much of a midrange game could become more of a factor if he regresses as a 3-point shooter.
Where that floater does come in handy is when he gets into the paint.
Ball hasn't been a very efficient scorer in the non-restricted part of the paint - he ranks in the 33rd percentile for his position from floater range, according to Cleaning The Glass - but it's clearly a shot he's comfortable taking and capable of making. With him being not much of a leaper, it helps him finish among the trees.
"To be honest, it's been with me my whole life," Ball said of his floater. "Just in the backyard, playing against older dudes, you got to find a way to get your shot off. So I always had the little floater. I couldn't always really get in the paint like a little guy out there. So I pretty much always used to just float the ball up, and it just stuck with me."
All in all, almost two-thirds (63.7 percent) of Ball's field goal attempts to this point of the season have come outside of the restricted area. He hasn't been efficient from every level, but he's much further along as a shooter than expected. It's helped him hit the ground running, to the point where he's the front-runner for Rookie of the Year and a difference-maker on a Hornets team that is in the mix for a spot in the playoffs.
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