Charlotte Hornets

Bell Game of the Week: The five best assists from Charlotte Hornets rookie sensation LaMelo Ball so far

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Bell Game of the Week (NBA Canada)

Well, that didn't take long.

In the ninth game of his NBA career, LaMelo Ball fell an assist shy of his first career triple-double. He then checked that box the very next day, leading the Charlotte Hornets to a victory over the Atlanta Hawks with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.

Ball made history in the process, becoming the youngest player to ever record a triple-double in an NBA game.

It's the highlight of Ball's rookie season to date, but he's been as good as advertised for the Hornets, posting averages of 11.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.5 steals through 12 games. His passing has been particularly impressive, which probably won't come as a surprise to anyone who has followed him to this point of his career.

Because there are few things that I enjoy more than a good pass, I watched all 71 of Ball's assists entering Thursday's Bell Game of the Week, a matchup between the red-hot Hornets and the Toronto Raptors (7:30 p.m. ET on TSN).

Here are the five that stood out the most.

5. The backwards shuffle

Let's start with something simple - your-run-of-the-mill pick-and-pop.

What makes this one special? Ball puts some heat on a backwards pass to P.J. Washington at the top of the perimeter.

The pass is a tad high, but Washington still has plenty of time to gather and shoot because his defender, John Collins, is too busy containing Ball's drive.

Ball and Washington have already developed some nice chemistry. According to NBA.com , Ball has assisted Washington on 13 baskets through 12 games. The only player on the Hornets who has been on the receiving end of more assists from Ball is Gordon Hayward (15).

4. The Draymond Green

The Hornets go mismatch hunting by having Ball set a screen on Hayward at the top of the perimeter. Rather than switching onto Hayward, Trae Young hedges. It prevents Hayward from getting the switch he's looking for - Young guarding Hayward almost certainly wouldn't have ended well for the Hawks - but it leaves Ball unguarded for a split-second.

Doing his best Draymond Green impression, Ball rolls to the basket, takes one dribble after he receives the ball from Hayward and rises up as though he's going to shoot a floater ... only he doesn't.

When Collins rotates over to contest his shot, Ball sneaks a pass to Washington standing underneath the basket.

Ball gets extra points for waiting until the very last moment to make the pass.

3. Clear the runway

It was only a matter of time until Miles Bridges, perhaps the most underrated dunker in the NBA right now, cracked this list.

Here's Ball and Bridges connecting on one of many more alley-oops to come:

The pass is on the money and the dunk is *chef's kiss* a thing of beauty.

According to NBA.com , Ball has assisted Bridges 12 times, the fourth-most on the team. Of those 12 assists to Bridges, six have resulted in dunks.

2. Right hand, left hand, it doesn't matter

Have you ever had those moments when you're watching a game and something happens that makes your jaw drop?

No? Just me? Well, this pass from Ball made my jaw drop when I saw it live:

Young gets caught ball watching, but Ball sells it by staring at the sideline as though he's going to skip as pass out to Rozier in the corner. He then rifles a no-look pass over Kevin Huerter with his off-hand, setting Rozier up for an easy layup.

That's special.

1. The Nikola Jokic

One of the things that jumped out when watching some of Ball's games in the NBL last season was how he's always looking to push the ball off of makes and misses. That's pretty common for a point guard in today's NBA, but Ball has the advantage of being 6-foot-8, making him a factor on the defensive glass.

In the NBL, Ball averaged 7.6 rebounds per game. Through 12 games in the NBA, he's averaging 7.0 rebounds per game, the 10th-most at the guard position .

Having a guard who can crash the glass helps a team get out in transition even quicker because it cuts out the middleman. (Ball isn't reliant on someone else grabbing the rebound and outletting the ball to him. He can just grab and go). That puts even more pressure on teams to get back on defence.

If they don't, they run the risk of this happening:

Rozier's dunk will get most of the attention - rightly so seeing as he dunked on Kevin Durant - but that's a Nikola Jokic-esque dime from Ball.

With it being a perfect pass and a perfect finish, it only felt right to have it at No. 1.

Now let's see if it's still at No. 1 at the end of the season.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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