If LaMelo Ball wins the NBA Rookie of the Year, it won’t be because of his body of work.
It will be because the voters like him and his suitable-for-framing game.
Yes, it would mean Ball had won a popularity contest. And that would be plain wrong.
Playing a full season should matter and count. The notion that he would have put out the same numbers had he stayed healthy is irresponsible and dumb.
For sure, Ball was having a tremendous rookie season with the Charlotte Hornets. It really looked as if Michael Jordan had finally picked a winner in the draft after an embarrassing string of misses.
But Ball hurt his wrist, had surgery, and missed 21 games in this 72-game shortened season, missing roughly 30 percent of the season.
That’s a ton of missing action, and enough to eliminate him from winning the coveted award, if voters take their responsibility seriously.
For sure, we will hear the drumbeat for his worthiness after he played well in his first game back from the injury. On Saturday night in the Hornets’ win over the Detroit Pistons, Ball had 11 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists in 28 minutes.
A good return, indeed.
But it was the highlight-worthy underhand pass from his own backcourt to Miles Bridges that got people hyped about his ability.
Clearly, Ball can play and light up social media.
But there are other rookies who not only were available to play, but performed at a high level in their first year in the league.
Enter Minnesota Timberwolves rookie guard Anthony Edwards, who has played 65 games this season. He’s averaging 18.5 points per game.
Best of all, Edwards has gotten better since the All-Star Game. He’s averaging 23.3 points, up from 14.9 prior to the ASG.
He’s shooting better, too — 43.5 field-goal percentage. Pre ASG, he was shooting just 37.1 from the field. And his three-point shooting has improved as well. Now, he’s shooting 34.5 from three-point land.
Anthony’s lead in scoring average is fat enough that Ball won’t be able to catch him. Anthony will lead all rookies in scoring average. And that’s a big stat, often predicting the winner of the ROY.
Although Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton has a slim chance to win the award, it’s great to point out that he has an edge over Ball in efficiency.
Still, most voters look at scoring the most when making a selection.
In 43 games, Ball is averaging 15.7 points.
That injury definitely derailed Ball’s chances, if the vote is fair and honest. Fox NBA insider Chris Broussard, who also co-hosts our nightly national radio show on Fox Sports Radio and has a vote for the award, has said many times on the air that it would be nearly impossible to vote for Ball because he’s missed so much time.
It’s the reason so many players are basically out of the MVP race. The injury bug has struck so many talented players.
First, there was talk that LeBron James had a shot to win it. Then he got hurt. His high ankle sprain cost him six weeks of the season.
Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid was putting up monster numbers. He had a real shot, too. But Embiid was sidelined for an extended period and has played just 45 games.
It also happened to James Harden, who was playing point guard like a point God. He had the Nets winning without Kevin Durant for a long stretch and with Kyrie Irving missing games as well.
But Harden fell out of the race because he got injured, too. He’s missed 16 of the Nets’ last 17 games with a right hamstring.
But, somehow, this same circumstance doesn’t work again Ball.
We get it. He’s an exciting player and it’s a shame he got hurt and missed a big chunk of the season.
But it’s not fair to the rookies who played a full season and excelled.
Ball has a bright career ahead of him from what we’ve seen. But it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t win this award. Injuries are a part of the game.
But they are not to be ignored when the player you like a lot is up for an award.
Ball better not win.