Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball is the NBA’s Rookie of the Year, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, capping a stellar first season that came on the heels of him spanning the globe to begin his professional career.
Ball, who was announced as a finalist for the award alongside Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton and Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards last month, briefly played in Lithuania and Australia before being taken third overall in the 2020 draft by the Hornets, with his potential as an NBA player still a bit of an enigma.
Any doubts, however, proved to be unfounded, as Ball averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game for Charlotte this season, shooting 35.2% from 3-point range and immediately contributing to winning basketball in a way rookies rarely do.
Haliburton fell to 12th in the draft, where the Iowa State product was happily scooped up by the Kings. He quickly proved that letting him fall that far was a mistake by averaging 13.0 points and 5.3 assists while shooting over 40% from 3-point range and settling in nicely as a long-term fit alongside De’Aaron Fox in Sacramento’s backcourt.
Edwards, on the other hand, initially struggled out of the gate after being taken first overall by the Timberwolves out of Georgia. But as the season wore on, Edwards — who has had a penchant for colorful quotes — took significant steps forward, averaging 23.8 points per game after the All-Star break and seeing his shooting percentages skyrocket across the board.
This is the last of the six major individual awards to be handed out by the NBA this offseason. Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was named MVP; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was named Defensive Player of the Year, while teammate Jordan Clarkson claimed Sixth Man of the Year honors; and Knicks forward Julius Randle was named Most Improved Player, while Tom Thibodeau won his second Coach of the Year award in his first season in New York.
The league has also announced its All-Defensive and All-NBA teams, with only the All-Rookie teams left to be unveiled.
Like last year, the NBA has done its rollout of the awards during the playoffs, rather than having an awards show at the end of the postseason, due to the coronavirus pandemic.